Facebook Fundraiser Feature

Challenges on Facebook: What, Why, and How for Nonprofits

February 3, 2022
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Contact GoodUnited to begin planning your next Facebook Challenge.

Meta’s social fundraising tools were first launched in 2015, starting with fundraisers and Donate buttons on Facebook. Since then, the tools have been used to raise $6 billion in donations.

The power of social giving can’t be overstated, especially considering the impact of the innovation we've observed over the past two years. Covid-era Challenges on Facebook raised hundreds of millions of dollars, propelling missions forward when in-person events were impossible. 

Post Covid, social giving, defined as socially-native, designed-for-digital fundraising, has emerged as a prominent new fundraising method, allowing nonprofits to experience the best of two worlds— peer-to-peer and social media virality— in one solution.

For nonprofits eager to embrace a digital-first approach to fundraising, it’s time to recognize Challenges on Facebook as the ideal solution to connect with the next generation of social supporters. This comprehensive guide to Challenges on Facebook will cover the following topics:

Before we discuss the logistics of hosting a Challenge on Facebook, let’s first discuss what these fundraisers are. That way, you’ll have a strong foundation in Challenges before hosting one for your nonprofit.

Overview of Challenges on Facebook

What is a Facebook Challenge?

A Challenge on Facebook is a time-bound, social fundraising-based peer-to-peer campaign fully conducted in-channel on the social platform.

During a Challenge, participants complete a specified activity while raising funds for your nonprofit using a Facebook fundraiser. Participants are also added to a Facebook group created specifically for the Challenge, to connect with other participants and your nonprofit.

Here’s an example to help you visualize this type of fundraiser:

Participants sign up to complete a 30-day walking Challenge in support of a nonprofit that promotes heart health. Each day, they’re challenged to walk 10,000 steps and track their progress. While doing so, they raise funds for the heart health nonprofit using a Facebook fundraiser and log their progress in the Challenge Facebook group.

We’ll explore numerous real-life examples later in this guide.

Why do Facebook Challenges for nonprofits work well?

You may have noticed that Challenges on Facebook dramatically increased in popularity in 2020 and 2021, as we saw the digital-first, “new normal” of fundraising emerge as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increasing popularity of these fundraisers comes down to a number of factors. Challenges on Facebook are beneficial for nonprofits because:

  • They have low registrant acquisition costs, allowing your nonprofit to build its donor file efficiently. In an example we’ll explore shortly, one nonprofit saw a $22.41 cost per acquisition, compared to the P2P industry average of nearly $600.
  • They are an additive fundraising method. GoodUnited’s research has shown that over 90% of Challenge participants are new to the organization and cause. Rather than drawing existing support from your other campaigns, Challenges engage a new audience you haven’t connected with previously.
  • They create a digital community with Facebook groups. While digital-first fundraising is the future, it can be challenging to replicate the emotion of in-person events and activities. With Challenge groups, participants connect with one another, share tips and encouragement, and experience a digital community.
  • They establish a repeatable revenue stream. You can repeat Challenges over and over again— whether yearly (or every few months) with the same audience or expanding into new regions and territories. It’s a forecastable way to collect and increase revenue over time.
  • They open the door for continued engagement. Challenges open the door for one-on-one conversational messaging in Messenger. These messages have over an 80% open rate and allow you to continue conversing with participants throughout the year to build relationships that last.

In short, Challenges on Facebook allow your nonprofit to grow your audience online, engage with supporters near and far, and raise your relationships with social supporters. But if you’ve never hosted a Challenge before, how do you get started?

How do Facebook Challenges work?

There are a number of key components to keep in mind when planning a Challenge on Facebook for your nonprofit.

These are the components to keep in mind when planning a Facebook Challenge.

Challenge Parameters

Challenge parameters describe the basic, foundational aspects of your fundraiser. It includes:

  • The duration of the Challenge, anywhere from one day, to two weeks, to a month or more.
  • A Challenge activity, such as walking a set number of steps per day or reading a number of books per month.
  • Fundraising goals, both for the campaign overall (thousands) and for individual Challenge participants (hundreds).
  • Participation goals, such as how many registrants you’d aim to have joined the Challenge and corresponding Facebook group.

Building off our earlier example, you might host a Challenge on Facebook with the following parameters:

Participants sign up to complete a 30-day walking Challenge (Duration) in support of a nonprofit that promotes heart health. Each day, they’re challenged to walk 10,000 steps (Challenge Activity) and track their progress. While doing so, they raise funds for the heart health nonprofit using a Facebook fundraiser and log their progress in the Challenge Facebook group.

