Nonprofits have a significant advantage on Facebook. I am not just talking about the fact that Facebook has teamed up with Blackbaud integration partner ActionSprout to give away $2M in Facebook ad credits.

The nonprofit advantage comes from the fact that content that people engage with on Facebook (like, share, comment on, etc.) gets far more reach and visibility than content that people see but don’t engage with. To be more precise, content that Facebook users want to be seen engaging with does far better on the social network.

Who has the kind of stories that Facebook users want to be seen engaging with? Nonprofits!

That simple fact gives nonprofits a considerable leg up over other brands; with both organic content as well as promoted content. Facebook is among their most cost effective channels for organizations focused on email list growth or donor cultivation.

Even so, few nonprofits are using Facebook ads at all, many others use them ineffectively. This is why ActionSprout recently teamed up with Facebook to give away $2M in free Facebook ad credits to nonprofit organizations around the country. Both ActionSprout and Facebook are committed to finding new and more powerful ways to support nonprofits. This test project is designed to put ActionSprout tools and Facebook ad credits into the hands of 2,000 nonprofits over the holiday season and into the new year. It will also provide both companies with an opportunity to learn how they can better support the nonprofit sector in the future.

As the application process is underway, I thought it would be a good time to explain why nonprofits have an advantage on Facebook and share some simple best practices to help you succeed on the platform.

The Advantage

As strange as it sounds, Facebook is a very personal space. In our modern world, it really is the place where people express who they are and what they think of the world around them. What we post, share and engage with all become part of our personal identity.

Think back to your own behaviour on Facebook.  How often do you like, share, or comment on a Facebook post from a corporate brand? Now think about how about you engage with content from nonprofit organizations and causes you care about?

Brands work hard every day to create brand love and brand loyalty on Facebook. For most brands, that affection is superficial and the loyalty fleeting. It doesn’t matter how well a laundry detergent cleans my stained shirts, unless they offer me some kind of coupon or other reward I am highly unlikely to engage with or share their content. Why? Because everything I do on Facebook tells my friends something about who I am. Believe it or not,  “he cares deeply about the laundry soap he uses” simply isn’t a story I want to come to mind when my friends think about me.

Nonprofits on the other hand have missions, goals and stories that people really care about. Caring runs deep! It may not always be glamorous, almost always not, but it is real. Nearly 1.8 billion people share what they care about every month on Facebook — joy, inspiration, hopes, and fears, over and over again. Who is doing work and has an abundance of stories of hope, fear, joy, and inspiration? Nonprofits.

Keys to success

Some basic strategies must be adopted for nonprofits to be successful on Facebook, and social media in general, and sustain that success for the life of their missions. The tasks are often left up to whomever may have the capacity to do so rather than a an expert. Below are a few basic strategies that should get you headed in the right direction with or without ads. Expert or not, these are a must.

1. Be Authentic

Nonprofits have the benefit of meaningful storytelling. Regardless if it is a post, a boosted post, or an ad, leverage your stories. People will spot constructed and disingenuous marketing line a mile away.

2. Post frequently

Most organizations should be posting at least a couple times each day. The truth of the matter is that not every post you publish will strike a chord with your audience. It reminds me a bit of Albert Einstein’s quote “ it’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” The key to success on Facebook is sticking with it. Post a lot.

Tone of voice, sentiment, and everything else should be consistent. The best way to do this is to document, share, and update your own internal best practices.

3. Learn from success and failure

The surest way to succeed on Facebook is to watch what other organizations are doing and to really learn from your own best content as well as the posts that fail. It should come as no real shock that by simply drawing inspiration from the best content on Facebook and doing most posts like the ones that excel on your Facebook is a recipe for success.

4. Don’t Be Rigid

You may have a very specific mission, it also may be very local. That’s great. However, you should feel free to post content that is on the outskirts of your mission and from other parts of the country and globe. If the content leads people toward your mission, even if it seems unrelated, post it. Being too narrow and too rigid reduces the amount and quality of your content.

5. Use Ads to Amplify your successes

Only spend money to promote content that does well organically. This kind of promotion can take off like wildfire. Promoting content that people don’t want to engage with is expensive and doesn’t drive results, we call it a pollution tax. In many ways, Facebook’s newsfeed is a meritocracy. It is designed to surface the content that people most want in their news feed. So, give them what they want.

Drew is Co-Founder and CEO of, a Facebook app that helps nonprofits build more and deeper relationships with supporters. Drew is a tireless advocate for the planet and the people working to make it a healthier, more just and joyful place. He spends his days supporting ActionSprout’s team, customer and partners to ensure they have the tools and knowledge needed to succeed on Facebook and beyond. He has been helping organizations build productive relationships with supporters online since the early 2000’s.

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