How Your Nonprofit Can Get Started with Facebook Live Today

Easy, Fun, and Instant. What's Not to Like About FB's New Video Feature?

A screenshot from a Facebook Live video by the Humane Society of the U.S. showing a baby racoon being bottle fed.
Use Facebook Live to capture the sweet moments. Screenshot by JFritz

Facebook Live has taken the world by storm!

Ever since Candace “Chewbacca mom” Payne created the most viewed live video to date, many people—especially marketers—who had never heard of Facebook Live took note. If you haven’t seen this video, do watch it and see if you can stop smiling with this happy mom.

So, What Is Facebook Live?

Anyone with a Facebook account can now share live videos on their personal timelines or their Facebook Pages using FB’s newest feature,  Facebook Live.

Just tap on the live video icon, and start broadcasting live, no matter where you are or might be doing.

Facebook Live is available to all Facebook users via their personal profiles and Facebook Page admins (iOS devices only, for now) via the Facebook Pages Manager app.

Why Should Nonprofits Care about Facebook Live?

Larger nonprofits have quickly jumped into the live streaming pool.

Who are they? The Humane Society of the United States, The New York Public Library, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art have all taken advantage of this cool, new social media too. 

Engagement with Facebook Live videos surpasses all other types of content on FB.  There is no reason for smaller nonprofits to avoid exploring Facebook Live too.  

Live streaming video is not even the future of social media; it is the present. Catalyzed by the spontaneous, as-it’s-happening video-centric nature of incredibly popular social media apps like Snapchat, Vine, Instagram Video, Periscope, and Blab, Facebook Live is all part of Facebook’s play to BE the internet.

For nonprofits of any size or budget, the possibilities for FB Live are pretty endless. How about, for starters, the opportunity to become more transparent and create authentic connections with your supporters – things that nonprofits and donors alike crave!

If your nonprofit uses Facebook and you're looking for a fun way to get more engagement and build deeper connections with your fans and supporters, then Facebook Live may be for you.

How Your Nonprofit Can Get Started with Facebook Live

1. Figure out the WHY.

A good answer to the question “Why are we using Facebook Live?” is NOT “Because everyone else is doing  it.” Instead of just jumping on the next shiny new object, think strategically about what you can add to the conversation by using this new platform.

Ask yourself:

  • Is your audience engaging on Facebook? With almost 1/6 of the human race using Facebook, and with Facebook Live videos being the most engaged with and shared content on the site, then I would say yes. But you have to decide this for yourself.
  • What can you do that will be original and set you apart? Can you do offer something different here from all of the other communications platforms that you are using? What can you contribute, other than noise, clutter, and one more annoying notification? 
  • Can you manage it? Do you have the staff capacity to add one more big thing to the To Do list? Remember that success on Facebook Live, as with every other marketing and fundraising endeavor, involves research, preparation, execution, follow-up, measurement, analysis, and continual improvement. 

2. Determine the WHAT.

So, now that you are excited about the potential presented by Facebook Live, what are you going to broadcast?

To give you some ideas and inspiration, here are just a few innovative ways that nonprofits are using Facebook Live:

  • Live from the field

What could be better fodder for Facebook Live than a live dive off the coast of California? Nonprofit explore.org followed oceanographer Sylvia A. Earle as she explored the Channel Islands’ kelp forest.

The Humane Society of the United States takes fans into the field, inviting them to ask questions of wildlife experts during their live baby raccoon and baby bird feedings.

  • Live backstage or behind-the-scenes

Disease research and advocacy organization Fred Hutch invites viewers into the kitchen to talk with a featured chef at their big fundraiser, the Premier Chefs Dinner.

Jane Lynch, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Mayim Bialik broadcast a casual, fun, conversational video of them talking social media (Jane doesn’t get Snapchat) and what giving back means to them, backstage at the Red Nose Day Special.

  • Live announcements

Broadcasting live from the Roosevelt Room, The White House’s official Facebook Page let viewers get a direct glimpse into President Obama addressing his economic team. While not your typical nonprofit, The White House makes an excellent example of how to use Facebook Live to give people an inside look at a public figure elected to serve the public good. 

