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Facebook Content that Works for NFPs


Tuesday, 30th June 2015 at 12:07 pm
Xavier Smerdon, Journalist
Recent PhD research has has revealed the Facebook content that works best for Aussie Not for Profits, writes Karen Sutherland.

Tuesday, 30th June 2015
at 12:07 pm
Xavier Smerdon, Journalist


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Facebook Content that Works for NFPs
Tuesday, 30th June 2015 at 12:07 pm

Recent PhD research has has revealed the Facebook content that works best for Aussie Not for Profits, writes Karen Sutherland.

As part of my recently submitted PhD research, I conducted a content analysis examining the social media activities of Not for Profit organisations. The analysis ran for 21 days, and suggested three specific content categories to generate the greatest positive response from followers.

These findings were supported by interviews with donors, supporters and volunteers that were also conducted as part of the same PhD research project.

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 former 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.

About the author: Karen Sutherland is a Lecturer in Public Relations at University of the Sunshine Coast.  Twitter @kesutherland777; Email: ksutherl@usc.edu.au


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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