How Facebook is Destroying Social for Nonprofits

I’ve been holding my breath for a while when it comes to Facebook’s retooled newsfeed, hoping that I’d figure out a way around the crippling affects of their new algorithms and still get my charity’s message across. But that hasn’t been the case, and today I hit my limit. Facebook needs to realize the affect they’re having on nonprofits.

Audience. The redesigned newsfeed caused a tsunami-sized shockwave across my marketing department. Prior to the changes, we reached approx. 7,000 folks each week; in the new format, our first week reach was a little more than 225. Devastating, to say the least. We’ve been able through some really clever tagging and posting and a lot of research into facebook’s strategies to boost it back into the 2,500 range, but it still isn’t where it was before.  

In a great (or not so great) example, we posted a staff video where we tagged 40 clients and 21 staff members. It got 10 comments, 20 shares, and 37 likes. We also tossed $5 in advertising at it to see if that helped. It only reached 3,000 people, half of what our organic reach used to be, and that was with paid advertising.

Contacts. We all know that charities are a wealth of databases, from volunteers to donors to clients, we have names and emails. Facebook touts a great integration with mass email marketing platforms like mailchimp and constant contact, but so far, it has been a messy, and far from intuitive process. Even if I was able to upload the wealth of emails I have into facebook, they’d only help me if I wanted to PAY for them to see my content. Yes, pay facebook to access my donors. Seems fair.

Staff. Nonprofits aren’t corporate giants; we don’t have dedicated social media coordinators, or even VPs for social change (whatever that is). I oversee our online presence when I’m not raising money, writing grants, meeting with partners, designing our print marketing, or begging for something for free. Paid staff at nonprofits wear a lot of hats, and we don’t have time to brainstorm how to get our numbers back out of a black hole. Social was one of the few mediums we had to cheaply and quickly reach our audiences. Generally speaking, the clients we serve are lucky to have computers, let alone the internet, so a lot of our efforts are geared toward donors and other constituents we need to keep the lights on, and Facebook just caused a massive power outage.

I’m not the only one who’s taken notice. A great Gawker article from April called out how “Facebook is Throttling Nonprofits and Activists” and even included a bold call to action for the social giant.

Facebook urgently needs to address the impact that its algorithm changes are having on nonprofits, NGOs, civil society, and political activists—especially those in developing countries, who are never going to be able to "pay to play" and for whom Facebook is one of the few really effective ways to get a message out to a wide audience without government control or censorship.

My hope is that enough complaints and negative grumbling from the collective nonprofit sector will push facebook toward some kind of ad program like Google uses, or at least get back the other 99% of my audience who no longer see my content.

I find myself on facebook less now, because along with the rise of more advertising and corporate content is the recurrence of old posts. The news feed isn’t fresh anymore, it’s an old news feed. I’d rather see nonprofit content than old content any day, and I think that the vast majority of people are with me.

How to Build a Great Nonprofit Newsletter

Team Building, Multi-Tasking, and a Semi-viral video