  • Live from an event

The New York Public Library hosted a special story time in front of City Hall to raise awareness about their early literacy programs and to advocate for more investment in libraries.  The caption of the live video, available for viewing after the fact, encourages people to take action on behalf of library funding.   

Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard was interviewed live in front of the U.S. Capitol Building, moments after being arrested at a #‎democracyawakens protest. 

  • Live interviews

The Metropolitan Museum of Art enlisted Brinda Kumar, a researcher, and curator of the “Nasreen Mohamedi” exhibition, to walk viewers in real-time through the exhibition with Sree Sreenivasan, The Met’s Chief Digital Officer.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO, Sue Desmond-Hellmann, often takes questions and comments from viewers live on Facebook.

Other Ideas:

  • Q&A or AMA (Ask Me Anything): Invite supporters and those curious about your cause to a live AMA with the Executive Director, Board Chair, major donor, or better yet, a person that has directly benefited from your programs and services. This type of live video is vivacious and interactive and usually generates a lot of great questions and comments.
  • Live Video Series: Consider creating an entire series that broadcasts at the same time and day each week – much like a TV show or a TweetChat – so that your fans can count on it and put it on their calendars.
  • News-jacking. Comment on news and trending topics while people are talking about them. If you do not want to express an opinion on behalf of your organization, simply ask your viewers what they think and what they would do.
  • Crowdsourcing. Get live feedback on a question or solutions to a problem! Share the process with which your organization makes decisions and let your donors and supporters contribute to the conversation. What better way to build ownership and camaraderie than a live, unfiltered discussion about a potential strategic decision of the organization?
  • Tell stories as they happen. Once you get more comfortable with Facebook Live and the way it works, and once you get a sense of how your audience will react, you can start telling the stories of the people, families, animals, and communities that you serve in real time. Sounds scary—but exhilarating!

3. Determine the HOW, WHEN, and WHO.

How are you going to make all of this happen? Who will be responsible, and for which tasks? Do you need to get buy-in from the higher-ups first?

It is vital to note that Facebook Live is not like other features on the site.  When broadcasting LIVE, at the moment, you will have to be comfortable relinquishing a lot of control, just like live TV. People that work well under pressure and can go with the flow tend to do best with broadcasting live.

Just like live television, Facebook Live, and other live-streaming platforms, gives the sense that anything can happen. This terrifies nonprofits (and businesses too) who have often relied on having control in their communications.

My tips for getting the Facebook Live process started on your FB Page:

  • Test with a small group first. Perhaps start a private Facebook group of donors, volunteers, and staff members to test the feature and figure out the bugs.
  • Prepare, prepare, and prepare some more. Anticipate all questions and have prepared answers. Identify potential problems and have backup solutions. Enlist a person familiar with the topic and the organization to monitor comments and questions during the broadcast.   
  • Promote the broadcast beforehand. If you can, let your fans, email subscribers, donors, and anyone else on your list know when you will be going live.
  • Invite viewers to get notifications about when you go live in the future. They can click on the get notifications button either while you are live, or while they are watching the video later.
  • Call out people by name who comment and ask questions.

Don’t let Facebook Live intimidate you. Instead, let it spark your imagination. Social media always changes, and many apps, platforms, and features have come and gone. However, the pure, authentic, and spontaneous nature of Facebook Live has many users intrigued and interested. Facebook seems fun again—less staged, and more genuine.

The endless possibilities and uses for Facebook Live remain to be seen. I suggest getting in while there is not a lot of competition, but make sure you have a plan in place and that you are only broadcasting good stuff that is guaranteed to engage, inspire, and move your audience to action.

Please share your Facebook Live videos. I’d love to see them.

More resources:

Darren Rowse at ProBlogger gives us 30 Practical Tips for Producing Great Facebook Live Videos

Mari Smith wrote Facebook Live: What Marketers Need to Know for Social Media Examiner

From the Facebook Blog: Best Practices for Facebook Live

Despite the fact that she is a mom and busy social media maven, Julia Campbell has to be one of the most up-to-date people on social media today. Plus, she loves to help nonprofits achieve more through social media. See more about Julia and her services in her bio.