Following the release of Facebook’s new “donate now” feature for nonprofit brand pages, a few intrepid and well-meaning fundraising and marketing experts rejuvenated an existing petition imploring Facebook to issue grants to nonprofits in order to create ads gratis.
The idea behind this campaign is that, although the “donate now” button is a great addition, its visibility will be greatly reduced due to the fact that Facebook’s algorithm favors users and brands who use its paid products, such as ads and sponsored posts. Nonprofits, in general, lack the ad budget to keep up.
This rallying cry has spawned numerous blog posts, tweets and emails in support of the petition. But is this really in the best interest of nonprofit marketers?
Polishing the Brass on the Titanic
While there is a precedent in the form of Google’s Nonprofit program, which grants up to $10,000 worth of ads per month (which doesn’t go very far, by the way), it is extremely unlikely that Facebook will ever create a similar program.
Facebook’s entire monetization model is based on paid advertising, and every algorithm update over the last few years reinforces that model. Brands who were enjoying a free lunch in the form of interactions and conversions on their Facebook pages during the mid-to-late 2000s have seen organic impressions drop precipitously, forcing them into an ad spend or irrelevance. One study reports that brand pages have suffered a staggering 44% decline in organic reach since December 1, 2013.
An ad grant of this nature would only perpetuate the root cause of why nonprofits are currently seeing diminished engagement on Facebook: more ads, less organic content. Congratulations, petition supporters! You’re working to make Facebook worse. Why stop at nonprofits? How about small businesses? They’re in the exact same boat. How about schools? Hospitals? Churches?
Forrester Research recommends that marketers shouldn’t “dedicate a paid ad budget to Facebook.” Their report found that marketers surveyed rated Facebook as the least effective of 13 marketing channels. Ouch!
Do you like ads in your newsfeed? When was the last time you clicked one?
Furthermore, studies show that usage among teens is slipping, while tweens are skipping the network entirely in favor of Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Pew Research reported last year that 61% of current Facebook users admitted to having voluntarily taken a break from using Facebook for a period of several weeks or more.
Regardless of the long-term viability of the network as a useful method of outreach, a new set of issues would emerge were this ad grant to be gifted.
Planning and Deploying Ad Campaigns Isn’t Easy and Shouldn’t Be Taken Lightly
Have you ever created an ad or sponsored post on Facebook? It’s not easy.
Let’s say you were gifted a grant. Where would you begin? These are just a few examples of what goes into a Facebook ad: