Taking Your Facebook Relationship to the Next Level

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By Otis Fulton and Katrina VanHuss

Back in 2018, we wrote a blog titled “Facebook Fundraisers: The Best and Worst First Date You Ever Had.” Three years later, we bet that although Facebook doesn’t put the top back on the toothpaste, you’ve moved in together. But you probably kept your apartment. You know, just in case…

According to the GivePanel 2020 Facebook Fundraising Benchmark Report, your roommate has had a busy year. GivePanel noted a 70% growth income growth when comparing Q4 2019 and Q4 2020 data across various types of charities. They draw two conclusions: “First, it is likely that Facebook fundraising is becoming more accepted by Facebook users. Second, it has grown beyond just birthday fundraising to become a broad peer-to-peer fundraising platform for all types of fundraising.” We add our own conclusion – we were going here anyway, but the pandemic made it go faster.

Blackbaud’s 2020 Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Study reported that an average Facebook Fundraiser generates 7.4 donations, with an average size of $31, (or $229/fundraiser) and that these estimates are relatively consistent across different non-profit sectors.

Okay, assuming that your organization is a registered NPO on the Facebook platform, supporters are probably starting more fundraisers for your nonprofit, and the check shows up in about two weeks. Pretty great, isn’t it? Facebook may be the ultimate “friend with benefits.”

But, just for a minute—forget about the money you’re getting from Facebook. That’s short-term thinking. What it’s really all about is the lifetime value of the fundraiser after you acquire their contact information, right? The lifetime value of Facebook fundraising adoption alone is $694 per fundraiser, according to Blackbaud. But what is the lifetime value of a constituent in your organization? Hopefully a whole lot higher. That is the number we care about, if we could just find out who these people fundraising and donating on Facebook are, so we can communicate with them.

The good news is you can hire some additional muscle to find our who these “invisible” donors are. One organization that does this is U.S.-based GoodUnited. Turnkey has worked with them since 2016 because they were the first in the nonprofit sector to see the benefits of engaging with these invisible Facebook supporters. They have a technology that allows them to interact with Facebook fundraisers and donors via Facebook Messenger to get them to opt into more communication, to obtain fundraiser email addresses for example.

If the most you’ve done at this point is to ask supporters to start Facebook fundraisers, you’ve just scratched the surface. Your Facebook social fundraising strategy can start with this simple kind of ask, but then you need to plan the next steps. Here are six things you can do to take fundraising on Facebook to the next level.

1. Drive engagement in groups, not on pages.

First, look at driving engagement in groups rather than on pages. A Facebook fundraiser is a single page. But let’s say that you want to promote an event. One thing that we know now after observing how fundraisers operate in Facebook is that groups, rather than pages, are a better way to promote events.

Group pages allow everyone to participate equally and foster a sense of community as group members share photos and stories about the event. It’s also easier to create a separate group for every event. This allows people living in the community or with some special interest to follow the group.

2. Take advantage of user-generated content.

Second, take advantage of user-generated content. The thing that encourages others to join a group and drives engagement is posts from the community. GoodUnited reports that group participants take an average of 20 actions (comments or posts) during each event. That’s a lot, and it tells you that it’s a great way to replicate the in-person fundraising experience online. When people feel they can chat with one another they feel they’re more a part of the organization’s community. The upshot is they are more likely to consistently donate and show up for new events.

3. Make it frictionless.

Third is the magic elixir, the secret sauce. One of the big reasons people love Facebook fundraising is because it’s frictionless; they don’t have to enter a bunch of personal information, even their credit card number is saved by the platform. You should do everything possible to make sure it stays that way. So, keep everything in the Facebook ecosystem. That includes running events in Facebook groups or using Messenger for one-on-one communication.

When you keep everything happening on the Facebook platform, donors and fundraisers are more likely to keep engaging. There’s less friction between them and your organization when they aren’t being asked to go to another website or check their email just to engage.

4. Challenge your mindset about acquiring new supporters.

Next, challenge your mindset about acquiring new supporters. In 2019, the American Cancer Society started unique Facebook groups for each of their events, everything from a running event in Florida to a 50 squats per day challenge in Arkansas. Over 95% of people who joined these groups were new to the organization. Instead of simply bringing in-person fundraisers online, ACS tapped into an entirely new group of supporters.

5. Challenge your mindset about giving volunteers the keys to the car.

Finally, challenge your mindset giving volunteers the keys to the car. We’ve seen success from organizations like Children’s National Hospital training key volunteers to act as energy generators within the group challenges. These trusted volunteers interact heavily with fundraisers making it a volunteer-to-volunteer interaction. And trust me, that is far more powerful. A volunteer has instant credibility as your emissary.

The lesson for all of us is when you’re implementing P2P, or what we now call “social” fundraising on Facebook, is to keep an open mind about who might be willing to fundraise for you. Encourage people to get their friends to join groups. Also, Facebook is happy to sell you lists of prospects who you can solicit with Facebook posts to join the group. These are called “Facebook Lead Ads,” and you need to check them out. Take a look at the ROI for this; you’ll wonder why you aren’t doing it already.

6. Quit worrying about “getting data.”

If you make engaging with your mission satisfying to constituents (either fundraisers or donors) they will ultimately engage in a way that provides their data to your organization. Using psychological nudges can sometimes get their data, but that won’t matter unless you provide a satisfying experience over time. If they want to interact on Facebook and not via email or at a gala, let it be. Keep showing up.

So, that’s how to get the most out of your organization’s relationship with Facebook. Start simple by soliciting your existing supporters, your volunteers, to start Facebook fundraisers. When it comes to events, set up a group page on Facebook for each one and drive supporters to engage on the group page. Plant some trusted volunteers as administrators on the page to fuel excitement with their interaction. Finally, test the waters using Facebook Lead ads, you can do so on the cheap.

Facebook may not be the platform of your dreams, but maybe that’s because Facebook doesn’t act like what we’re used to. If Facebook were a date, it wouldn’t look like the person your mama hoped you’d marry. It doesn’t fit into our old world. Facebook’s got a mohawk and tattoos and still holds the door open for the elderly.

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