June 1, 2011

How your nonprofit can make the most of Facebook groups

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Mass notifications remain a key selling point of Facebook groups

Debra AskanaseIlove Facebook groups. Really. They can be the center of great community engagement and a campaign if used correctly and strategically. Facebook groups serve a different purpose than Facebook pages; groups are great for encouraging niche topic discussions and action, while pages are generally more focused on general agency communication and general community engagement.

One Israeli organization, NATAL, so effectively used Facebook groups that Facebook featured it on its own Nonprofits page. NATAL, the leading trauma center for victims of terror and violence in Israel, created a highly successful Israeli blood donor awareness and registry campaign that successfully leveraged Facebook groups.

One of the most urgent needs in case of emergency is quickly locating blood donors, and NATAL wanted to find a way to both convey that need for blood donors and solve it at the same time. They created a website, bloodgroups.co.il, to publicize the campaign and offer information about who should give blood and why it is needed and launched the campaign in April 2010. The most prominent feature on the site is a call to action to identify your specific blood type by clicking on a blood donor type on the left side of the page (screenshot below).


Once you click on your blood type, the Facebook Group for your blood type opens in your browser. NATAL created eight Facebook groups, each one with the name of the blood group. In marketing terms, this is brilliant, because NATAL is now closely linked to the marketing keywords “blood donor.” According to the  video that NATAL created about the campaign, “we used groups and not pages because of message-all-members function is only available in groups.” (I have been saying for years that this is the unique selling proposition of Facebook groups.)

About 4,000 people, mostly Israelis, have joined the groups. Whenever the Israeli Red Cross sent NATAL a message with an urgent request for blood, NATAL used the message-all-members function to ask for donations from group members.


It didn’t hurt that the campaign received a lot of exposure in the Israeli press, or that they were awarded free coasters to distribute to pubs throughout Israel with information about the campaign. However, the most interesting thing about the campaign is how they took advantage of Facebook groups and how the groups are being used.

How NATAL rocked Facebook groups

One thing that NATAL understood at the time was Facebook groups’ message-all-members feature, which Facebook pages does not offer. Facebook no longer offers the message-all-members option. However, groups launched a similar feature, which shows new group postings as notifications and sends emails to members with links to new postings. (Of course, members can choose to turn off the email notifications through their settings.)

Another thing NATAL understands is that groups can generate fabulous conversation when the conversation and idea exchange is focused. A group about diabetes, for example, is likely to have too many discussion threads, and possibly a lot of spam. Alternatively, a group about diabetes research will be very focused on that topic and encourage discussion about the latest research by members who care passionately about diabetes research. Within the individual NATAL groups, the discussions are about the need for blood, the campaign and how people can help.

NATAL also made the campaign very personal. When you are talking about your own blood type, and you’ve self-identified as a specific blood donor, it’s personal. Given that, the discussions within the group will tend to be more personal, and the connection with the cause will be personal as well.

What do you think about the use of Facebook groups for things like blood donor campaigns? Do you know of other organizations that are successfully using Facebook groups?


Facebook tutorials on Socialbrite (free)

10 ways nonprofits can get more out of Facebook (Socialbrite)

The differences between Facebook Pages and Groups (Socialbrite)

15 ways to enhance your Facebook influence (Socialbrite)

Facebook 101 for nonprofits (Socialbrite)Debra Askanase works with nonprofits and businesses to create engagement strategies that move people to action. She is a social media strategist and partner in Socialbrite. Visit her profile page, see her Community Organizer 2.0 blog, follow her on Twitter, contact Debra by email or leave a comment.

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