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Some of the worst advice I’ve ever heard so-called experts give to nonprofit organizations is this:
“You really ought to put all your time and effort into Facebook—that’s where everyone is. There are 100-plus million people on Facebook, so you should spend all your time and money there.”
That is absolutely not true.
Let me say first, I have nothing against Facebook. Quite the contrary. For some organizations, Facebook is a great resource. If your nonprofit has a vocal and active community of people talking about your cause and dialoging about issues, then Facebook may be a good place for you. In fact, earlier this year Facebook published a white paper for nonprofits on how to be more engaging on their site, which included several great suggestions—it’s worth a read. An organization with a vocal community of supporters could find a lot of success there.
But that’s only true for about 20% of the nonprofits on the planet. The other 80% of us don’t necessarily fall in that camp. We have equally important issues that we’re working on, but we may not have a very vocal audience with a lot of dialogue and discussion. For us to post a question on our Facebook Page and just be met with the sound of crickets chirping—that’s kind of defeating.
I’m not saying don’t be on Facebook at all. I’m simply saying, don’t pour all of your resources into building a presence in a place where you may not see a lot of engagement.
Here’s why a Facebook Page will never replace your nonprofit website, no matter who you are: It’s leased land. Facebook is someone else’s property, and you’re just staking out a little corner of it. Facebook can change the rules of engagement at any time, and they probably will. The way that people interact on Facebook is always evolving, and you have no control over what Facebook will decide to do tomorrow.
That’s why it’s really important, as nonprofits, that we keep our website at the center of our universe. Facebook can be a part of that universe, of course, as can Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever social network you find valuable for your organization. But these networks are simply spokes; your nonprofit website is your communication and marketing hub.
I told you the worst advice I’ve heard; now here’s my best advice. Focus your investment in building up your nonprofit website first and foremost because that is your property. You own it, and you control what’s there, as well as how your organization is perceived and how you interact with your constituents, volunteers and future supporters.