10 Facebook Best Practices for Nonprofits – Nonprofit Tech for Good

This is the sixth post in a blog and webinar series called 101 Digital Marketing Best Practices for Nonprofitswritten and presented by Heather Mansfield. Please sign up for Nonprofit Tech for Good’s email newsletter to be alerted of new posts. Thank you!

Related Webinar: Social Media Best Practices for Nonprofits

With 2.7 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the largest social network in the world. Without a doubt, your nonprofit’s donors and supporters use Facebook on a regular basis and thus Facebook should be your first priority in your social media strategy. However, to stand out from the other nearly one hundred million Facebook Pages vying for likes, comments, and shares, your nonprofit needs to excel at Facebook to ensure News Feed exposure.

First impressions are important on social media. Ensure that when potential new followers land on your Facebook Page, the design of your cover photo and your avatar is visually compelling. In this example, the California State Parks Foundation does not include the text in their logo in their Facebook avatar (as it would be too small to read in the News Feed) and rather than uploading one photo as the cover photo, they have created a simple collage of photos with their logo featured in the center:

Another good example is TIME’S UP. Their avatar is their logo (the text is large enough to read in the News Feed) and the cover photo includes embedded text as well as their logo which elevates their brand:

Finally, a simple use of color (shade in the case of black) with your nonprofit’s logo and avatar makes a strong visual impression, such as the Pew Research Center:

That said, after a new follower likes your page, it’s unlikely that they will ever visit your page again. Their experience of your page will occur primarily in the News Feed. It’s for this reason that your avatar should be well-designed, not include text that is too small to read in the News Feed, or show any obvious errors in cropping.

Canva is a low-cost, do-it-yourself graphic design tool with pre-sized Facebook cover templates, but as digital marketing becomes more essential for nonprofits to succeed, hiring a graphic designer for your social media campaigns should be a line item in your annual budget.

According to HubSpot Research, Facebook Pages that have 100 followers or more earn a median of a single click on the first two posts that a nonprofit shares on Facebook per week. In short, one in one hundred of your followers will click on your first two posts in any given week and then the click-through rate drops steadily after that. Posts on Sunday perform slightly better, but with organic reach at an all-time low, it makes little difference which day your nonprofit posts on Facebook.

Without purchasing advertising, the best a nonprofit can do to increase reach and engagement is to:

1) Post 2-5 times weekly
2) Craft a compelling message (behind-the-scenes, a call-to-action, a positive story, etc.)
3) Upload visual content that tells the story of your organization
4) Respond to those that comment on your posts – even if it is simply liking their comment – a engaging with your followers does make it more likely that they will see your future posts.

For example, the Community Food Bank of Arizona:

According to the Global NGO Technology Report, 47% of nonprofits purchased Facebooks Ads in 2019. That’s a good number, but that leaves 53% of nonprofits worldwide that haven’t yet come to the understanding that Facebook can be a colossal waste of time if you are not following these best practices and at least occasionally purchasing Facebook Ads for special fundraising and advocacy campaigns. Perhaps they can not get a Facebook ad budget approved or they are simply stuck in the outdated “social media is free” meme. either way, Facebook organic reach is estimated to be an abysmal 2%. That’s equivalent to sending an email to your supporters and 98% of your emails going to spam folders.

In truth, for Facebook to produce results for your nonprofit, you must invest a minimum of $100 a month in Facebook Ads. If your nonprofit is posting four times a week and boosts each post for $5, that’s $80 a month with $20 remaining for special campaigns and experimentation. That said, keep in mind that large nonprofits are spending tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars each year on Facebook Ads and they have it down to a science. In fact, one of the most in-demand job skills for digital marketers and fundraisers is knowing how to effectively use social media advertising channels and Google Ads.

Boosting a post on your Facebook Page is the easiest way to begin your experimentation with Facebook Ads, but boosted posts are just one of many types of ads available on Facebook. You can target your ads to reach people by their interests, their gender, and their location – and whether you want your Facebook Ads to also be posted on Instagram (if you have connected your Facebook and Instagram Ads accounts). There’s a steep learning curve to Facebook Ads and to improve you’ll need to experiment and track your results in Google Analytics. If you are good at being self-taught, be sure to read how-to guides and attend webinars.

In terms of Facebook Ads cost benchmarks, here is a useful summary from Web FX based on $300 million in spending:

According to the Global Trends in Giving Report, 32% of online donors gave through Facebook Charitable Giving Tools in 2020. Of those, 89% said they would likely do it again. Nonprofits may have a love/hate relationship with Facebook Charitable Giving Tools, but it’s clear that donors who give through Facebook want to give through Facebook.