The nonprofit hopes to raise $20,000 in donations and sets a goal of $100 for each Challenge participant (Fundraising Goals). They hope to connect with 2,000 participants (Participation Goals).


Once you’ve laid your foundation, turn to the participant experience. This includes how participants will:

  • Raise funds. This will be handled via individual Facebook fundraisers created on behalf of your nonprofit.
  • Complete the Challenge activity. This is often done independently and from their own locations.
  • Connect with other participants. This is done through the Challenge group, which we’ll cover more in-depth in the next section.

Remember that many registrants (90%+) will be new to your organization or cause. Consider creating educational guides to share with participants and ensure they know how to engage with the Challenge and continue supporting your nonprofit afterward. You could create a guide to starting a Facebook fundraiser, how Facebook fundraising works, how to have a fulfilling participant experience, and even educational information about your nonprofit and cause.

Digital Community

One major reason that Challenges on Facebook are so successful is the digital community aspect. This community space is created using Facebook groups.

Essentially, your nonprofit creates a closed group for all registrants to join for the duration of the Challenge. Throughout the fundraiser, you can then share the following with participants in the group:

  • Discussion starters
  • Encouragement
  • Fundraising and Challenge activity tips
  • Fundraiser updates

Participants can respond to your posts as well as make their own. They can create “check-in” posts to discuss their progress each day and chat with others who are participating in the Challenge.

Facebook Ads

Once you’ve defined the parameters of your event and the participant experience, as well as created the foundation for your digital community, it’s time to market the fundraiser so new supporters know to join.

This is done using Facebook Ads. With Facebook, you can create targeted ad campaigns that invite individuals to sign up for your Challenge; when prospective registrants click on the ad, they’ll be directed to sign up for the fundraiser and join the corresponding group.

We recommend targeting your ad campaigns to reach both known supporters and individuals you haven’t encountered before, but are likely to be interested in your campaign. For example, you might target lookalike audiences— or Facebook users who have similar characteristics as your known supporters. Or, you may target audiences that have a demonstrated interest in your cause— such as having “liked” a page for a similar nonprofit in your space.

This allows to you maximize your campaign to connect with new audiences.

Conversational Messaging

Challenges on Facebook open the door for continued engagement, and conversational messaging is how that engagement takes place.

Conversational messaging describes one-on-one conversations between a representative from your nonprofit and a social supporter. These conversations take place via Messenger, where your nonprofit can chat with individual supporters just as one would a friend on the platform.

Challenges give you an initial method of connecting with new supporters who join the fundraiser, as registrants are given the opportunity to become subscribers of ongoing messaging.

In Messenger, you can then share fundraising tips, encouragement, and reminders with individual supporters. You can ask questions and share surveys to learn more about each participant— including asking for their contact information, which Meta can’t provide you with.

These conversations can continue long after the fundraiser itself is completed and allow you to grow a personal relationship with each individual social supporter.

Are Challenges on Facebook safe?

More recently, questions have arisen regarding the safety of Challenges on Facebook.

This is largely because Challenges, by nature, bring individuals who haven’t met previously together in one large online community. In that community, participants check-in and share information with others who are essentially strangers to them. There is some worry that, by sharing this information with strangers, participants put themselves at risk.

That said, there is no risk associated with Challenges on Facebook as long as participants follow internet safety best practices. For example, individuals shouldn’t share deeply personal information, such as their home addresses, workplaces, contact details, or exact locations at any given time. Participants should also be mindful of the photos they post— for example, not sharing internal images of their homes.

Consider sharing internet safety guidelines with Challenge participants. While it’s likely that individuals joining a nonprofit fundraiser have only the best intentions at heart, there is no harm in taking additional precautions.

Our Process: GoodUnited Challenges on Facebook

GoodUnited is a turnkey social giving solution designed to democratize the nonprofit supporter experience and empower nonprofits to have a one-to-one relationship with each and every social supporter.

We work directly with nonprofits just like yours to bring Challenges on Facebook to life— from the initial Challenge planning, through running Ad campaigns and managing groups, to messaging your supporters for ongoing cultivation. Our social giving solution includes:

This is the GoodUnited social giving solution for Facebook Challenges.

