Nonprofits that rely heavily on Facebook to recruit volunteers and new donors may want to rethink their outreach strategies. Adopting volunteer and donor management software platforms is one way charitable institutions can maintain quality connections with supporters, despite any alterations made to Facebook or other community forums.
News feeds are changing
As outlined by the International Business Times, Facebook made changes to its algorithm around 2013 that has had a dramatic effect on the exposure each post from a brand’s official page receives. Unless boosted by paid advertising, only a small fraction of those users who have liked an organization’s page actually see the group’s updates and posts in their news feeds.
Status posts and announcements that are not backed by paid advertisements, but still reach followers and fans, are considered part of a brand’s organic reach. Two years ago, organic reach accounted for a group’s interaction with 16 percent of its followers. Today, with the new algorithm in place, that number has dropped significantly to 2 percent, and sometimes even less.
The effects in action
Karuna Bully Rescue, a nonprofit based in Boston that focuses on animal rescues and finding homes for abandoned dogs, has roughly 4,700 fans on Facebook. With the site’s new system, only about 95 people will ever see a post from Karuna Bully in their feed as they scroll through. The problem here is organizations are not getting the exposure they require, and people who have liked a brand’s page are no longer receiving the updates they want and need. Satisfaction on both ends is decreasing.
The Global Healthy Living Foundation is an organization that supports people living with joint maladies, such as rheumatoid arthritis, which can cause severe pain. Fans and followers of the nonprofit on Facebook often rely on the social aspect of this online community to keep them connected to others. Often sufferers of chronic pain feel isolated; Facebook provided a space where these people could connect with each other and learn about treatment and medication updates. Unfortunately, now only a fraction of Global Healthy Living’s 75,000 Facebook fans are seeing updates as they patrol their feeds. Users have to seek out a page on their own, which is an added step that also makes it difficult for new users to find.
Associations Now pointed out that many nonprofits that are primarily funded by government institutions or foundation grants have come to rely on social networking sites to find new volunteers and donors. Often, these groups are not allowed to spend received funds on advertising, whether or not the budget allows for it.
Many organizations feel that Facebook broke a promise made long ago. The site is only 10 years old, but it has taken the place of many methods these types of institutions used before social media came into existence. Plus, Facebook emerged promoting itself as a free platform for businesses to connect with their customers, bringing people and their favorite brands together. Now, it seems that the website sees itself more as a for-profit marketing tool, rather than a cost-effective communications facilitator. In fact, there no longer exists a tool that allows users to see all updates from a particular brand or organization. Whether a fan liked a group’s page seems to matter very little today; Facebook decides what content is most relevant to users and arranges their news feeds accordingly.
Finding a solution
One alternative to this disappointing news is investing more energy into sites that allow businesses plenty of organic reach. Both Twitter and Google have been kinder to organizations because they’ve recognized their roles in society as a whole. Google’s AdGrants program helps nonprofits promote their missions through AdWords advertising. The program allots $10,000 per month to nonprofits in online advertisements that increase search result success online.
A second alternative, or rather, a powerful addition to any social media strategies already in place, is adopting volunteer and donor management software. These platforms provide charities with the resources they need to effectively monitor incoming funds, generate digestible reports and stay connected to constituents. Volunteers and donors can access their own personal profiles, giving them a stronger, more personal sense of connectivity to an organization. Plus, maintaining records of accurate contact information is crucial for outreach; email and U.S. mail marketing tactics only work if addresses are correct.
Nonprofits interested in signing a petition asking Facebook to rethink its news feed algorithm and policies can visit a page set up by Karuna Bully’s Erin Jenkins. Jenkins makes the point that not only did she initially connect with Karuna Bully through Facebook, her organization and many others like it do not sell products. They exist only to spread important information to those that care about the cause and often rely on it to maintain their own well-being.