How to use social media to help your organisation through COVID-19

By Alex McMillan, social media lead, Our Community

No matter which way you cut it, 2020 has been (and continues to be) a tough year for your organisation, your supporters and your beneficiaries – not just practically, but also in terms of morale. How do you keep a smile on your public face and stay connected when your fundraising has all but dried up and you’re working from home in a cupboard under the stairs?

Here are some suggestions based on some of the specialised features of Facebook that might have passed you by.

Grouping together
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Alex McMillan

Facebook Groups have become more and more sophisticated in recent years. They’ve always offered not-for-profits and community groups ways to keep supporters up-to-date, share resources, facilitate discussions, and organise activities. Before we look at some of the newer features, let’s make sure you’re on top of the housekeeping.

First, make sure you have some moderators on side – yes, more than one – to help you keep track of your group’s activity. Share the load.

Second, use the rules feature to establish group norms from the start. These will provide a good reference when you need to ask a member to change their behaviour.

Third, write a set of simple questions that prospective members must answer before their membership is approved. The answers will give you valuable insights into your members and help you weed out any intruders. For example, if your group is called 'Furry friends of North West Wagga Wagga’, you might ask questions such as ‘Are you looking to foster an animal?’ or ‘Do you have any experience with looking after furry things?’.

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The inability to reach your members in person means you need to think of some new and exciting ways to communicate with them. It's time to get savvy with social media.

The newer features of Facebook groups include mentorships and social learning. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, we’ve seen many organisations shift their face-to-face learning and mentorship programs online, and many have turned to Facebook groups to facilitate this.

If you enable the mentorship feature in your group, then individuals will be able to create a profile, browse and link with available mentors, and strike up a relationship via Messenger. You can also guide mentorships using promts and discussion topics.

If you enable social learning in your group, then you can group and order posts into units that your members can participate in and track their progress on. The feature provides you with insights on progress and completion of the parts of a unit.

If you’re looking for a way to get a new or previously face-to-face program up and running in a group, take a look at these helpsheets for more information:

This crisis has also seen Facebook Groups become a haven for individuals seeking help. The Pay it Forward group has seen calls from individuals needing items like jackets for job interviews or household furniture items. With many op shops temporary or permanently closed, Facebook has become a hub of activity. If your organisation has supporters and beneficiaries that typically help each other out in person, Facebook groups may be a way to translate this online.

At the very least, a Facebook group is a safe place for your network to chat. If you haven’t already found it, Our Community has a Facebook group called Not-for-profit Happy Hour Australia. It’s the Australian chapter of the US-based Nonprofit Happy Hour, which has more than 45,000 members. Posts range from crowdsourcing of information on service providers to advice on managing staff and board members. Come along and chatter with us if you want to see how a group can work to the benefit of the community.

Raising funds
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The fundraising feature of Facebook isn’t new, but if you’re looking for new income streams to replace your cancelled events and defunct face-to-face tin-rattling, get on board. You’ll find more information, including details of eligibility criteria, here:

Going live
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In the ‘before-times’, Facebook Live was a very polished place to hang out. CEOs in suits updated the public in front of shiny logos, emergency broadcasts patched straight to social media, and carefully choreographed marathon live events became the new way of getting into supporters’ newsfeeds.

Now, with many people working from their living room forts, the virtual space is a lot less formal. Since we opened our homes up to the scrutiny of video calls and found our meetings suddenly being interrupted by the urgent enquiries of toddlers, we’ve been seeing a blurring of the professional and the personal.

So when it comes to Facebook Live, just relax. You may have seen the Q&A session Jacinda Ardern did in her tracky-dacks early-on in the pandemic, all from the comfort of the couch after putting her little one to bed. The video showed that she was out there (or in fact, in there) with everyone else in taking responsibility for social distancing and dealing with all the challenges that come with our new reality.

Facebook Live provides a great replacement for large group interactions, but it can also be used in place of written communication. At a time when your supporters and beneficiaries are feeling extra vulnerable, a smile and a warm tone of voice can provide a bit of much-needed comfort.

Meming it up
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We could all do with a laugh right now! Whether it’s memes, cat videos, baby pics or bad lip-syncs, aim to create posts that will help connect your network with joy. Social distancing is a lonely experience for many people, and as a community organisation you’re well placed to bring people together for the better. Celebrate, laugh, and cry big, ugly, happy tears together. You’ll be better off for it, and so will the people you’re reaching out to.

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