Check Out How Facebook Just Made CSR and Cause-Based Communications Easier

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Nonprofit organizations now have another online marketing vehicle to consider: A new feature from Facebook called Donate, which lets people contribute directly to nonprofits via the social network.

The Donate feature will appear beside Posts in the News Feeds shared by participating nonprofits and at the top of their Facebook pages, Facebook said in a statement.

When people click "Donate Now" they can choose the amount, enter their payment information, and immediately donate to that cause. They also have the option to share the nonprofit’s post with their friends.

Facebook has partnered with 19 nonprofits, including ASPCA, Boys & Girls Club Of America, Red Cross and UNICEF, to get things off the ground. As Facebook develops the feature, the program will be available to other nonprofit organizations, who can sign up here.

The debut of Donate underscores the changing nature of social media for communicators in the nonprofit sector who are looking to help get the messages out and bring in donations to the cause.

With that in mind, here are 5 best practices for engaging with your audience on Facebook with CSR, compliments of Marcia W. DiStaso, Ph.D., assistant professor of PR at Pennsylvania State University; Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., assistant professor of PR at Appalachian State University and  Alexa Agugliaro, assistant account executive at Rubenstein Associates.

> Crowdsourcing: Fans can vote and decide where the company should focus their CSR efforts. Example: In 2012, Coca-Cola held a contest for four of “America’s Favorite Parks” to receive a grant based on votes from Facebook fans. The top four parks each received $100,000, and Coca-Cola linked to other organizations, such as the National Park Foundation and National Recreation & Parks Association.

> Employee and fan participation: Encourage employees or fans to participate in the CSR efforts through behavior. Example: The United States Postal Service’s Stamp Out Hunger Campaign encourages fans to donate canned food once a year.

> Partnerships: Partnerships strengthen the reach of a program, and add value through name recognition. Example: Cisco has partnered with Opportunity Trust, Inveneo, and Living Goods, and discusses its efforts on its Facebook page.

> Link to other programs: Linking to other nonprofits or other events is a great way to share and promote other organizations’ contributions to their community. Example: In January 2013, Bank of America shared a link to America VetDogs and posted a picture of a Combat Stress Control dog Albert who is at Fort Gordon working with wounded veterans.

> Giveaways and promotions: Research indicates that promotions and giveaways are one of the top reasons why Facebook users “like” organizations. Example: For Valentine’s Day in 2013, Madecasse Chocolate, which makes its chocolate entirely in Madagascar and supports local farmers and forests, teamed up with Conservation International to donate 25% of its chocolate purchases to conservation efforts. The company also gave away 10 chocolate gift sets to random Facebook fans who signed up via email.

Learn more about CSR trends and practices in PR News' Corporate Social Responsibility & Green PR Guidebook.

Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1