A beginner's guide to Facebook for non-profits

Lori Halley 23 May 2007 34 comments

I've always been interested in social networking sites like Myspace, Twitter and LinkedIn. But lately, I've been spending quite some time on another social site which I've found to be quite worthy of my time and yours. If you haven't guessed it yet, I'm talking about Facebook. This powerful networking service is not just for individuals like me to keep in touch with friends. It's a very effective networking tool for nonprofits to create awareness and connect with their community. In this post, I'll take you through a beginner's guide to get your non-profit on Facebook and ways to effectively use this tool. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of features, but it may help get you started.

So what exactly is Facebook?

FaceBook is a social networking site that allows users to connect and share information. Michele Martin at the Bamboo Project Blog has a good description of Facebook:

" FaceBook is an Internet site that allows users to post online profiles (including photos, information about themselves, etc.) and then connect to other users who share the same interests, experiences, etc. Zuckerberg threw up FaceBook while he was a student at Harvard to provide an online avenue for students to find one another. It has since morphed into a social network for everyone."

Facebook is built around groups and is made up of many networks, each based around a company, region, high school or college. Many nonprofits already have accounts and are reaping the benefits for their organization and their cause. One reason why it's so popular is because it's just very easy to use. Adding friends, updating your profile, changing your status message - whatever you do takes just minutes.

How to get started?

1. Sign up and create a Facebook Account

To get started, go to Facebook.com, click "Register" and fill out a short online registration form. Once you're signed up, you'll need to have a profile to share information and photos about your organization with others. What to include in your organization's profile? Photos, links to your website and videos can all be added. And remember, when creating your profile you can include as little or as much information as you feel comfortable.

2. Find freinds and connect with your community

Now that you have a Facebook account, connecting to people in your community is easy. Start by using the search feature to find friends who are already using Facebook and request to be their friend. You can add just about anyone you can think of including your members, supporters, volunteers, staff and even your board members. Don't worry if you don't have a big list right away. Once you have two or more contacts, you'll be able to expand your social network by locating mutual friends and contacting them.

3. Send and receive messages

Facebook offers a message board feature called "The Wall" that displays member profile pages. You can use it to post all kinds of messages to your network. But be beware: comments can be viewed by all your contacts in your list of Facebook friends.


4. Create a group for your organization or event

Just like every other social networking site, you can create and join groups on Facebook. And there's a growing number of groups dedicated to social change. Why create a group? Creating groups allows you to share information about pretty much anything. You can create groups for your organization or event to make announcements, join discussion groups or even to share pictures. There are two kinds of groups on Facebook - open and closed groups. So be sure to create open groups so that people can find it and your members can invite others to join.

5. Upload and share pictures

One of Facebook’s most popular features has been the ability to upload and share pictures. Facebook also offers an unlimited quota with their only restriction being a 60-photos-per-album limit. The process is very simple. Start by creating an album which you can then assign limitations to (e.g. visible to my members only) and upload photos within them. The album is then put into your profile, and other users can see and comment on them. You can also "tag" your photos with the names of people you mention and share the photos via a web link or by e-mail. What’s more is that you can order prints online!

6. Promote your events

Facebook is a great place to promote your organization's events. Simply create the event, add pictures and invite your contacts to join. In addition to groups, you can post details of events in your profile so people can RSVP for an event. You also have the option to leave the event open to people in your network or open for everyone.

7. Promote your blog or newsletter

Facebook also helps you to promote your blog or newsletter. This feature allows you to share information beyond what's in your profile in two ways. You can either post a note on your page or import your external blog. It is a nice way to communicate with your constituents and update them on your organization. You can also integrate an RSS feed in to your blog with notes. When you post it, the note is displayed in your profile and every one of your “friends” is notified and other members can add comments.

8. Keep in touch with your members

Facebook has a feature called "News Feed" that allows you to see all kinds of activity within your network. It's very similar to an RSS feed, in that when you log in to Facebook you immediately receive an update of all of the actions your contacts have taken. And if someone posted a new photo album or RSVPed to an event, you'll be notified right away.

9. Maintain some privacy

On Facebook, you are in control of what information is out there about your organization and who can see it. You can retain some privacy by blocking certain people from viewing your profile or by creating a limited profile to hide  information you might not want to share with your contacts.

