Facebook is Great, but Does it Really Work for Fundraising? | npENGAGE

Facebook is Great, but Does it Really Work for Fundraising?

By on Apr 10, 2011


Last weeks post highlighting a few statistics from the business world seems to have resonated with readers here. That got me thinking more about how we, in the non-profit space, should look to learn from examples, trends and best practices found outside of our sector. So here’s another great bit of learning for us.

This week ReadWriteWeb shed some light on the ineffectiveness of social networks to aid in customer acquisition (see graph below).

“Of the 24 companies interviewed (in Forrester study), only 7% cited social networking as one of their most effective sources for customer acquisition. Affiliate programs, organic search traffic and even offline advertising scored higher than social. By far the most effective channel was paid search marketing, which 90% of respondents put in their top three biggest sources of acquisition.”

2010 Customer Acquisition Chart by Forrester

Social Networking Adoption by Non-profits

Heading in to 2011 most nonprofits (92%), regardless of organization size are using at least one social network like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and close to nine out of ten nonprofits (89%) have a presence on Facebook – up from 74% in 2009. By comparison only 70% of small businesses use Facebook as part of their online strategy.

Fundraising via Social Networking

It would seem that non-profits are eager to figure out how to utilize social networking as part of their online strategy, but only 2.4% of non-profits were able to raise over 10k through Facebook in 2010.

Nonprofit Fundraising On Social Networks


So, the question remains, Facebook is a great platform for many things, but is it useful for fundraising? I’d love to hear your thoughts, examples, experiences in the comments below.



Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

Comments (41)

  • Robin WESTON says:

    Maybe not relevant but as a small charity project we are using Facebook for the first time. So far, it has resulted in time and effort without much reward. Early days yet as event not until September.
    See http://www.charitytours.org

  • Joannewalton2003 says:

    i have definitely given more money to different causes on Facebook because they are causes that my friends are sharing on Facebook…. for example, a friend i reconnected with from elementary school started selling pins to raise money for anti-bullying programs and i bought some from her… other friends from high school and college that i’ve reconnected with via Facebook have posted about their various fundraising activities which i’ve donaed to: cancer, diabetes, autism… which i wouldn’t have done without that personal connection…

    • frank barry says:

      Joanne … You make a good point for sure. I’m a firm believer in the power of personal connections being at the core of fundraising especially in the grassroots sense where I think platforms like Facebook play a key role in connecting people.

      Thank you for stopping by and taking a moment to share your thoughts with us.

  • I think you *can* raise money on Facebook. Nonprofits are raising money via Causes and other apps, but I think the most effective way to raise money with Facebook is by providing excellent content and information that engages those visiting your page and other areas of interest, and finding ways to get them on to your email list and/or back to your website.

    Track that those people are actually coming via Facebook and you’ll be able to show that you are making money via Facebook engagement even if it’s not *on* Facebook.

  • fundsracing says:

    We must not loose sight of the through essence of social connections. Most people using social networks are not there to spend money nor looking for a charity to support. In my own opinion, I’ll think the innovative way to raise funds for non-profit would be through competitive crowd funding using micro-transactions, just like the social games are doing. So, the process has to be engaging, easy and painless.

    • Tal Wolgroch says:

      I agree with Sue Anne and Joannewalton2003 – giving online has a lot to do with your personal connection with a cause, a cause your friends/family care about, or a worthy/entertaining fundraising challenge.

      Facebook is the perfect place to share this kind of connection and therefore get sponsorship.

      Last month alone about a quarter of all traffic to JustGiving.com came from Facebook, amounting to an impressive £2.7million of donations. All from Facebook.

      JustGiving Online Community Manager

      • frank barry says:

        I do think that Facebook is a great traffic driver. We’ve seen similar results in the effectiveness of people using that platform to drive traffic back to their personal fundraising page. I think (opinion obviously) that the personal connection of people to other people is the key to it all. People raise the money. Not the organizations.

        Thanks for stopping by Tal!!

    • frank barry says:

      Love your idea/thought about creating competition … and yes, simplicity is KEY in all this. If it’s not nearly as simple as a “like” then we’re creating obstacles for those who are used to one click action.

      Very insightful. Thanks for sharing.

  • You need to start doing it before you actually get results. It’s a learning curve. Would love to see this study again in 5 years to compare…

    • frank barry says:

      Totally agree. And we plan on doing the study for a long while. So far there have been 3 🙂

    • Ed Manlove says:

      Is there any more information about these 24 companies surveyed? To me is seems that 24 companies out of the tens or thousands of companies that use Facebook seems statistically insignificant. How is this survey representative of that much larger group?

      • Kathleen Gruben says:

        It usually takes a the minimum of 200 responses or 10% of the population to have valid results. Twenty four in this case is questionable.

  • Clay Boggess says:

    I think social media will have an impact on fundraising as people become more aware as to how to effectively utilize it. For example, if everyone in a school fundraising newsletter is encouraged to tell their friends and family to order product to support a cause that will benefit their students, people would respond. Facebook is personable enough and it reaches a much larger audience with a single click of a button. This is especially true if people on the receiving end are provided the convenience of a simple link that will take them to an online store that will walk them through the process. People want to support good causes, especially when it involves people that they know. This is particularly the case when they can do so with little to no effort or time required on their part because people are busy. Friends are willing to help their friends however.

    • frank barry says:

      Right. Things are still very new and everyone is very much learning what works and what doesn’t. I think you’re on to the right approach though … friends/family help friends/family. That hasn’t changed since day 1.

      Thank for stopping by and sharing!!

  • Jono says:

    If organizations took care of the basics first, per your recent Tweet (@franswaa, http://chsweb.me/dN8Z9i) I’d be willing to bet the return would be much, much better.

