Let's Talk About Facebook and Ebola
Well, we're officially in the holiday season now, and the donation requests and social-media campaigns are in full swing. As a nonprofit fundraiser, I love this time of year. It's great to see all the great work being done around the world by so many amazing organizations to support some incredible missions.
With that said, I have been struggling with something for the last few weeks. And, as usual, I'm sure I'll get some grumbles with this post. But I'm just not sure how I feel about Facebook and the Ebola campaign it launched. I saw the post at the top of my Facebook feed in early November: "Angie, You Can Help Stop Ebola. Donate to organizations working in West Africa so they can save lives and stop the outbreak."
And, yes, I actually clicked to "learn more." And, yes, I've done as much research as possible to understand the strategy deployed by Facebook.
As you all know, Facebook chose to promote this donation request to all 1.3 billion Facebook users, and it also chose to promote donations to only three organizations. I'm not saying that International Medical Corps, American Red Cross and Save the Children are not wonderful organizations — but they certainly are not the only organizations fighting the Ebola crisis. I did some simple Googling and found some fantastic organizations that are working hard every day — on the ground, in the labs, in the hospitals, etc.
Granted, we know the power of social media, and I think having Facebook as one of the primary tools for raising awareness and funds is a gift to all nonprofits. All we have to do is be reminded that, according to Kristi Koon, director of direct-response marketing at the ALS Association (who spoke during a recent FundRaising Success webinar on the peer-to-peer aspect of the Ice Bucket Challenge), 440 million Facebook users uploaded their challenge videos.
But here's where I see a difference: In that example, people were the driving force behind it. I saw the video when someone I knew shared something on his or her page or, of course, if someone challenged me!
The Facebook Ebola campaign was shown to me along with 1.3 billion other people — meaning, it was not personal to me. It was a company decision by Facebook to actually provide this to me in the No. 1 spot of my news feed for a specific period of time. That, I can actually get comfortable with because it's like someone sending me an ad (but without any segmentation since it went to every Facebook user).
I think the problem I have is that Facebook chose to put all of this power behind only three organizations.
What I found missing was the process by which Facebook ruled out every other organization and only highlighted three. What level of research did the staff conduct before telling 1.3 billion people — or implying — that these were the best organizations in the fight against Ebola? I've looked at the websites of a lot of organizations that are not those three that offered progress statements, financial accountability and plans of action that appear to be great options for getting fundraising directly to the areas affected.
I realize some of you might be thinking something along the lines of, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." But what about the next major world crisis? Is this a precedent now? Will Facebook become the driver of awareness across 1.3 billion people but only promoting those organizations it believes are worthy?
Yes, I worry about this. I would worry less if we knew how Facebook chose those organizations. Again, this is not about attacking the three organizations it promoted/endorsed. Rather, it's a concern for all the other organizations out there doing amazing work that now might look second best in the eyes of more than a billion people around the world.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.