These nine points are meant to be a starting point for you to get your nonprofit on Facebook and into the social networking world. There are also many examples of nonprofit groups on Facebook. For instance, UNICEF at Indiana University has a campus group to announce news and meetings and there's also a group for Advocates for Grassroots Development in Uganda (AGRADU), a UNC student initiative aiming to support indigenous grassroots efforts at community building and economic development in Uganda. For more examples of nonprofit related content on Facebook and some helpful tips, read Emily Weinberg's post.  


Want to learn more about how your non-profit organization can make the most of social media on a small budget? Get updates from the Wild Apricot non-profit technology blog by RSS feed or by email, free!

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 5:57 PM

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  • Asad said:

    Sunday, 27 May 2007 at 7:08 PM

    Faceook just launched Causes, a new non-profit donation app that you should profile, as it is very nice and allows people to directly donate and keep track of how much money you have gotten others to donate to your cause, almost like a competition.

  • Ben said:

    Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 5:00 AM

    Grr. You made me sign up. Very convincing!


  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Tuesday, 05 June 2007 at 2:16 PM

    Non-profits organizations using Facebook can now launch a social-networking-based fundraising drive for

  • pcgs51 said:

    Tuesday, 19 June 2007 at 2:51 PM

    I signed up for Facebook but don't see in this article or at the Facebook sit how I could hook this into my WA site.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 20 June 2007 at 6:47 AM

    Most of the posts on our blog are not directly related to Wild Apricot, for example this one about Facebook. We haven't looked into integration capabilities yet. If you have any specific ideas in mind - how you would like to see the integration? Feel free to post on our forum or comment here and we will research this.

  • Dan said:

    Wednesday, 27 June 2007 at 10:18 AM

    I think FB has an API that allows you to pull information such as members, friends, events, etc from there database and publish it on another website or service.  This would be some cool integration.  That way you only have to maintain one site with current info.

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Tuesday, 03 July 2007 at 6:14 AM

    Today marks a special day for the Wild Apricot team - it's a one year birthday for our product and our

  • Yvonne said:

    Wednesday, 25 July 2007 at 12:33 PM

    This is a really great and detailed outline of how to sign up! There should be something like this for every social networking site out there.

  • Dave Forde said:

    Sunday, 29 July 2007 at 7:05 AM

    Soha - this is an excellent summary on the power of Facebook!

  • Linda said:

    Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 5:29 AM

    I tried to sign up my non-profit on facebook, but when I put in its name it told me the name had too many words and I had to put in a birthday!  Is there a special place for organizations to sign up that doesn't assume names have only 2 words and that organizations have birthdays?  

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 6:22 AM


    The way facebook is set up, you'll need to fill out all the required fields including a birthday to sign-up and use it. But after that step, you can "Create a New Group" for your non-profit where you can enter the name you like and doesn't require you to enter a birthday.

  • Beth Koenig said:

    Friday, 17 August 2007 at 7:52 AM

    I just shorted our name down to three words and entered my birthday. Then I changed the privacy setting on the birthday not to show up. I also upload our logo with our full name spelled out.

  • Chris Weiner said:

    Monday, 27 August 2007 at 7:52 PM

    Great list of instructions with photos Soha. I no longer need to explain to my friends how to login to Facebook and get started; I'll just link them here.

  • Pat Graham-Block said:

    Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 9:15 AM

    This was very valuable in helping me learn more about facebook and the inner workings. Thanks! Pat

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Monday, 15 October 2007 at 11:58 AM

    Did you know that most visitors leave a website within 10 seconds of landing on the home page? And they

  • Sohbet said:

    Tuesday, 16 October 2007 at 9:08 AM

    Best of luck Jim. I actually find this page pretty interesting from a SEO point of view.

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Tuesday, 23 October 2007 at 9:28 AM

    Britt Bravo of Have Fun * Do Good has an excellent post about using the social web for social change.

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Friday, 16 November 2007 at 7:17 AM

    I often receive questions from nonprofits about how to effectively use Facebook . So here are ten different

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Monday, 10 December 2007 at 10:21 AM

    It looks like there's been a lot of interest in using Facebook. As of November, our Facebook posts (new

  • Josh Boldman said:

    Wednesday, 16 April 2008 at 10:45 AM

    Great article. Thanks for putting the time into getting this information across. Extremely helpful.

    Josh Boldman


  • Adrienne said:

    Wednesday, 14 May 2008 at 10:43 AM

    This FB url allows you to choose to create a page for an organization; "non-profit" is listed under "brand or product".

  • Jake said:

    Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 8:43 AM

    I work for the marketing department at Africare in Washington, DC. We are trying to create a facebook page. However, we are unsure how to specify that we are a non-profit and not a business when we begin constructing the page. Any suggestions or tips?

