Facebook is great for more than just sharing photos of cute kittens and that amazing dim sum you had for lunch. Your nonprofit’s Facebook page can help you develop meaningful connections with your fans. Sanctuary One at Double Oak Farm, a nonprofit care farm in Jacksonville, Oregon, has mastered the art of leveraging Facebook to turn passive followers into active friends who don’t just make donations, but also subscribe to the group’s newsletter, volunteer at the farm, and even adopt dogs, cats, or farm animals.
We asked Sanctuary One’s executive director, Robert Casserly, to share how Facebook has helped them spread their message, connect with fans, and drive traffic to their website, YouTube channel, and real-world farm. Casserly also offered some simple yet effective tips that you can put to work on your nonprofit’s Facebook page.
Network for Good: How effective is the Sanctuary One Facebook page in helping turn passive followers into active donors?
Sanctuary One: We know that a small number of donors have developed from our page because they indicated on their Network For Good online donation that they heard about us on Facebook. We have nearly 100% success whenever we ask our Facebook friends to purchase a piece of equipment for us from an online merchant like Amazon. I do a post like this about once a month and keep the ask to something that costs less than $200. Once the item is donated, I delete the post from our timeline to avoid duplicate gifts. In 2012, we began a fundraising program wherein anyone in the United States can donate their used vehicle to us. Once a month or so, I post a prompt to our Facebook page encouraging our followers to donate a vehicle. We receive a donation about every other time we do such a post.
NFG: How do you use your Facebook page to boost newsletter subscribers?
SO: About once a month I do a special Facebook post encouraging people to sign up for our e-newsletter, which can capture more info like mailing addresses. We see a gain of approximately 10 subscribers per post. This results in more donors to mail and thus more responses. Facebook also increases the number of nonsubscribers who read our e-newsletter via cross-promotion between our e-mail list and our Facebook page.
NFG: Have you found that your Facebook page encourages people to connect with Sanctuary One in more personal ways?
SO: Facebook is a powerful tool in promoting adoption of rescued animals. Last year our care farm adopted out 53 special-needs animals; about 20 of those were a direct result of Facebook posts. Additionally, people who adopt from the Sanctuary typically become steady donors, sometimes even planned gift donors, so Facebook is a significant indirect contributor to our long-term sustainability. We have also had good success in recruiting volunteers through Facebook. Of our 45 new volunteers in 2012, about 15 were a direct result of a Facebook post. Our farm tours are a primary source of earned revenue for the Sanctuary. I’d say about 200 of the 1,400 tours we provided last year were a direct result of a Facebook post. People who come out for a tour often become e-newsletter subscribers, donors, adopters, and/or volunteers.
NFG: How do you measure your social media results?
SO: We track donations received directly through Facebook using Network for Good’s tracking code feature in the “Donate Now” buttons. We also set a specific annual goal for the number of page likes by the end of the year. For example, we began 2012 with 3,100 Facebook page followers; our goal is to reach 5,000 by the end of 2013. In 2012, we started using Facebook as a primary tool for driving traffic to our YouTube channel. As a result, our YouTube views went from 15,000 in January 2012 to 115,000 by the end of the year. But the primary way I measure our page’s success is by following other Facebook pages. Using a mix of intuition and experience, I select five to 10 pages to follow closely, and I learn all I can from them about how to increase engagement, what to expect in terms of growth and development, etc.
NFG: Have any posts or photos from your site gone viral through Facebook? If so, how has that increased overall traffic or helped to gather momentum behind Sanctuary One?
SO: One of our strategic goals is to achieve national recognition. Creating Facebook posts that we hope will go viral is one tactic we use to work toward that goal. In two years of doing two to three Facebook posts per day, seven days a week, we have had about six posts go viral in a significant way, resulting in thousands of additional media impressions. To date, our most popular post ever reached 9,555 people, 1,112 shares, 906 likes, and 110 comments.
Ready to use Facebook to enhance your nonprofit’s outreach? Sanctuary One’s Robert Casserly shared this advice:
Use Facebook primarily for communication. We do not consider Facebook to be a primary tool for fundraising or resource development. Instead, we consider Facebook to be a way to keep in touch with people who are interested in the Sanctuary. I think this approach has been critical to the success of our Facebook page because it helps us keep the page authentic.
Avoid commercializing your Facebook page. For example, we only do a plug for a business if we are acknowledging a big gift, like $1,000 and up, as a means to encourage other businesses to donate. The world is so crammed with commercialization that we feel it’s imperative to offer our Facebook friends an oasis from commercial advertising.
Post interesting, diverse content. I post a mix of videos, photos, status updates, shout-outs to worthy organizations we admire, links to interesting newspaper articles, and so on. I post at different times of the day to reach friends in different time zones. I do some long posts, some short. I don’t worry about “the rules” for maximizing a Facebook post; rather, I value creativity over standardization. I think this helps keep our page fun, and the more fun I’m having with it, the more that will shine through in the overall look and feel of the page.
- Create a dialogue with fans via your posts instead of constant fundraising.
- Make occasional donation requests opportunities for personalized giving; for example, link to an Amazon wish list or ask for volunteers to help out in person.
- Add variety to your page with photos, videos, success stories, and links to interesting articles. Post at different times of the day to capture fans in different time zones or with different online schedules.
- Regularly remind page followers to subscribe to your e-mail newsletter. You could even post a PDF version to engage nonsubscribers.
- Measure your social media results (number of page likes, shared posts, etc.), and set goals for growth.