YNP Success Story: Using Facebook to Market my Nonprofit

By Ash Bruxvoort

When I first started working at The Nature Conservancy just over a year ago we had an infrequently updated Facebook page with around 200 Fans. The page had been up for about two years, and I made the case that I wanted to try my hand at running the fan page. Our tech guy was pretty happy to have it off his plate, so there wasn’t much of a fight there.

Strategic Planning & Goal Setting
My boss took a little bit more convincing. I created a strategic plan for Facebook, which involved looking at other organizations in our same market’s Facebook page. I looked at five “competitors” (in reality all of these people are our partners) and made notes about what content was working well for them, how many fans they had, when they were posting, how often they were posting, and what were the areas I thought they could improve. I took all of this information and created a plan for what kind of content we should post, how often, what times of day, and who I wanted to target. In my opinion, creating a strategic plan like this is absolutely key to the success of your Facebook page. It will help guide you in what you are posting and prevent the “Oh my gosh, I haven’t posted anything on Facebook in a week!” panic attack.

Part of this strategic plan was a numbers goal. The first goal we set was to reach 1,000 fans, because this was the mid-range we were seeing for organizations in our market. The maximum range we were seeing was 3,000, which became our long term goal. We reached our first goal of 1,000 over the course of four months entirely through more frequent and better posts. This got our organization fired up about Facebook and our senior management wanted more results. In June we set aside some money in our budget to run Facebook advertisements, and just last week we hit that 3,000 mark. Note: It’s not impossible to grow your Facebook fan base without advertising money, it will just take longer.

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What Does It Mean to Have 3,000 Facebook Fans?
Having this many fans on Facebook has already made a big difference for our organization. One of the biggest things we struggle with is that no one has heard of us, when we’re actually the world’s largest conservation organization and are working across the state of Iowa. Facebook has been a great way to connect with people who have never heard of our organization. The majority of our fans aren’t members, yet, but they’ve given us an invitation to share information about our organization with them, and I hope that continuously working on this relationship will eventually result in new donors. I see a lot of new people regularly engaging with our content, and to me this is very exciting. Now that we have this expanded base the biggest things I’m looking at are how can we turn these people into event attendees, volunteers, and donors.

What Is the Best Content to Post?
The biggest question I get about Facebook is, what kind of content should we share? Well, that’s not always an easy question to answer. I have found that the kinds of posts that are most successful on our page are posts about the work we are actually doing. If we do a prairie burn or host a volunteer work day, people are always excited to see the pictures and hear the stories from our conservation staff.

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This is a great example of a post that goes over really well on Facebook. As you can see it got 91 likes, 4 shares, and quite a few comments. This is just a picture one of our conservation staff members took of something he found while he was working.

When thinking about content, think about two things. What are things that a lot of people are going to like, and then what is the message I want to get across. Make sure you’re posting about both things. If you’re posting things that are highly engaging, like pictures of baby turtles, it’s more likely that the article you post about best management practices for agriculture are going to show up in people’s newsfeeds.

A lot has changed at The Nature Conservancy since we made our Facebook page a priority. There is more communication between philanthropy/marketing and conservation staff, our board is more interested in marketing and what it can do for our organization, we started a Twitter feed, our state director started a Twitter feed and we embarked on a relationship with a new marketing firm. For an organization that didn’t really do any marketing just a year ago those are some big changes from something as simple as a Facebook fan page!

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