Facebook on Thursday, December 5 announced the first-ever New Zealand Groups Fund, providing grants of between $500 and $5,000 to Facebook Group Admins to support the purpose and ongoing activities of their Facebook Group. A total of $50,000 is available to fund events or resources that empower face-to-face or offline activities among members of Facebook Groups during 2020.

According to exclusive new Facebook-commissioned third-party research released today, online communities feature significantly in Kiwis’ online lives with more than 7 in every 10 Kiwis (74%) being members of one Group, and over half (55%) belonging to more than five Groups. The research found that over half of Kiwis aged over 18 rated participation in an online community important for following their interests and staying up to date with their neighbourhood.

Also, online communities are increasingly leading to offline connections, with almost a third (32%) of Kiwis in Facebook Groups surveyed saying they meet other members offline to further their shared goals or interests. Of these, two thirds (66%) have joined organised meetups or social activities, while almost half (46%) have met to support or provide assistance to other Group members and 22% did so to raise awareness about an issue or cause.

The greatest benefit from Group participation, nominated by 42% of respondents, is gaining valuable information about a topic including about a member’s neighbourhood and community. Respondents identified the top three interests that their Groups organised around like food, health and wellness, neighbourhood and community, and leisure and hobbies.

Alexia Hilbertidou, the founder of the GirlBoss New Zealand whose mission is to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and maths, said: “I started GirlBoss NZ (www.girlboss.nz) at 16 as I wanted to create a community for ambitious high school-aged young women to come together and find like-minds. We created this community both online through Facebook and also in-person through workshops, conferences, and our GirlBoss Advantage Internship Programme. In this digital age, it’s crucial to balance the online with the offline, and this new Facebook Grant will enable more New Zealanders to create a powerful offline connection.”

The study found that membership of a Facebook group is higher among women (82%) than men (65%). Women (35%) also find offline interaction with other members more appealing than men (21%). Membership of over ten Facebook groups is highest among people aged 35-44 years old (36%).

Facebook’s Director of Policy for Australia and New Zealand, Mia Garlick said the company is looking to support Group activities that help build social cohesion including supporting communities from diverse backgrounds, bridging the digital divide for regional communities or creating positive connections through sport and recreation.

“Facebook Groups are a place where we can connect and share the things that are important to us. We know Facebook Groups provide valuable opportunities for communities throughout New Zealand to come together, not just online but in neighbourhoods, on sporting fields and at the marae, and we hope these Grants will make more activities possible,” said Ms Garlick.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced changes that put Groups at the centre of Facebook through a redesign of both the Facebook app and desktop website. This upcoming redesign makes it easier for people to go from public spaces to more private ones, like Groups, which now more than 400 million people on Facebook belong to.

Read more about the eligibility criteria and what we are looking for in the FAQs and Terms and Conditions at http://fbgroupsfund.co.nz/.