Tuesday, July 05, 2016
First Facebook ate the news, are nonprofits next?
The news business has been through quite a bit over the last two decades. A year or so ago, Facebook made itself into a key distribution channel for magazine, newspaper and broadcast outlets - creating tools like Instant Articles, inking deals to with news organizations to use Facebook Live, jiggering its news feed and striking deals with major outlets. Nowadays, news organizations pretty much depend on Facebook to get their stories in front of readers.
So it's a big deal when Facebook then turns around and says, never mind, we're changing our algorithms (again) so Facebook users see less of news content and more of their friends' stuff.
By now, we should all realize - it's their platform, their algorithm, their rules. News organizations know this, but Facebook's reach is so great they clearly decided they needed to play in the company's sandbox, regardless of the rules.
Nonprofits shouldn't make the same mistake.
The same week that Facebook announced it was pulling the rug out from under news companies' content it announced it was luring nonprofits to the platform to do their fundraising. Again.
Just as it promised the news companies, Facebook's pitch to nonprofits is about scale. Facebook may have 1+ billion users, but that doesn't mean they're all going to suddenly care about your organization.
Shifting your fundraising over to the platform may get you a few dollars in the short term. It may make it easier for an especially eager volunteer to run a fundraising event for you.
But be wary. If someone came to you and offered: "Why not hold all your events in our house, we'll manage all your invitations, process all the gifts, follow up with everyone who attends" you'd ask yourself, "What's in it for them?" Ask yourself the same question of Facebook (or any tech platform that you don't control). The answer is easy - they get all of the data on who, what, when, and how much. They own your fundraising data. And if they decide to change the rules on how their tools work (or close the doors of the metaphorical house) they can. If history is any guide, they will.
Nonprofits give up a bit of their independence, a bit of their donors' and constituents' privacy, and a lot of control with these arrangements. It may raise a little money in the short term. But in the long term it sells out the sector. Just ask your local newspaper publisher. If you still have one.
Posted by Lucy Bernholz