A 21-day content analysis, that I conducted, examining the social media activities of not-for-profit organisations (NFPs) suggested three specific Facebook content categories to generate the greatest positive response from followers. These findings were supported by interviews that I conducted with donors, supporters and volunteers.
1. Stories of positive transformation
Content from this category attracted the greatest response on the Facebook pages of NFPs. In short, these were stories that showed how a person’s life had improved as a result of their association with the NFP. The most successful story in this category was about a formerly homeless man who was helped back on his feet by a charity and then spent the next 20 years helping that charity to feed the homeless. Stories of this nature were generally communicated in three stages: before gaining assistance from the NFP, how the NFP helped and how life has improved because of this help.
However, due to the sensitivity and complexity that often surrounds sharing the stories about the clients of NFPs in terms of maintaining privacy and ethical standards, some of the NFPs in the study shared stories of positive transformation about their donors, volunteers and supporters instead. These stories followed a similar format: life before association with NFP, their involvement with NFP and how their life had improved due to this involvement.
Most stories were told from the subject’s point-of-view, included a compelling image and a few told the story through a brief video. People responded well to good news stories. Posts about positive transformation instilled trust and provided current and prospective supporters with evidence of the tangible outcomes of an NFP’s work. Doing this reinforces a current supporter’s decision to donate or volunteer. For prospective supporters it helps with their decision-making process if they can see proof of what others’ support has been able to achieve
2. Donor and volunteer stories
Content about the work of donors and volunteers also attracted a great response on Facebook. These were often brief profile pieces detailing what individuals (or groups) were doing to support the NFP, accompanied by an interesting photo. Stories of this nature resonated with current donors and volunteers because they could identify with the people being profiled, they felt that the NFP valued their work by highlighting it and it informed them (and prospective supporters) of different ways that they could support the organisation (through programs they were previously unaware of). Sharing stories of donors and volunteers with other supporters also helps to build a sense of community by showcasing other people who are working towards a common goal or cause.
3. Thanking supporters
Finally, posts that officially thanked donors and volunteers also received a very positive response on Facebook. These usually included a photo, thanked the person by name and specifically referred to their personal contribution to the NFP. These posts were different than a profile piece because their sole purpose was to publically show gratitude for a specific deed or for long-term support. These were highly regarded by current and prospective supporters. Current supporters felt that their own contribution was being validated when an NFP showed gratitude to others in this way and it encouraged them to continue to offer support. For prospective supporters it reassured them that the NFP cared about and valued its donors and volunteers and this displayed a positive organisational culture of appreciation, which encouraged the contribution of assistance.
While further research is definitely required to better understand how NFPs can use social media to their greatest advantage, this study, albeit limited, aimed to provide some new insight or support existing knowledge. Most of the posts in these content categories did not contain a call-to-action and it was difficult to measure the success of those that did through a content analysis research method. However, understanding the effectiveness of embedding calls-to-action into posts of this nature would be an interesting topic of further exploration.
If there is other Facebook content that works well for your NFP, I would love to hear about it. Please leave a comment below.