  • The GoodUnited Web App: This includes a Challenge Dashboard, same-day revenue reporting, and social donor and fundraiser profiles. You can monitor and optimize your Challenge performance and identify top social supporters.
  • The Lab: Our in-house Optimization and Customer Success resources create the strategy and manage the execution of messaging experiences to ensure maximum ROI. This includes A/B testing, data science, and more.
  • Cultivation Engine: Turn unstructured social fundraising data into actionable insights, identifying who your social supporters are and what drives them to take action. Understand your supporters’ propensities to participate in another event and give again, and recommend supporter-specific opportunities year-round.
  • In-Channel Messaging: Identify, target, and retarget social donors across social channels, connecting with them where they spend time. GoodUnited’s conversational messaging tools are channel-agnostic— meaning they can be applied to any social channel that has messaging and fundraising tools.

GoodUnited is at the forefront of bringing traditional peer-to-peer fundraising tools to social giving.

Understanding Ongoing Innovations in Digital-Native Fundraising

The world of social giving is rapidly developing and we’re continuing to improve our product alongside it. 

We aren’t making shot-in-the-dark guesses at what will work in the fairly new realm of social giving. We carefully test our hypotheses and slowly roll them out across nonprofit partners.

The biggest driver for this testing is Messenger itself, where we get to ask participants questions such as:

  • Why are you doing this fundraiser?
  • Why did you join this Challenge?
  • What is your connection to the nonprofit’s mission?
  • How was your experience, especially when compared to in-person fundraising?
  • Did you know [X] fundraising tip?

The answer to these questions (and more) in Messenger allows us to continue elevating our nonprofit partners’ social fundraising efforts— both adjusting their strategies overall and hyper-personalizing each individual participants’ experiences.

For example, you could discover which types of Challenge activities participants most like to complete, how frequently you can host repeat fundraisers, and even the best wording to use to encourage return participation. And, you can understand participants on a personal level to share relevant information and experiences year-round (and for multiple years down the road) to foster ongoing engagement long after the campaigns are finished.

This testing doesn’t only take place in Messenger. For example, we can use polls and questions in groups to understand participants’ preferences and we can explore data on ad performance to understand which ads best inspire action.

The goal of this testing is to ensure that by the time any updates find their way to you, they’re tried and true. This process has allowed us to make numerous enhancements to GoodUnited’s social giving solution in the past year, including:

These are examples of innovations in the Facebook Challenge sphere.

  • A dashboard view to compare Challenge fundraisers side-by-side
  • Fundraiser stories that visualize what motivates your supporters
  • One-click Challenge builder to empower supporters to quickly create fundraisers that are consistent with your nonprofit’s branding
  • An activity tracker that allows supporters to track their Challenge progress directly on Facebook
  • Challenge teams that ignite competition and boost virality
  • A referral button that empowers Challenge participants to engage their friends in the fundraiser

These efforts allow us to better support the fundraising efforts of nonprofits like yours.

10+ Facebook Challenge Ideas to Begin Brainstorming

If you’ve encountered Challenges on Facebook in the wild, you’ve likely seen some variation of common run/walk/ride activities. However, there are a wide variety of Challenge activities that you can incorporate into your fundraising lineup to surprise your supporters with an exciting new fundraising activity.

Consider incorporating any of the following 10+ ideas into your next Challenge on Facebook.

Physical Challenges

The following Challenge activities test your participants’ physical fitness:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Biking
  • Calisthenics (burpees, sit-ups, push-ups, etc.)

Generally, physical challenges are measured by either distance (i.e. number of steps or miles) or time (i.e. completing a 20-minute calisthenic workout). This type of Challenge activity is often the most popular for nonprofits, as physical challenges are incredibly motivating— participants usually want to show off, improve upon, or test their physical abilities.

Wellness Challenges

As another way to improve the well-being of your supporters, wellness challenges ask participants to slow down and practice mindfulness. This includes tasks such as:

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Making healthy decisions (such as removing traditionally unhealthy foods from one’s diet)

Our society is moving faster than ever, and wellness-based challenges task participants to break the cycle (even if for a short period of time). Participants will enjoy the refreshing change of pace and, ideally, adopt the wellness practice into their regular routines long after the Challenge is completed.

Philanthropic Challenges

Philanthropic challenges are those that ask participants to go out of their way to help others while raising funds for your nonprofit. There are two common philanthropy-based tasks that you could use for your next Challenge on Facebook.

The first is volunteering. Participants would be tasked with completing X number of volunteer hours over the course of the month. After each volunteer session— with your nonprofit or another— they’d check-in and discuss all that was accomplished.

The second is “paying it forward.” This describes small tasks that participants complete to improve another individual’s life in some way. For example, a participant might purchase coffee for the person behind them in line or shovel the snowy driveway of an elderly neighbor. For this Challenge, participants are tasked with paying it forward a set number of times per week and encouraged to check in with updates on their tasks throughout the fundraiser.