For detailed information on how to sign up for Facebook Charitable Giving Tools, how the tools work, and whether your organization is eligible, please see #7 in the post, 10 Online Fundraising Best Practices for Nonprofits.

Once approved for the tools, the first step is to add a “Donate” button to your Facebook Page. For example, the Humane Society of the United States:

However, it is important to keep in mind that since most engagement with your page occurs in the News Feed, most donors will not seek out or search for your Facebook Page to make a donation. You’ll have to ask them to visit your page to donate either in your Facebook posts, on your website, or in email. Many nonprofits do not want to do that – which is just fine. If you don’t want to send donors and supporters to your Facebook Page to make a donation, you can instead add a “Learn More” button that links to your homepage or a “Sign Up” button that links to an e-newsletter landing page.

The second step once approved, is to add a “Donate” button to your posts:

But like the “Donate” button on your page, you need to have realistic expectations. The vast majority of all Facebook revenue (97%) was donated through peer-to-peer Facebook Fundraisers (discussed in #5 below). To be successful at fundraising through “Donate” buttons in your posts, you need excellent content (written and visual), an engaged community, and an advertising budget to boost the posts. To begin, add a “Donate” button to one post a week. Experiment with content, your tone, and your call-to-donate messaging. If it works, increase frequency to twice weekly.

Finally, you may have noticed that in the News Feed, “Sponsored” ads with a “Donate Now” button (instead of a “Donate” button) are predominately featured:

“Donate Now” Ads are separate from Facebook Charitable Giving Tools and are for pages categorized as “Non-Profit Organizations.” These ads allow your organization to link directly to the donation page on your website which enables nonprofits to capture the contact information of these donors.

As mentioned, 97% of all Facebook revenue was donated through peer-to-peer Facebook Fundraisers. Not enabling your Facebook followers to create Fundraisers for your nonprofit is an opportunity lost. Once approved to use Facebook Charitable Giving Tools, feature the Fundraisers tab on your page. For example, Wildlife SOS:

Of your followers that will create Fundraisers for your organization, most will do so for their birthdays. Two weeks before their birthday, Facebook prompts them to create a Birthday Fundraiser. Most of these Birthday Fundraisers are created without the nonprofit having asked. Imagine if nonprofits made a concerted effort to ask their followers to create Birthday Fundraisers on Facebook! That can be done through Facebook posts, on your website, or via email if you have your subscriber’s birth dates. Most nonprofits don’t want to promote Facebook Fundraisers because they do not get the contact information of their fundraisers or their donors (only their email address if the donor opts-in to provide it), but if Facebook is where your supporters want to fundraise, it’s worth considering proactively using and promoting Facebook Fundraisers.

Wildlife SOS has an engaged, loyal following and many fundraise on their behalf without asking. But Wildlife SOS does ask their followers to create Birthday Fundraisers by sharing successful birthday fundraising campaigns:

Wildlife SOS does not ask people to fundraise on Facebook on their website or via email. They limit the fundraising experience entirely within Facebook, including thanking their fundraisers:

For those nonprofits weary about losing the contact information of fundraisers and donors, limiting the promotion of Fundraisers within Facebook is a good compromise. That said, in addition to posting a thank you message and photo, your nonprofits could also post a link to an opt-in for your fundraisers to capture their contact information. It’s also worth noting that according to GivePanel, fundraisers who are thanked throughout the process raise 35% more than those who are not, and with a concerted effort, you’ll likely be able to capture their contact information as well.

Customized for small nonprofits on a limited budget, the Social Media Best Practices for Nonprofits webinar highlights current trends in using social media for fundraising, advocacy, and storytelling.

For nonprofits that regularly use Facebook Live, have 10,000+ fans, and a highly engaged community (50,000 post engagements within the last 60 days), Facebook offers the ability to gain new monthly donors through their Fan Subscription service.

The first step is to go to your page and select Creator Studio > Monetization > Fan Subscriptions to see if your nonprofit’s page is eligible. If yes, set up your new Fan Subscription service (add your banking info, set your supporter benefits, and set your monthly donation amount). Once approved, you’ll be able to add a “Become a Supporter” button to your page and your live video posts. For example, the Dolphin Project:

If your nonprofit has 10,000 fans and regularly utilizes Facebook Live, but you lack in engagement to qualify for the subscription service, boost a couple of your posts and select “Get more engagement” as your goal. Then, target a global, open audience. For Nonprofit Tech for Good, the average cost for one engagement in an engagement ad with a global audience is $.005. At that cost, 10,000 engagements is a $50 ad spend.

