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Should nonprofits boycott Facebook?

As advertising boycotts of Facebook are gaining steam nationwide, several nonprofit organizations have approached us for advice on whether this is the right move for their digital advertising programs.

Ultimately, this is a deeply personal decision for each organization. We recommend that nonprofits have a thoughtful discussion guided by their conscience as well as the proper information to frame the conversation.

The latter is what we’re here to provide. In this article, we’ll review:

  • The background of the Facebook boycott
  • What Facebook is doing in response
  • How social media habits have changed during COVID-19
  • The effectiveness of Facebook advertising

Why brands are boycotting Facebook

In the midst of a nationwide movement for social justice, many people are calling out Facebook for its lax policies on hate speech and misinformation.


Led by the Anti-Defamation League, a host of civil rights groups have initiated the #StopHateforProfit campaign. They have called on companies to pull their advertising from Facebook to send a message. Numerous major brands have answered that call, including Starbucks, Unilever, Verizon, Microsoft and Ford.

With strong ties to social issues, many nonprofit organizations are also joining the discussion. Even Blackbaud has been called out for serving customers that work against human rights.

Some nonprofits are debating the pros and cons of leaving Facebook. NTEN CEO Amy Sample Ward, for example, recently announced that NTEN would stop advertising on Facebook: “Supporting Facebook would not only be antithetical to our values, it would actively undermine them.”

Adding to the complication for nonprofits is a new Facebook policy that allows users to opt out of political advertising. However, the category is titled “Social Issues, Elections or Politics,” and nonprofits are worried about their ads getting lumped into this group.

Facebook's response to boycotts

Facebook is feeling the heat and has announced its commitment to making changes. On June 26, CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared a long post, detailing the tech giant’s progress on new policies “to connect people with authoritative information about voting, crack down on voter suppression and fight hate speech.”

As part of these efforts, Facebook has committed to a series of third-party audits. The Media Rating Council (MRC) is looking at advertising and monetization policies. Another firm will examine the Community Standards Enforcement Report, which governs what is and isn’t allowed on Facebook and Instagram.

The company also notes that the fifth evaluation of the European Union’s Code of Conduct, published June 22, gives Facebook higher marks than its competitors for addressing hate speech: “Facebook assessed notifications in less than 24 hours in 95.7% of the cases and 3.4% in less than 48 hours. The corresponding figures for YouTube are 81.5% and 8.7% and for Twitter 76.6% and 8.7%, respectively."

However, an 89-page report released July 8 paints a different picture. The independent civil rights audit, which was launched two years ago with Facebook’s participation, describes “vexing and heartbreaking decisions Facebook has made that represent significant setbacks for civil rights.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, acknowledged that the social media platform still has “a long way to go” when it comes to policies against hate.

“This audit has been a deep analysis of how we can strengthen and advance civil rights at every level of our company — but it is the beginning of the journey, not the end,” Sandberg wrote in a blog post.

Changing habits during COVID-19

Now that we have some information on the boycott issue and how Facebook is reacting, let’s look at few other items to consider.

We know the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically altered behavior as people were spending more time at home and on their devices. We recommended that nonprofits should lean into digital advertising to reach people where they are.

Months later, little has changed on this front. As lockdowns have eased in some areas, the pandemic has begun to flare up in other spots, resulting in a return to restrictions.

Social media usage, in particular, continues to be elevated. eMarketer reports that “up to 51% of US adults are using social media at higher rates during the pandemic.” They predict a return to normal post-pandemic but also note that this may not happen until 2021.

Facebook ad effectiveness

One question nonprofits must consider: Are Facebook Ads worth it?

It depends on which metrics are important to you. According to Whatagraph’s digital marketing benchmarks, Facebook certainly has its benefits.

As you can see in the chart below, there are better options for click-through rate (CTR), and display ads provide a better cost-per-click (CPC). These measure how often people who see your ad end up clicking and how much you pay for each of those clicks.

However, Facebook can’t be topped when it comes to metrics like conversion rate (CVR) and cost-per-action (CPA) – and these can be more crucial when it comes to receiving a donation. CVR tracks the number of conversions you received from an ad, and CPA measures how much you pay for each conversion.


Of course, you should never put all your eggs into one basket. An effective digital fundraising approach balances spending across multiple channels with a clear strategy for each.

If your organization decides that boycotting Facebook is the right choice, there are plenty of options out there. You can see a few of them in the chart above – Microsoft Ads are a particularly underrated option – but there’s also Google Ad Grants, YouTube video pre-rolls, digital audio and much more.

Before making any decision, we recommend taking a close look at your Facebook advertising, along with your other media options, and determine each one’s effectiveness in driving donations. Having this information at your fingertips will allow you to put all your cards on the table to evaluate the right course for your nonprofit organization.

Alexis Shankle

Alexis is an expert at social media targeting and Facebook fundraising. With her more than five years of experience, Alexis works alongside nonprofits to layer organic social strategies with advertising messages that move donors through the conversion funnel.

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