Why Facebook may not be effective for nonprofit fundraising

Facebook may no longer be a viable nonprofit fundraising campaign option.
Date Published
01/09/2015

Many charitable organizations are always looking for ways to streamline their nonprofit fundraising efforts and make them more effective. There was a time when reaching out to constituents by telephone or launching direct mail campaigns were the only options to encourage constituents to support a 501(c)(3) organization.

However, those days have long since passed. While mail and phone contacts are still used by a large number of organizations, many have embraced the use of technology in their nonprofit fundraising efforts. As today’s potential donors not only skew younger, but are savvier when it comes to the use of technology, many charities are embracing the changes in donor behavior and making it more advantageous to give through alternative channels.

Today, it isn’t uncommon to see nonprofit websites that have a portal for people to make online donations. In addition, outreach efforts have also taken the digital route as well. Social media is often one of the primary ways that nonprofits use to drive donations and raise awareness. Many organizations rely on a number of the more popular social networking sites to help achieve their fundraising goals.

“I would say social media is a great supplement to our traditional fundraising,” Linda Biller, regional chief development officer of the Tampa Bay chapter of the American Red Cross, told the Tampa Tribune. “Social media’s large presence today reaches so many individuals, it allows us to spread the word and help folks identify with our organization and to make a gift.”

In a recent survey conducted by the Red Cross, the organization found that seven of every 10 people who use social media and participated in the poll stated that they were willing to make donations to their favorite charity over the Internet or offline. In addition, six in 10 active social networking users made an online donation to a nonprofit and 51 percent stated that they were fine with giving without expecting anything in return.

“Social media plays an important role in building philanthropic support because it allows us to build relationships with donors on their terms,” Kim Hanna, CEO and president of the Florida chapter of the ALS Association told the newspaper.

However, despite the positive data associated with nonprofit fundraising and social media, one popular platform may no longer be a viable option for charities to use.

Study finds Facebook ineffective in driving nonprofit donations
Of all the social networks that exist today, none has more active users than Facebook. Nonprofits have long since integrated the platform in their fundraising strategies. Frogloop, citing a study conducted by Forrester wrote that changes to the Facebook algorithm have resulted in campaigns launched by charities on the platform only reach 2 percent of an organizations follower base.

In addition, in order for the messaging to reach the other 98 percent, a nonprofit would actually have to pay for it.

“Facebook is basically saying that their algorithm will be the arbiter of what is promotion and what’s not promotion,” Jordan Bitterman, who serves as chief strategy officer for North America at Mindshare, told Frogloop. 

Forrester’s vice president and principal analyst, Nate Elliott, said that nonprofit fundraising campaigns launched via email have a greater chance of generating a positive response than Facebook.

“Your emails get delivered more than 90 percent of the time, while your Facebook posts get delivered 2 percent of the time,” Elliot said. “If you have to choose between adding a subscriber to your email list or gaining a new Facebook fan, go for email every time.”

This information can be valuable for organizations that rely heavily on Facebook as platform to raise awareness and drive donations. If these 501(c)(3) groups are unwilling to pay more for social media outreach efforts on the channel, they may want to explore the viability of using other social networking sites for this purpose.

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