If your nonprofit is not eligible for fan subscriptions, hang tight because Facebook will likely launch a similar service for nonprofits that utilize Facebook Charitable Giving Tools that won’t require high engagement and the use of live video. Facebook has a well-known pattern of testing new fundraising tools with a small, select group of nonprofits and then expanding them to all nonprofits.

Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion users worldwide and that number will skyrocket as Facebook continues to merge Messenger with Instagram and WhatsApp. More than a means for your followers to contact your nonprofits privately through your Facebook Page, Messenger will eventually become an extremely powerful global communications tool with e-commerce functionality, and likely cross-platform donation functionality between Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp users via Facebook Pay.

That said, most nonprofits have enabled the “Message” button on their pages. As a general rule of thumb, respond to messages within 24 hours or less in your Inbox in Facebook Business Suite. Launched in September 2020, the sooner you get accustomed to using Facebook Business Suite, the better:

Next, your nonprofit can set up an instant automated reply to appear after someone’s first message to your page (you can include a link to your website). Also, if your nonprofit will be away from your page for a short period of time, you can use Business Suite > Automated Messages:

Facebook Messenger also empowers nonprofits to utilize chatbots which eliminate to need to respond personally to messages on Facebook and can automate routine inquiries. While the promise is there, thus far engagement with chatbots has been lacking. It can be an impersonal experience and for a nonprofit to use chatbots effectively, there’s a steep learning curve. The Human Rights Campaign is effective at utilizing Messenger bots. Send them a Message on Facebook at to experience their chatbot in real-time:

Finally, Facebook Messenger Ads are worth experimenting with. As mentioned earlier, Facebook is merging Messenger with Instagram and WhatsApp and it is likely that the Facebook Donate button will soon be integrated into Messenger through Facebook Pay. Those nonprofits that embrace a comprehensive Messenger strategy now are those best positioned to raise the most money through a Messenger Donate button.

As mentioned earlier, Facebook Pages can be a colossal waste of time if your nonprofit does not have a budget for advertising. The same is true with Facebook Stories. In discussions with small and medium-sized nonprofits, there’s a lot of hype about stories (which disappear 24 hours after posting), but very little ROI and stories can be time-consuming to create.

If you have yet to post a Facebook Story, use Facebook’s Mobile App or go to Creator Studio > Create Post > Add Story. In Creator Studio, you can add text and attach a button/link to your story:

Stories can be one image or video, or multiple, or simply text. Post a story every other day and then monitor your Insights:

As you can see above, engagement and traffic from stories to Nonprofit Tech for Good is very low considering our page has over 100,000 followers. Perhaps improved storytelling (text, images, videos, polls, stickers, etc.) would increase the ROI, but in truth, there are more important projects to focus on than investing time and resources into our Facebook Stories.

Experiment with Facebook Stories and make your own decision. Follow and study large nonprofits that post stories regularly and perhaps experiment with Facebook Story Ads and the Fundraiser Sticker, but if the ROI isn’t there, don’t hesitate to drop Facebook Stories and move on. For further advice on using Facebook Stories effectively, please see this Complete Guide to Facebook Stories.

Facebook Live is an ideal fit for nonprofits that have a great story to tell via live video. For example, the Dolphin Project streams live daily updates from the Taiji dolphin hunts in Japan and NPR regularly streams live news updates.

But for most nonprofits, Facebook Live is optional and even then, only used periodically for special events and campaigns. Again, if your nonprofit is limited in resources, there are better uses of your time, such as growing your monthly giving program, improving your email marketing, and writing compelling stories about your work and programs. Experiment, follow best practices, add a Donate button, track your ROI, and then either build your live streaming strategy or drop it and move on. For an example of Facebook Live done well, see the Official GivingTuesday 2020 Livestream.

Facebook is constantly updating their tools – pages, ads, events, charitable giving tools, etc. Often, new products and upgrades are released without mention. Pick one day a month and create a Facebook Study Hour for yourself. Browse the left bar on your page home to see what’s new. Click around and experiment. If you are new to Business Suite and Creator Studio, spend some time learning how to effectively use these tools:

Also, your Page Settings are constantly evolving. Click around and experiment:

Finally, browse the Facebook Newsroom and Social Impact website for important news and announcements.

101 Digital Marketing & Fundraising Best Practices for Nonprofits is a blog and webinar series (written and presented by Heather Mansfield) on website design, email marketing, online fundraising, and social media best practices for nonprofits, NGOs, and charities worldwide. Those who register and attend all three webinars in the series will earn a Certificate in Digital Marketing & Fundraising from Nonprofit Tech for Good.

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