Before Facebook set the gold standard for social networks - and before most of us considered the implications that such networks would have in the tangible, physical world - there were a handful of networking startups with modest social ambitions.
In 2004, a Wesleyan University student and founder of WesMatch, one of a number of college-based social network sites, told The New York Times that his site was "trying to foster real relationships, real compatibility." Facebook, which was still "thefacebook.com," isn't even the focus of the story.
A decade on and Facebook isn't merely the story; in many ways, it governs how we tell stories. The platform has a more expansive, more intimate relationship with our day-to-day lives. And while even Mark Zuckerberg will say that the company's numerous innovations have not enjoyed equal levels of acclaim, plenty of changes to the platform have shifted the way people engage with the world.
In November, the company announced "new tools for nonprofits." A short video told viewers, "More than 1 billion people connect on Facebook every day," then asked, "What if those connections could help support the causes you care about?" At the time, changes included one-click sharing for nonprofits, to help users populate News Feeds with those causes they cared about, and direct donation capabilities, so users could contribute without leaving the platform.
Facebook updated the post last month. The company shared plans to "expand fundraisers to allow people to raise money for US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofits directly on Facebook." It encouraged nonprofit organizations to be in contact with the platform as it refines its next round of changes.
Nonprofits would do well to heed the company's recommendation.
As Facebook develops more resources like Facebook Live, it further blurs the line between our social worlds, and provides more opportunities for savvy nonprofits to engage their audiences.
Become a Facebook-certified nonprofit
"With more than 100 nonprofits to choose from at launch, people in the US can create fundraisers and people in 39 countries can donate to their friends' fundraisers," according to Facebook's newsroom update. "We will be looking to expand the list of nonprofits you can fundraise for soon, with a goal of making this available widely to 501(c)(3) organizations over the coming year."
There are a few critical takeaways from this.
First, as of June 30, the number of Facebook-certified nonprofits tops 100... but that's it. Second, those nonprofits are limited to the U.S., while their potential audience members span more than three-dozen countries. For what will surely be a brief window, a relatively small number of nonprofits have the attention of an exceptionally large number of potential supporters.
In other words: Now's the time to become a Facebook-certified nonprofit.
Those nonprofits seeking certification may need to be patient; the document says the company "will respond within a few weeks." However, there is a silver lining - Facebook estimates that applying for certification only takes "about 10 minutes."
Ideally, your nonprofit becomes certified, and then you have the opportunity to post your causes alongside those from the Sierra Club, the Alzheimer's Association, and the Malala Fund. Once that's done, then you can encourage your supporters to act as fundraisers for your organization and help spread the good word about your good deeds.
Take your cause to Facebook Live
Keep a Child Alive (KCA) is a philanthropic organization that raises funds to combat the physical and economic tolls that AIDS takes on individuals, families, and communities. Proceeds from the organization's annual Black Ball Gala support KCA's work, but tickets for individuals can cost as much as $5,000, and tickets for tables can run as high as $100,000.
"To extend the engagement beyond the confines of the physical event," Facebook wrote on its nonprofits page, "Keep a Child Alive aimed to activate a social media campaign, providing a participatory digital Black Ball experience."
This is where certified nonprofits reap the benefits of Facebook, a platform that's both widely used and steadily experimental.
In order to benefit a greater share of its supporters, KCA decided to open the Black Ball Gala to a larger and more varied audience. To open the gala, KCA used Facebook Live.
The Black Ball Gala's host and featured performer, musician Alicia Keys, "launched [her] first Facebook Live experience for her fans, broadcasting from her rehearsal... the night before Black Ball," according to Facebook. "This activation got Alicia's fans excited for the annual event. The post was then shared on Keep a Child Alive and Facebook Music's pages."
At present, 33,000 people "Like" Keep a Child Alive on Facebook, while more than 33 million are fans of Alicia Keys. KCA's status as a Facebook-certified nonprofit, and its decision to use new Facebook Live technology, offered the organization a chance to appeal to millions of potential supporters.
Other nonprofits have done the same, and looked for inventive ways to link their causes with Facebook Live.
For instance, PBS' "Point Taken" broadcast live on Facebook from the Aspen Ideas festival, which brings two communities with shared interests into contact with each other. As Facebook unveils more innovative ways for engaging with its users, we bet that certified nonprofits will have a leg up.
So, while you await Facebook certification, may we suggest brushing up on a few tips for bringing your cause to Facebook Live?
This article originally appeared on the Ignite Digital blog.