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The new Facebook algorithm: Why the change is so good for nonprofits

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Special to the Philanthropy Journal

By Gary Wohlfeill

No one likes change. It’s scary. It’s disruptive. So when Facebook announced last month that they were making more changes to their algorithm and what content users would be seeing in their Facebook feeds, we gotta admit… we freaked out a little.

But after reading up on these new changes and why they were being made, we have to say… we may have overreacted a tiny bit. It turns out that this new shift in the Facebook content we see is now going to be based off of a much bigger, fundamental shift in the way that the world is moving. And that’s pretty significant in more ways that one.

For nonprofits in particular, this change is going to be a really great thing.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

With the new Facebook algorithm update, users will now see even more content from family, friends, and people who they interact with frequently, and increasingly less content from brands, influencers, and businesses.

Now, Facebook isn’t making these changes to be greedy and force brands to boost their posts in order to get their content in front of their audience. Instead, it’s a move backed by what users actually care about.

Facebook has admitted that engagement and interaction by their user base actually drops when they deem content to be “passive and inauthentic.” And on the opposite hand, research has shown that when users connect with people they care about on social media, it is actually good for their well-being, and can be a significant measure of happiness and health.

Now that Facebook has identified that users are happier and more engaged when presented with content created by friends, the argument of quality vs. quantity is becoming a driving force in their strategy.

So why is this such a good thing if nonprofits are considered more on the ‘brand’ spectrum than the ‘friends and family’ spectrum?

Social fundraising and the art of meaningful content

We talk a lot about social fundraising and how, based on the way the world is moving, it needs to become an integral part of your fundraising mix.

Social fundraising in the nonprofit world is the the act of getting people (supporters, donors, evangelists, fundraisers, etc.) to post about the actions that they take related to your cause. The Facebook algorithm change backs up the fact that people are craving human connections that are meaningful. And, not only that, but they’re also finding that these connections get people to engage and take action. It’s a less passive interaction – one that is full of real meaning and that passes easily through the content gates to reach friends and family because it’s real and it’s authentic. It touches the person on the receiving end.

Awesome, so now what?

What all this means is that incorporating social fundraising into all of your fundraising endeavors is more meaningful now than ever. If you don’t, you’re forced to embrace more difficult methods of ranking higher in a supporters news feed, like spending money on boosting posts or creating engaging videos. And unfortunately for a nonprofit, those tactics aren’t always possible with budget constraints, nor are they all that successful.

Instead, make sure you’re set up on a platform that has integrated social sharing functionality. Are your supporters encouraged at key moments to share their love for your cause? The donation they just made? The ticket they just purchased for your event?

Every time someone takes an action with your cause, there’s an opportunity for that person to share their support. And that act of sharing creates an authentic ‘advertisement’ of sorts to a network of friends and family that otherwise would be incredibly difficult to reach.

And with the Facebook algorithm giving higher priority to friends and family, social fundraising allows for your supporters to be an extension of your brand and do some of the heavy lifting for you. Their posts, shares, and comments about your organization are seen through a positive lens by their networks and by Facebook, making social fundraising part of the secret sauce of a holistic fundraising strategy.

Embrace the change

Don’t let these changes frustrate you or create cause for alarm. Instead, embrace that you have an organization built upon the passion of its employees, supporters, and recipients. This is a driving force that allows for your brand to have incredibly passionate supporters who are yearning to do more for your cause. So often we hear from nonprofits that they don’t always know what to say when their supporters ask them what else they can do.

Social fundraising is one answer to that question.

Let your supporters spread awareness on your behalf. Empower them to tell their personal narrative about why they love your cause. Set them up to share their ticket purchase to your next event. Basically make sharing easy, encouraged, and incredibly appreciated. You’ll cut through the noise on Facebook and create more a more authentic distribution of your messaging leading to more awareness, support, and donations.


Gary Wohlfeill is the Director of Marketing at CrowdRise. He works with partners to develop highly engaging fundraising campaigns, and leads the marketing team in developing the CrowdRise brand. Gary has been named as having the “3rd best haircut of people under 6 feet tall at CrowdRise” and hopes one day to slip to 4th.

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