4 min read

Facebook giveth, and Facebook taketh away

Featured Image

As the sun moved across the sky on Monday, Oct. 4, from horizon to horizon, did you find yourself one of the millions compulsively hitting refresh? Or wondering what was wrong with the Wi-Fi? 

I’m willing to bet that it didn’t occur to you until much later that there might not be a problem with you, but with Facebook. And not just Facebook, but Instagram and WhatsApp, too. A massive outage, but not unprecedented, and not the worst that Facebook and its suite of apps, has seen. (2008 and 2019 both logged outages lasting nearly 24 hours!)

It was, however, a stark reminder that three of the world’s most popular internet services are owned and operated by a single giant corporation. It affected billions of users. People rely on Facebook not only to connect with friends and family, but businesses use it to log into other services including online sales websites. In some countries, it is the dominant means of communication through services like WhatsApp. And social good organizations lean on social platforms for mission-vital fundraising.

That an outage can have such a profound impact on billions of people for several hours should give all of us pause. And in that pause, there are, as hard as it is to believe, lessons to be learned, plans to be made, and opportunities to be found.

Diversify your mix 

The biggest lesson, especially in the social good space, is to not put all our eggs into a single basket. If your organization is heavily reliant on raising money on social platforms, the time is now to begin working a plan for channel diversity so that you are optimizing multiple channels, rather than one or two. Further expanding on that (and circling back to our own Lori Collins’s brilliant DonorGraphics research), consider the channels she found to be most influencing when encouraging supporters to give:




Did you spot telephone on the list?  Lori’s data has shown that Gen Z and Millennials are less averse to phone calls than older generations, so don’t discount it!

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Additionally, Oct. 4 stressed the importance of creating a “What if Plan.” The next time technology fails to perform as expected in a critical moment, where does your navigation of the challenge start? Think of it like a phone tree: When there’s an emergency, one person reaches out to the first person on her list with vital information and instructions. That person then reaches out to the name after his, sharing the same details. Quickly, imperative information and next steps are communicated to the masses — without the typical back and forth and overlapping that we as humans tend to do in emergency situations. So, create a plan now. But instead of people, think of tasks. If (blank)…then (blank). 

For example, if Facebook (or any other social platform) goes dark on Cyber Monday, have a plan in place to shift to a higher cadence of emails, complete with imagery and stories of impact at your disposal, as dawn breaks on #GivingTuesday. If the website for the foundation that you are working with for a Day of Giving campaign crashes, be prepared to increase your organic posts and ad spend on social, again using your pre-planned library of impactful content and imagery. Don’t let the hunt for either of these vital items slow your roll!. You get the picture. The old adage by Robert Burns starts, “Even the best laid plans…” and means that no matter the level of planning you have undertaken, always, always be prepared for a cog in the wheel to fall off.

Cultivate New Opportunities

And while you’re outlining what that plan might look like, let’s consider your opportunities…you have the opportunity to dig deeper when it comes to your supporters. Think about who your donors are, where your donors are, and how you can use this planning exercise as an opportunity to meet them where they are.  This is your chance to drive omnichannel customer experience (CX) strategy across the entire supporter journey, turning friends and supporters of your organization into ambassadors and superfans. 

Each supporter category has different wants, needs, desires, and fears, and it’s up to you to understand and reach out to them as personally as possible. Making these connections allows you to better serve your supporters and to continue to grow your impact. Struggling to know where to even begin? Start with what you know about your current existing supporter experience and what you think they expect from you. Ask questions to your staff, partners, and those supporters who you have relationships with to drill down to what inspires them to advocate for your organization.

For example, if your mission is to provide access to clean water, ask, “Why is it important to provide access to clean water?” If the response is “because it’s important for public health and empowering communities,” follow that up with, “Why is it important for public health and empower communities?” The response could be “because having to collect clean, safe water takes time away from work, school, and caring for families, particularly for women.”  Aha! Dig a little deeper. Is education for women and girls the root of this supporter’s journey? And, if so, how can you create a communication stream that demonstrates the impact of your mission for women and girls? To grow this idea on a larger scale, think about surveying your staff, your volunteers, and your donors.  Find out what draws them to you and keeps them in your orbit. Hone different segments from there

Don’t Stop Believin’ 

If the stars align, then come the end of the year and the biggest giving season on the calendar, things will run accordingly with no major bumps in the road (I’m knocking on wood as I write this, rest assured). However, if the cogs in your wheel are looking a little shaky, sit back with the knowledge that the contingency plan that you took the time to develop as a result of the now infamous Oct. 4 Facebook Outage is ready to roll and chock full of strong supporter experience goodness.

If all this sounds daunting and you’re still struggling to find your starting point, reach out and let’s explore this path together!