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 2:28 PM

    Hi Jake, that's a good question - and the answer is certainly not obvious! Facebook has Nonprofits classified as a category under "Brand or Product" at http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php (Create a Page).
    Select Non-Profit from the drop-down list.  

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 7:13 PM

    Jake, just a follow-up to your question: I notice there's already an Africare page on Facebook, but it belongs to a health and beauty business in the UK. It occurs to me that it may be possible that Facebook's database could be getting confused between that business and your nonprofit? Might be something to look into, anyway,  if you still find you're having difficulties in getting the page set up right.

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Monday, 16 June 2008 at 9:14 AM

    New features and other enhancements have been added to Facebook since Wild Apricot's Beginner's Guide

  • Amanda Frayer said:

    Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 7:08 AM

    i wonder if there is a way to set up a profile for a non-profit facebook without using my own name to register on the site?

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Friday, 20 June 2008 at 6:13 PM

    Amanda, I don't believe so. Facebooks' Terms of Service say, among other things, that you must agree not to "register for more than one User account, register for a User account on behalf of an individual other than yourself, or register for a User account on behalf of any group or entity" - and that would seem to rule out what you're asking.

    However, the official representative of a business or nonprofit does have the option to set up a Facebook Page, and your personal Profile is still kept separate. That means, although you may be listed as the Page Admin, your personal Profile itself is still subject to the same privacy settings as always: it does not become viewable by the public.

  • Jake said:

    Monday, 23 June 2008 at 7:22 AM


    Thank you so much for your help. Needless to say, Facebook was most unhelpful! We will have our page up in the next day or so. I encourage you to check it out once it is up. Thank you again. This website is an invaluable resource.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 10:19 AM

    Jake, that's good to hear: please drop back to leave a link when you've got the Page up, so we can see how Africare is using it?

  • Don said:

    Saturday, 08 November 2008 at 4:21 PM

    I may be missing something obvious (I am relatively new to Facebook), but is it possible to add RSS feeds to an organization you create. On those pages, it does not appear to allow them. Many of the features in this excellent blog appear to involve your profile rather than the organization itself.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Sunday, 09 November 2008 at 5:21 AM

    Don, I just successfully installed the "Simply RSS" application on my test page. You might find it helpful to login to Facebook, go to your organization's page (I'm assuming you're the Admin?), and browse Applications from there. Searching for RSS turns up a fair selection. When you click through to an application, there's a box in the upper right of the page that will offer you a choice of adding to your Profile or your Page. Some RSS apps will work and some won't, depending on the type/category of page you've set up.

    Your comment about features for profiles rather than for the organization itself leads me to think that our articles about Facebook Pages (as opposed to profiles) might be useful to you. See https://www.wildapricot.com/blogs/newsblog/archive/2008/06/16/how-to-set-up-a-non-profit-facebook-page.aspx and https://www.wildapricot.com/blogs/newsblog/archive/2008/06/23/facebook-applications-for-your-non-profit-page.aspx for starters?

  • Carrie said:

    Friday, 17 April 2009 at 6:14 AM

    I appreciate your ideas about facebook. We are looking into the possibility of using facebook, but we want to maintain the privacy of our children. Some of them come from a CPS background, or do not want to have pictures used online. Do you know how other organizations have dealt with this issue and still maintained a dynamic and engaging facebook page?

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 22 April 2009 at 5:52 PM

    Hi Carrie, I've been thinking about your question...

    On top of all the usual reasons for being cautious about the exposure of children on the Internet, you've clearly got some truly compelling reasons to protect the identity of the children you serve. Still, I think the very fact that you need to deal with this issue could be a "compelling story" and even a visual theme for an engaging Facebook page.

    Human faces are the single most attractive element to other humans, true, but just think about the sheer emotional power of those documentaries where the face and voice of a "source" must be disguised for their own privacy and protection!

    It would take some strategic planning, and a bit of Photoshop perhaps, but I think there's room for you to create a Facebook page that would be quite powerful without compromising the privacy of the children in your care.

    edited to add:  Here's a must-read blog post that I just came across, by Deborah Zanke at Message Communications: Protecting the vulnerable while telling your story --  inspirational and totally on topic for you, Carrie, except the tool in the example is Twitter rather than Facebook, but the idea still holds.


  • Free mp4 to mp3 converter said:

    Tuesday, 18 October 2011 at 7:38 AM
    Hello! Are you planning to share such a guide but for profit sake? Thank you in advancer for your answer!
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