Facebook’s big News Feed changes — which will show you more posts from friends and family and fewer from public pages — won’t just decrease the reach of brands and publishers, they’re going to hit nonprofits, too.
There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits on Facebook, and many of them have built presences there at the platform’s encouragement. Now, they’re headed into a period of uncertainty inspired by News Feed changes which could diminish a critical tool they use to reach people interested in supporting their causes.
Nonprofits reach many new supporters through Facebook: When they post, nearly half the people who see their updates come from outside the immediate network of people liking their page, according to research from M+R. And some have used the 2.07-billion-user platform to fundraise massive amounts of money. The Syrian American Medical Society, for instance, raised $1.5 million for medical care in Syria last year. A drop in reach on Facebook could set back nonprofits’ efforts significantly.
“For any nonprofit organization, your Facebook page is pretty huge. We have our largest social following on Facebook,” Hannah Orenstein, digital manager at the Malala Fund, told BuzzFeed News. “A decline in reach would certainly not be good for achieving our mission.”
The Malala Fund is a nonprofit that Facebook touts as a "success story" in its nonprofit recruitment efforts, which include a microsite encouraging groups to “Join the 1.5M nonprofits using Facebook Pages to build their communities." Yet it hasn't yet received guidance from Facebook on how to navigate its News Feed changes. It didn't even get the heads-up Facebook gave to some publishers and advertisers. None of the nine nonprofits contacted by BuzzFeed News for this story got one, either.
Reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson conceded that the changes it’s making to News Feed could decrease reach, video watch time, and referral traffic for nonprofit pages, but stressed that the company remains “committed to non-profits and providing them tools on Facebook to build their communities and raise awareness for their missions.”
Given the lack of guidance and information from Facebook, many nonprofits told BuzzFeed News they’re taking a wait-and-see approach to the changes the company is making to its News Feed. “Without looking at data, it’s hard to speculate on what this change will mean," a spokesperson for World Wildlife Fund told BuzzFeed News. Spokespeople from the the Alzheimer's Association and My Hero Project expressed similar sentiments.
For nonprofits and other organizations without big advertising budgets, the ever-changing whims of Facebook’s News Feed can be hard to manage. “It definitely can be difficult at times,” Isaac Maltzer, senior digital content specialist at the nonprofit-focused ad agency Civilian, told BuzzFeed News. “If there’s a feature that seems too good to be true, more often than not you need to tread carefully.”
That said, there are some nonprofits unbothered by the looming changes. “As an organization, we’re working toward having our content be more supporter driven,” Jesse Boateng, program engagement director at Greenpeace, told BuzzFeed News. Greenpeace had long been planning to shift its focus from posting on its own page to having its supporters post about its efforts on their pages; Facebook’s move aligns with that plan, Boateng said. “It is a bit serendipitous that they’re forcing our hand at this moment as an organization.”
Others for whom the changes are less serendipitous say they’re prepared to adapt. “People in my position are resourceful and we always figure out ways to use the platform to its strengths so that it helps us,” said the Malala Fund’s Orenstein. “We use Facebook for good. You would think that’s the sort of content they’d want to promote on the platform.”