    The paid search return on investment is surprising, in my experience bounce rates are very high from paid search traffic… I suppose it all comes down to choosing the most honest paid search term to maximize results.

  • karvetski says:

    I think the more interesting variation of the question is: What is Facebook’s effect on fundraising, online and offline? I’ve seen some interesting case studies with mobile where text messaging fundraising campaigns did very poorly – no dollars were raised via mobile — but did boost other donations – email, website.

    Are supporters on Facebook more likely to give in other channels? Are they more engaged in advocacy and volunteer efforts? Do they respond to email appeals at higher rates? What are the reasons people don’t like to give on Facebook (don’t like it, don’t trust it, don’t get asked much)? Who DOES like to give on Facebook?

    Would love to see some data on that. Anyone seen any studies that address these questions?

  • Alison Schirone says:

    I think you need a combination of traditional and social communications for successful fundraising. But as I use it more for my clients and their fundraising efforts, I see that there are people making contributions who never have before–purely because of social communications.

  • Ekennedy5 says:

    Frank, glad you pose this. I suspect well-known entities with presence in urban areas (more population density) would be able to raise the larger $$ on Facebook. Similarly for organizations that support more common concerns (cancer and Red Cross) or a catastrophic event are likely to draw FB traffic.
    Suspect one or two key donors might be the source of larger donations in FB data and wonder if they were strategic to seed and get the contributions and momentum moving. With the “seeding” am wondering how successful these campaigns really are. Are folks with the data looking at this?
    I have looked at my local small and mid-sized local nonprofit FB attempts and only see minimal “success”.

  • Italo Goyzueta says:

    Social media are excellent tools to reach a larger number of people committed to global humanitarian causes, and of course potential donors. However, if there is not an adapted marketing, communications and fundraising strategy behind for each social network and the human touch of a community engagement/fundraising manager, is very difficult/impossible to obtain good results.
    NGOs need to share a clear story (goal) and say it every day to be credible. They need to work seriously when they go into social media. If they are not 100% invested into it, people wont be either!

  • Social Media is a great tool that helps to globlize your business.. Thanks for enlightening on this. Great article, nice to visit. I hope to see some more articles on this topic.

  • Nilsamanibusan says:

    I don’t see a distinction in this report between number of people donating vs number of dollar amount given. Maybe they haven’t raised a “significant” dollar amount, but is social media helping them to reach a greater audience?
    I believe the potential to raise greater funds lies is being able to “keep” people in the conversation instead of just blazing them once a year. Also, testimonies are key. The more people are sharing how that particular organization made a difference in their lives, I believe the loyalty will increase.
    I agree with other views posted here…would be interesting to see these numbers as they change over the years since this is still a relatively new concept.

  • leappro says:

    Maybe the problem is that when social networking people intends to ignore those adverstising popups or even harbor a hatred for the unwanted interruptions. Just a thought.

  • Jeremy Vernon says:

    I think it telling that the reported returns are pretty much in order of analytics resolution- search engine marketing, and organic traffic comes with a bevvy of tools for tracking every cent of ROI, whereas the others have far coarser grained tools for tracking performance.

    The methodology of the study is pretty loose – it just asked for personal report of a responsible party, no accounting documentation or analytics data was provided. So it could just be reporting and availability bias since the dollar figures are, as far as we can know, “best guesses” from respondents.

  • Specifically related to Facebook: were they all using a peer to peer fundraising platform that has social sharing built into the platform, or were they driving people to a donation landing page on a website, or were they using Causes? My thought is that the type of fundraising platform, the social aspect of the fundraising platform (for example, Causes has a lot of social influence and sharing built into the platform), and the type of ask will influence how effective Facebook fundraising will be. I’d love to see a further-delineated study from Blackbaud that pulls out the types of fundraising platforms. 🙂

    Social network fundraising isn’t yet bringing in big dollars, but as Tal said, it can drive a lot of people to donate off of the network. Linkedin and Flickr haven’t been fully optimized for fundraising, so that fundraising statistic doesn’t surprise me, but I would think many more would use YouTube than show in your report. For me, that is the interesting statistic: YouTube has the power to be so very influential and persuasive but nonprofits aren’t using YouTube to drive donations (yet).

    Props to Karvetski who asked “What is Facebook’s effect on fundraising, online and offline? Are supporters on Facebook more likely to give in other channels?” I also agree it’s SUCH a great way to approach the issue.

  • Scott Tanaka says:

    Great report. One metric that would be interesting would be $ raised vs. number of “likes” for an organization on Facebook. It would be valuable to understand how much of the dollar volume is related to cause/message vs. reach.

  • Erin says:

    Fundraising works through peer to peer networks. The facebook application Causes has 150 million registered users and has raised $40 million for more than 50,000 charities in just under three years.

  • CF Callihan says:

    Facebook is a great way to engage prospects and current donors which puts them in the pipeline for giving. In the future a powerful integrated social media platform will be essential to attracting and retaining donors. Current and future generations will conduct their financial affairs online and social media is ripe for their attention.

  • Very interesting stats. I would like to refer to the stats of your “Fundraising via social networking” table. What is the source? How many non-profits participated in the survey? Thanks.

  • Dan says:

    Check out this fundraising and volunteering website at http://www.globalvodo.com where you can network with an unlimited number of friends and volunteers who actually help raise funds online on your behalf. Even your donors help bring their friends to donate to a cause they have themselves donated to. You simply raise funds faster.  Check it out.

  • ms, awesomeneesss says:

    does it really work, i dont care

  • Jay Lee says:

    Facebook is Great, but Does it Really Work for Fundraising? “Grandchild Return Home Challenge NOW!” Fundraising for 14 months masses! ‘millions Likers’ no contributors

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