Facebook first launched its Community Help feature in 2017, to give users a way to offer assistance, search for and receive help in the wake of a crisis. The feature has since been used to connect Facebook users after man-made, accidental, and natural disasters, like terrorist attacks or weather events, for example. Today, Facebook is expanding Community Help as part of its COVID-19 efforts. The new COVID-19 Community Help hub will allow people to request or offer help to those impacted by the coronavirus outbreak as well as donate to nonprofit fundraisers.
This is the first time Facebook has launched Community Help on a global scale. It’s also the first time it’s been used for a health pandemic.
The feature will launch first in the U.S., Canada, France, U.K. and Australia, Facebook says.
A somewhat similar feature, Help Map, was recently introduced by the neighborhood social network and Facebook competitor Nextdoor, but it hasn’t yet seen widespread adoption. In part, that’s because Nextdoor isn’t making the new addition as obvious as it could be — it’s currently buried in the “More” tab instead of being a central focus in the app. Also, the Help Map simply allows people to list themselves as being able to offer assistance to someone in need or as being in need of aid.
Facebook’s Community Help hub, meanwhile, builds on Facebook’s earlier efforts with Crisis Response, which connected multiple tools in one place.
The COVID-19 Community Help feature will be found within Facebook’s existing COVID-19 Information Center, which is live in over 30 countries.
Launched earlier in March, the COVID-19 Information Center today sits at the top of the News Feed and connects users to authoritative health information from global health authorities along with curated posts from politicians, journalists, and other public figures.
Since its debut, over 1 billion users have accessed the information shared by health authorities on the Information Center and through the educational pop-ups on Facebook and Instagram, the company claims. More than 100 million people clicked through to learn more from the sources directly.
Before today’s official launch, the COVID-19 Information Center tested Community Help in select U.S. cities. There, local users have been posting requests for help — like those about a hospital in need of masks or volunteers to help distribute food. Others shared their free assistance being offered — like free meals for hourly workers now out of a job or free virtual workouts for those missing their gym routine.
This now continues as the Community Hub launches across the supported markets. However, it will now exist as its own destination, which includes fundraisers. It will also include additional categories, like Food, Baby Supplies, Toiletries, and Business Support — the latter which allows local businesses to ask for help and respond to offers for help.
Facebook also clarifies that users will be able to post or comment in reply to posts about offering assistance, as either an individual user or as a Facebook Page. And both individuals and Facebook Pages will be able to share posts to let others know what they need.
In addition, the COVID-19 Community Help hub will fundraise through two COVID-response efforts: the UNF/WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund Facebook Fundraiser and the Combat Coronavirus with the CDC Foundation Facebook Fundraiser (U.S.-only), where Facebook is matching donations, up to $10 million to each fundraiser. While not available today, Facebook will soon allow people to seek out and donate to local fundraisers, it says.
Facebook says the COVID-10 Community Hub will arrive in more countries around the world in the next few weeks, starting first with higher-risk countries across Europe and Asia-Pacific.