How Facebook Can Boost Year-End Fundraising Results for Nonprofits

Can the 'Social Self' Help Nonprofit Causes?

Group of young people taking a selfie.
Curating a "social self" online. Can this new habit be directed to doing good?. svetikd/E+/Getty Images

Many people, including me, have been highly skeptical about the idea of fundraising on social media. And until recently, our doubts were well founded.

But recently, we have begun to see a noticeable increase in social giving, led by three strong trends that present a clear opportunity for nonprofits in their end-of-year giving campaigns.

Let’s explore what each of these means to nonprofits and how they can apply lessons from each this giving season.

Evolving Sense of Social Self

The way people use Facebook has evolved over the years.

Today, nonprofit donors increasingly want to be seen supporting causes that matter to them. Facebook is a public medium. Users know that their friends and family see their interactions.  As a result, people expend significant time curating a view of themselves online, what I like to call the “social self.”

Supporting causes online have become an important part of honing our online personas. Donating through Facebook helps people show that they walk the walk, which will be particularly relevant for people during the year-end giving season.

The lesson for nonprofits?  If you are getting good, solid responses and engagement on your Facebook posts on a regular basis, you have an engaged audience that wants their friends to see that they support you. You have a community on Facebook that wants your work to be part of the story they want friends and family to know about them.

While Facebook donations have similar response rates as email campaigns, a substantial engagement rate means that your followers are interested in donating to your cause as a way of validating their social selves.

Facebook Leads by Example

Facebook has helped pave the path for social fundraising by prominently displaying its own fundraising requests in the newsfeed.

In November of 2014, Facebook launched a fundraising campaign to help address the rising Ebola crisis in Northwestern Africa. Then, in April of 2015, it made a plea for funds to help survivors of the Nepal earthquake. More than 500,000 people gave $10M in just two days in the Nepal campaign.

While Facebook owns the platform and can easily make their plea at the top of every newsfeed, other organizations have also successfully used Facebook to boost their fundraising efforts.

For example, a recent study by Artez Interactive found that peer-to-peer campaigns like walkathons generated 15-18 percent of their donations through Facebook.  Furthermore, 28 percent of the traffic referred to nonprofit fundraising pages came from that platform, with those visitors making a gift 23 percent of the time.

Organizations like Jewish Voices for Peace and the Bob Brown Foundation have made direct appeals to their Facebook supporters with success, raising thousands.

Campaigns like these have helped people become more comfortable with the idea of donating via Facebook.

In fact, donations over social media grew 32 percent over the last two years, with 90 percent of it on Facebook, according to Donor Drive. Research what others have done well and apply those best practices to your end-of-year campaigns, tailored for your audience.

Growing Comfort with Online Transactions

Clearly, attitudes about Facebook giving are beginning to shift. There is less trepidation about online commerce as people spend more and more of their time within social platforms. Successful organizations make it quite clear what will happen with supporters’ data and directly address security in their appeal. They also communicate how they will use the donation.

Making it Work for your Nonprofit

Facebook giving has become more mainstream, making your end-of-year campaign a great time to solicit your social supporters.

In addition to creating highly engaging posts with powerful images, emotional connections, and urgency, successful organizations:

  • Advertise. You don’t need to spend a lot to get a good boost from Facebook advertising. If a call to donate is doing well as an organic post, it’s likely worth spending a little money to boost it as a way to get even more attention.
  • Target. Be smart with your targeting. Don’t spray and pray. Consider excluding your current email list of supporters by creating a Facebook custom audience list – and then inverting it, excluding everyone on that list. Or, upload your email list and create a lookalike audience from it. Facebook’s lookalike audience targeting can provide significant results.
  • Make it Mobile Friendly. Eighty-seven percent of Facebook users access it daily on their mobile device with 44% exclusively on mobile. As a result, it’s critical that solicitations are mobile friendly.
  • Post Often. Recent changes to the Facebook newsfeed means that content has to fight harder to score a visible position in your supporters’ newsfeeds. To improve reach, consider publishing several versions of your call for donations post using different images and content to maximize the number of people who will see it and take action.
  • Upsell. An easy way to test a donation appeal is to do so as an upsell. For example, if a supporter responds to a Facebook event invitation, include a donation call-to-action on the thank you page.  This strategy is often successful because the people you are appealing to are already supporters who have shown a desire to engage with your cause.

Although Facebook fundraising has gained momentum, it isn’t ready to be the lead horse in end-of-year giving campaigns.

Your Facebook appeal should be part of a comprehensive approach to the platform, sitting alongside calls-to-action that generate email sign-ups and that encourage sharing.

As Facebook habits continue to evolve, nonprofits have a terrific opportunity to lead that evolution. You can create supporter communities that are excited to share their excitement about your cause with their social networks.

The holiday season may be the best opportunity to build your social support, right when people are most likely be moved to give. And who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

Drew Bernard is on the front lines of social media and causes as the CEO and co-founder of ActionSprout.  Specializing in making it easy for nonprofits to solicit social actions through Facebook, Bernard, and his company are pioneers in bringing causes and social together. See Drew’s bio for more info.

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