April 27, 2010; Source: Nonprofit Tech 2.0 | Is your organization on Facebook? Like myriad other nonprofits, NPQ is. We came to the social media game after much careful consideration, and so it’s heartening to see other trusted advisors offering critical advice about the subject. The primary question behind the article at hand is “What has Facebook done for you?”—or, if you’re not there yet, what will it do?

Your return on investment—whether time or money—is typically the most salient question, as it is here. Facebook has yet to offer nonprofits grants for advertising, as Google has, and so reaching members for whom you don’t already have contact info can be costly. When ads are purchased, the argument goes, the return isn’t very high, and maybe the money is better spent elsewhere.

The question of what nonprofits get out of social media is quantifiable, and if marketing is your goal, it can be tested. Some bigger questions also catch our attention, like whether the tools are appropriate for maintaining a consistent message in a social environment, or whether keeping up with the changes to Facebook’s ways of operating will stretch your resources and patience. Also, Facebook sometimes regulates speech in its pages, deleting what it deems objectionable, and per the two sides of the First Amendment argument, some find it under-regulated, while others think it too policed and unaccountable.

The question of who owns content that you put on Facebook is an important topic for consideration, and with increasingly complicated privacy issues on the website, it’s getting harder to maintain control of your data. So much harder, in fact, that yesterday Senator Schumer of New York called for the FTC to regulate privacy issues on Facebook and related sites.

Donor and prospective donor privacy are questions nonprofits must grapple with perennially, and to take just one Facebook example, it’s doubtful an anonymous donor would like it very much if your page was no longer being administered by your staff. Best to be fully informed before you take the leap, and if you have already, best to put in the effort required to stay informed about your nonprofit’s Facebook presence. They don’t make it easy.—James David Morgan