Facebook is an advertising company. You pay to play. Unfortunately, some nonprofits simply don’t have the funds to create targeted ad campaigns on Facebook.

Although it’s important to have an online advertising budget for the bigger picture, there are many clever ways to get the most out of Facebook organically (without paying).


1. Facebook Profile Picture Frames

salvation army frame“If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?”

We all remember this phrase from our childhood. Fortunately, not all conformity is bad. People copy positive actions and the spirit behind them, according to a study from Scientific American.

If kindness can be viral, how can you leverage it online?

Last year, I created a Facebook profile picture frame for The Salvation Army, which received 1.2 million organic views and 4,700 uses of the frame from October through December (the time of year when The Salvation Army raises the most money). This was a great way to engage supporters and reach their networks.

No matter the size of the nonprofit or company, awareness matters. That’s why Apple still has ads everywhere though almost everyone has heard of an iPhone.

Profile picture frames are a great way to raise awareness about your cause.

2. Facebook Live

While scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, what do you keep seeing over and over? Videos!

You’ve probably also seen the Facebook Live notifications telling you that a page you follow is now streaming.

Did you know Facebook allows verified US-based 501(c)3 Facebook pages to add a donate button directly on their Facebook Live video? Cha-ching!  And as we know, altruism inspires more altruism. Remember the ALS ice bucket challenge and how it went viral through video on Facebook? It works.

Since the launch of Facebook Live, the platform has favored live content – and videos in general – in their newsfeed algorithm. As of a few days ago, Facebook has also announced a new feature to make Facebook Live more like FaceTime – giving users an even more engaging experience. Simply put, if you are a nonprofit with little to no social media budget, the most effective way to boost your reach and engagement will be through video content. Be the next “Chewbacca Mom”!

Here are some Facebook Live best practices:

Talk to the right people.

  • Make your video and your messaging relevant to what your online audience is passionate about.
  • Build hype on your social media in the week leading up to the live stream.
  • Send a one-liner that you will be going live in your next communications email.

Target emotions.

  • We’ve all laughed or cried at something shared on social media. How will you pull your audience’s heartstrings?
  • Speak to a unique story that is at the center of your nonprofit’s heart. Others will naturally be drawn to help make a difference.
  • For inspiration, check out this beautiful story.

Offer a call to action.

  • Engage with your viewers during the video. Ask questions, give statistics.
  • Tell supporters about one action they can take in response to their emotion. Be direct about the action needed. If you use a donate button, make sure your viewers know about it.
  • Tell supporters what difference their donation will make. Example: “for the price of a coffee, you could feed a child.”

3. Celebrate Contributions with Facebook

You’ve made your ask over and over. Now what? In the nonprofit world, communications can be very self-centered — It’s all about “me” and “I”.

Make your supporters feel valued and appreciated by saying “thank you” regularly.

It seems that one phrase your parents taught you as a kid really does make a difference! Try thanking your donors and volunteers as a whole, or individually, from time to time on social media. Don’t just show appreciation for the $50,000 check from a corporation.

Corporate communications is about how great the nonprofit is: WE

Donor communications is about how great the donor is: YOU

Most nonprofits will agree that their biggest donor and volunteer demographic is the baby boomer generation.

Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? At the top of the pyramid is the need for self-actualization. Giving without expecting anything in return makes people feel good, and ultimately, complete.

Get Going

Facebook has the biggest mine of personal data in all of human history. Whether you’re trying to influence a person’s behaviors, interests or passions, it’s time to reach them first.

Social media is simply about being social and consuming media online. Don’t be that person in the corner at a party – get social today!

jonathan-koshy-photoJonathan Koshy is a Psychology major that found a creativity and passion for marketing during his time in social media at the iconic Chicago-based candy company, Tootsie Roll Industries. Since then, he has worked in digital marketing at The Salvation Army of Chicago and is currently a Communications Manager at The Catholic Charities of Chicago. With experience working for Forbes’ top 10 largest non-profits in the country, Jonathan has innovated and implemented many successful advertising campaigns.