Social Media for Nonprofits Conference: How to Use Facebook Effectively


With social media bringing a giant wave of change to society, nonprofit leaders who felt as if it was all about to crash down on them instead learned ways to ride the wave to success at the Social Media for Nonprofits Conference last Thursday.

I attended the day long event at the Microsoft Conference Center in Mountain View with about 300 others representing dozens of local nonprofits. Some of the people I spoke with before the conference said they felt overwhelmed at times by a dizzying array of social media sites, new apps and technologies.

Ritu Sharma, executive director of Social Media for Nonprofits, and Darian Rodriguez Heyman, co-founder and head of external partnerships, as well as author of Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals, brought an impressive lineup of speakers from Facebook, LinkedIn, Eventbrite,, and others, including Beth Kanter, an influential blogger and co-author of The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting With Social Media to Drive Change.

“We didn’t realize when we started out that there’s no other conference series in the country focused on social media for social good, so there really is a gap out there that we are doing our best to fill,” Heyman said, to a round of applause.

By the end of the day, some of the same people I spoke to at the start said the conference gave them the confidence to navigate social media more effectively.

Throughout the week I’ll be sharing highlights from the conference. Today I’m featuring notes from the Facebook presentation.

Libby Leffler, Strategic Partnerships, Facebook

“Increasingly we find that causes and nonprofit organizations that people connect with are among some of the most personal things that they ever connect with on Facebook,” said Libby Leffler at the top of her presentation. “Which is why it’s really important why all of you have a real presence on Facebook, as well.”

Using a Mother Teresa quote as a jumping off point (“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I Look at the one, I will.”), Leffler explained that the more personal nature of sharing on Facebook lends itself to people taking action.

“When you have a person’s name, and a face, and a real identity, and an understanding of what they care about and who they are, there’s a much greater propensity to act,” she said. “We believe that this real authentic identity on Facebook gives people an opportunity to act, to engage, and to understand a little bit more of what you (as a nonprofit) are doing.”

The Basic Philosophy

  1. Everyone is a partner – Leffler said Facebook considers every person, nonprofit, and cause on its platform a partner, and said that, “we’re invested in your success. We want you to see real success when you use a free product on Facebook.”
  2. All tools are open and free to use – things like Groups and Pages.
  3. It’s all about education – “A big piece of what we do, is training and education,” she said. The company wants to share best practices with nonprofits on Facebook. Like many of the attendees, I didn’t know about the Non-profits on Facebook Page, which has a number of free resources, including the document, “Building Your Presence With Facebook Pages: A Guide for Causes and Non-profits” (go to the page, click on “resources“; under the featured nonprofit, click on “Guide for Non-profits”, you’ll also find “Quick Tips” and an interesting case study to click on).

Leffler shared some success stories, like Joplin’s Found Photos, a woman who launched a Facebook Page where people could get info on what to do with found photos after the massive tornado that devastated Joplin, MO., on May 22, 2011. As people turn in the photos to boxes she placed in several locations, she cleans each one up, takes a photo of it, and loads it onto the Facebook page. More than 5,000 photos have been found so far, and she’s been able to return more than half of them to their original owners.

Build a Presence Using Facebook Pages

  1. Speak with an authentic voice – “Voice is incredibly important on Facebook, so when you have a Facebook page, there’s nothing that resonates more clearly than a real, authentic voice,” she said.  “Social media has really forced organizations to get a personality, to communicate with people in a one on one way,” she said. Leaders need to ask themselves what they are comfortable with sharing in an authentic way on their Facebook way. Having that authentic voice allows even small nonprofits with constrained budgets to be heard clearly. This message was reiterated later by Dawn Andreas, marketing program manager of Eventbrite, who told attendees, “I implore you…choose to be transparent with your brand, with your social media, and with your voice.”
  2. Create a conversation – “It’s not pushing out of information anymore, it’s a really a two-way dialogue,” said Leffler. She encouraged nonprofits to ask supporters questions and get them commenting on the page.
  3. Offer exclusive content and programs – nonprofits can offer content and opportunities to supporters found only on the Facebook page.
  4. Make supporters the stars – feature supporters and volunteers, and give them opportunities to upload photos of themselves on the page. An example is the White Shirt Campaign by the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, which asks people to upload photos of themselves wearing white shirts, as a way to promote awareness.
  5. Push and pull – a way of thinking about how you are sharing information with people, and how they share information with you, and how they share information about you with their friends. Since each person has on average 120 friends on Facebook, organizations can spread their messages virally across the network of connections whenever supporters share, like, or recommend posts. Leffler used the example of The Nature Conservancy, which asked supporters to nominate their favorite green restaurants. It pushes their message, at the same time “teasing out” participation from the audience, which will then be shared with Facebook Friends.


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