Facebook shares some helpful tips about how nonprofits can improve their Facebook presence to achieve their fundraising goals. However, their documentation is brief and doesn’t explain exactly how development directors and other nonprofit staff can execute it.
We took their high-level tips to a professional nonprofit marketing writer and social media manager and asked her to explain precisely how nonprofits can execute their advice:
Facebook tip: Use a casual, conversational style
This confuses people because there are different levels of casual, and we use different syntax in each one. For example, my family reunion may be casual, but my syntax will be different than a casual night watching Netflix with my friends. Nonprofits get confused about exactly how casual they should be when writing Facebook posts.
My advice is to determine your ideal demographic, and then make up an imaginary person that you always write posts for. Do what fiction writers do and give them a whole backstory so you really know them. When in doubt, write as if your post is aimed at a favorite aunt or favorite professor or high school teacher. That way you’ll be authentic, polite, clear, and a little bit playful when it's appropriate.
Facebook tip: Evoke emotion
Okay, I’d clarify this by saying you want to evoke the right emotion. Go for surprise, not shock.
Shock: You know those ads by the ASPCA that make you cry? They also make lots of people sign up for recurring donations because they’re so effective. It’s an honest strategy that works well for the ASPCA, and it’s part of their brand, but it’s risky. I'd go for surprise instead.
Shock / surprise strategies work because startling images get past a part of the brain (in the frontal lobe) that serves as a filter. If a marketer can use language or an image to get past the filter, they can access the decision-making part of the brain. That’s how Super Bowl commercials work, and it’s why we love the good ones. Our frontal lobe loves to be surprised.
However, brutal-reality stories and photos on Facebook can be too much of a negative surprise for some, and they’ll scroll past or unfollow you to avoid bad feelings.
I think Kiva International does a great job on Facebook of evoking emotion without shocking or bumming people out. This isn't a real post, but it's sort of a recipe for how they use Facebook:
A) Photo of client smiling: The human brain has a stronger reaction to smiling faces than any other expression. Remember, this is about hope – not glossing over pain or poverty – so don’t be afraid to use images of smiling people.
B) Straight talk: an unemotional sentence about the challenge the client is facing: “Barbara is a single mother who was worried that regular kerosene use was harming her and her child's long-term health.”
C) Solution: “She asked for a Kiva loan to connect to the local solar-powered microgrid.”
D) Cost of the solution “Barbara needs $250 to make the connection.”
E) Call to action that gives the reader the power to do something effective and good right then and there: “Donate now to help fund Barbara’s loan.”
Facebook also tells us that “Inspiring, solutions-oriented messages are most engaging.” And they’re right: Write posts that inspire people to give or get involved. This is hard, even for pro writers!
Actually, this is something that the ASPCA also does really well. They feature photos of adopted animals with their new families and tell their stories, including any challenges they overcame learning to be a pet or integrating into the family.
Facebook tip: Share personal stories
I covered how to do this above. But I will add if you’re not sharing personal stories of how your nonprofit is affecting change, you’re missing a massive opportunity to connect with and motivate your audience.
Facebook tip: Post on-the-ground stories from events and behind-the-scenes photos and videos.
If regular staff is too busy at events or prepping for events that they forget to post photos, hand the reporting task off to an intern. One of the most significant social media impacts I’ve ever seen was when a small nonprofit hired a local college student to attend all of their events (including envelope stuffing) and report about it on the nonprofit’s Facebook page. They gave her free rein to be herself, and their audience loved it. Engagement skyrocketed. My advice is designate a reporter with a great personality, give them your brand guidelines, then let them do their thing.
Facebook tip: Use videos – they’re 7x more engaging
Facebook Live Videos are a live broadcast from your phone or tablet, and you absolutely should be broadcasting from events or during fundraisers (such as Giving Tuesday).
You’re really scared about this right now, aren’t you? It’s okay. Here's how to pull it off:
The trick is not to wing it. Determine the purpose of the video first. Maybe you want to sell more tickets to your silent auction, so you’re going to give people a behind-the-scenes tour of the auction getting set up. Make a list of two to three talking points – any more, and you’ll forget and freeze up. It’s okay to write them on a notecard and look down at it while you’re talking. Be yourself, don’t worry about stumbling over words or the camera shaking. You want it to be a little raw – that’s the appeal.
The hardest part of getting in to the habit of posting live videos will be your fear of not being perfect, but the point is to humanize the situation. You don’t want it to be perfect; you want it to be real.