Dissecting Digital: Facebook’s New “Fundraiser” Pages

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. There’ll be much mistletoeing, and hearts will be glowing, and Facebook just brought nonprofits, as well as all those who love them and want to support them, good cheer!

If you haven’t heard yet, social media giant Facebook recently launched a donation environment native to its platform. A “Fundraiser” page allows approved nonprofits (currently only US-based 501(c)3s) to create a fundraising campaign directly on Facebook, enabling users to donate to the campaigns without ever leaving Facebook. The pages offer increased capabilities to nonprofits, as organizations can incorporate tailored content to explain the campaign, show progress to their goals through things like progress bars, and benefit from full integration in the social media platform via the Facebook News Feed and Facebook Ads.

Facebook, of course, is excited about the opportunity to create a more comprehensive set of actions within their universe. Nonprofits are also abuzz over the new feature and the opportunities it presents, especially with the anticipated outpouring of generosity in advance of the year-end tax deadline. But is the new feature worth the hype, or the investment of time?
“If you build it, they will come” doesn’t apply in any marketing or fundraising strategy, especially not on social media. Simply creating an environment for donations is not enough; the distribution of those pages, as well as how well those pages are integrated into your broader digital strategy, will be true indicators of how worthwhile the feature is for your organization.

The issue of distribution remains the big question: How will Facebook’s News Feed algorithm handle the distribution of posts related to Fundraisers? How visible will an organization’s campaign be to their desired audience? Unless Facebook Fundraisers wind up in users’ News Feeds or on their radar elsewhere, they won’t have much value to the organizations using them. Nonprofits may find themselves with Fundraisers that get limited visibility and traction, or that will require far more investment and energy on their parts to increase their potential impact with the social media audience.

To make the best possible use of the feature, there are a few things that every “approved” nonprofit should keep in mind.

Social Media Best Practices Still Apply

As with any type of initiative on social media, it’s important to remember that, like goldfish, users on social media have a relatively short attention span and the lifespan of social media content is not long. Given the amount of content passing through social channels every day, a Fundraiser can quickly get pushed down not just in your supporters’ News Feeds but also on your own page. Nonprofits should consider using the Facebook Fundraiser in ‘fundraising bomb’ moments–that is, treat it as a short run campaign with urgency and a quick deadline against it. Setting up a Fundraiser page that runs for months without special attention or outreach may simply fall flat, while a Fundraiser page with a 48-hour deadline and an achievable goal may do far more to rally the community behind your efforts.

Facebook Fundraisers Are Not a Replacement

Creating a way for users to give money to your organization directly on Facebook is not the solution to all of your fundraising challenges. Yes, it’s an exciting new way to get your audience to donate, especially the supporters who interact with you primarily through social media as opposed to email or website. However, it’s crucial that organizations not treat this feature as a campaign or a strategy unto itself, without the addition of other channels and tactics. A Facebook Fundraiser should be incorporated holistically into a larger fundraising program or initiative. If a nonprofit runs a fundraising campaign on Facebook, they should promote it not just on social channels but also on other properties. It should connect to similar efforts on email, in direct mail, and on their website. As with any smart fundraising program, no one channel or feature should operate in a silo; rather, it should be one piece of a larger puzzle that is connected to proactive audience outreach and cultivation.

Make Sure It’s Working

I’m an analyst by trade so, perhaps unsurprisingly, this one is near and dear to my heart. All digital tactics should be applied to a similar test of rigor to ensure that they’re actually working for your organization. If you do decide to run a Facebook Fundraiser, you should do everything in your power to make it a successful initiative for your organization. However, if you follow the best practices outlined above and come up with solid creative but just cannot manage to get your audience to engage with your campaigns, you should reconsider whether you want to invest your time and resources here. The hope is that this new feature will be wildly successful with your audience, but you should also be prepared to cut bait if you find the return on investment isn’t there.

This feature provides a new way to convert audience members who may not previously have made the leap from social media follower to donor. That’s something we can all get behind. Don’t hesitate to add this tool to your fundraising arsenal, but use it wisely. It is still on nonprofits to ensure that this tactic is incorporated into their broader fundraising and digital efforts in a way that makes sense. Make sure your message and strategy are coherent. And, as always, monitor closely! You may find you’re alienating your Facebook followers or you may find you’re cannibalizing other channels that have a better long-term ROI. Ensure that this new feature simply complements your strategy rather than taking on a life of its own.