Comedic Challenges

Comedic challenges task your participants with embarrassing themselves in some manner, all with the goal of advancing your cause.

Often, the “embarrassing” task is minimal— the goal isn’t to outright humiliate participants. For example, this could be a:

  • “No Shave” challenge in which participants are tasked with growing out their beards or mustaches.
  • Wacky clothing challenge, in which participants wear their silliest outfits one day per week.
  • Extreme conditions challenge, such as the famous ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Comedic challenges are especially effective because they generate conversation. When an individual asks a participant about why they’re wearing wacky clothing or growing facial hair, the participant can share the message behind their actions.

Bonus! We’ve written numerous guides with ideas for social fundraisers. Check out our peer-to-peer fundraising ideas, virtual fundraising ideas, and virtual event ideas to continue brainstorming for your Challenges on Facebook.

4 Best Facebook Challenges to Inspire Your Team

We’ve discussed how Challenges on Facebook would work in theory. Now, let’s explore four real-life examples of nonprofits that incorporated Challenges into their fundraising strategies with great success.

Susan G. Komen

Susan G. Komen sought a new way to raise peer-to-peer funds from social supporters. Partnering with GoodUnited, the nonprofit hosted a month-long Challenge on Facebook with the goal of acquiring 6,500 new supporters.

The Challenge tasked participants with completing 25 burpees per day for the month of February in 2021. Komen’s GoodUnited Challenge on Facebook had the following results:

This is an example Facebook Challenge from Susan G. Komen.

  • Over 13,000 participants joined the group, 90% of whom were new to Komen.
  • 10,500 email addresses were provided to Komen to add to its donor file.
  • Over 2x the projected donation amount raised, via 175k+ donations made at an average donation amount of $31.

Now, heading into 2022, Komen is building Challenges on Facebook into its social fundraising calendar. To see how Komen blew its Challenge goals out of the water, explore the full case study here.

American Cancer Society

American Cancer Society (ACS) partnered with GoodUnited to host a series of three Challenges on Facebook. Each Challenge was one month long and tasked participants to complete a different activity (running, walking, and doing squats).

Here’s how the three GoodUnited Challenges on Facebook panned out:

  • 61,000 fundraisers were created on behalf of ACS, with a $22.41 cost per acquisition compared to the $600 industry-standard peer-to-peer participant acquisition cost.
  • 443,078 new leads were generated for ACS, at a $3.12 cost per lead.
  • 95% of participants were new to ACS.

American Cancer Society’s Challenges on Facebook were so notable that they smashed the platform’s previous record for the most money raised by a single organization in a single day— receiving 23,000 donations in one day in October 2020. Explore the full case study to learn more.

No Kid Hungry

No Kid Hungry saw its most popular fundraising efforts— in-person culinary and tasting fundraisers— become derailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeking community-building events, the nonprofit partnered with GoodUnited to host a 31-Mile Challenge on Facebook in 2021.

The Challenge resulted in the following:

This is an example Facebook Challenge from No Kid Hungry.

  • 1.23 million additional meals funded for children in need with a $30.05 average donation amount
  • 5,400 new leads obtained for No Kid Hungry at a $1.93 cost per lead
  • A 600% return on ad spend

The nonprofit is now planning additional Challenges on Facebook for the coming year. To learn more about No Kid Hungry’s success with Challenges, check out the case study here.

Best Friends Animal Society

Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) has the mission of eliminating no-kill shelters across the nation by 2025. In 2020, the nonprofit partnered with GoodUnited to host a Challenge on Facebook, with the goal of growing recognition for the nonprofit and cause, strengthening its community, and of course, raising funds.

BFAS hosted the 30-Mile Challenge in 2020, during which participants were challenged to run the distance in March. It had the following results:

This is an example Facebook Challenge from BFAS.

  • $100,000 in donations raised
  • A 400% return on investment
  • A 14% increase in average peer-to-peer donation size, to $32.42
  • The opportunity to connect with new supporters, as 85% of participants were new to the organization

Review BFASs efforts by reading the full case study here.

Wrapping Up: Incorporating Challenges on Facebook Into Your Strategy

Challenges on Facebook are the ideal way to connect with the next generation of social supporters and raise your relationships for long-term engagement. To begin planning a Challenge for your nonprofit, consider partnering with a social giving solution such as GoodUnited. To learn more, contact us here.

In the meantime, explore the following additional resources:

Contact GoodUnited to begin planning your next Facebook Challenge.

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