In 2015 Facebook launched their new peer-to-peer charitable giving tools. Activity was lukewarm, either because social giving was just catching fire, or because people didn’t like the idea of the 5% administrative fee. In 2017, Facebook announced they were dropping the 5% fee and activity skyrocketed, to say the least. Some nonprofits found themselves getting checks or deposits for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars they didn’t even ask for.
So what’s the problem? Free money, right?
On the backend, nonprofits weren’t all that crazy about Facebook fundraisers. Some of the biggest complaints were:
• They didn’t know when someone started a Fundraiser so they couldn’t thank or encourage them
• There was no fast or easy way to thank fundraisers or donors
• Facebook reports are basically incomprehensible
• Some worried about brand protection
• They didn’t know what the rules were about issuing tax information
• Finding and thanking donors manually takes hours (or days)
• Finding and thanking donors can also be flagged as spamming, and it can shut down your account
• If they weren’t registered with Facebook Payments, it took months to get their funds through Network for Good – and there was an administration fee from Network for Good
In frustration, some nonprofits started issuing statements on their Facebook walls that they’d prefer people give directly through their website. Which flies in the face of the basic, and hugely successful, premise of Facebook fundraisers: Socially motivated giving in manageable amounts for donors is universally appealing.
If you’re resisting Facebook fundraisers because they’re confusing and inconvenient on the back end, it’s understandable. Unfortunately, you could lose - maybe even thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Here are two scenarios that explain why:
Mindy starts a birthday fundraiser for her favorite local dog rescue. Her fundraiser has an inspiring photo of Mr. Bones and a personal message about how much she loves her dog from the rescue. Her sorority sister, Beth, makes a $20 donation and is glad she doesn’t have to buy a gift and mail it. When the rest of Mindy’s sorority sisters see Beth has donated, they each pitch in $20 too. Theresa even pitches in $40 because she has a fancy new job. In under an hour, Mindy has raised $200 for the dog rescue.
Mindy’s boyfriend Matt checks his Facebook page during a boring meeting and sees that her sorority sisters have given $200 to celebrate Mindy’s birthday. Not to be outdone, Matt donates $100 with a “Love you!” in the comments.
Eight of Mindy’s co-workers each donate $10 and are glad they don’t have to take her for a two-hour lunch at the only place that can seat ten people. That suits the birthday girl fine, and she’s up to $380. Mindy had set a goal of raising $250, so when she logs into her page during her perfectly peaceful lunch alone, she posts:
Mindy’s delight and enthusiasm are a bright spot in the day, inspiring her old boss, her best friend from high school, and someone she didn’t even know was her friend, to each donate $25. Then her brother, who forgot it was her birthday, donates $50. He texts their parents, who kick in $100. Mindy has raised $605 by 1:00 p.m. She checks her page and posts a delighted:
Now Mindy’s social community is actively watching to see how far over her goal Mindy will go, and to see her surprised reactions as the numbers rise. The givers are part of an impromptu virtual surprise party; it’s exciting, and more people want to be part of it.
By 4:30 p.m., Mindy has raised $1400 for her favorite charity. She is so excited she can’t stop talking about it over dinner, and her social community had fun watching the numbers go up. The next day Mindy posts:
Two weeks later, Mr. Bones Rescue gets a direct deposit for $1400 and buys new elevated mesh beds for their entire senior dog population. They post a photo on their wall of eight happily sleeping dogs and tag Mindy with a “THANK YOU, MINDY!” Mindy shares their post on her wall, and everyone who gave gets to see where their money went.
Mindy wants to raise money for her favorite dog rescue on her birthday. The rescue has posted on their page that they’d rather people donate directly through their website rather than through Facebook. Mindy posts:
Mindy gets 75 versions of “Happy Birthday!” written on her wall, but no one clicks the link. Mindy never finds out if people gave or not. No one can tell if other people gave or not and nobody will know if they did or didn’t, so they keep scrolling. Matt buys her a pair of earrings. Her brother sends her a belated birthday card. Mindy’s birthday does not have unexpected elements of community, gratitude, or meaning.
Two weeks later, nothing happens. The nonprofit appreciates the shout-out from Mindy, but they do not get a deposit. They continue looking for a generous donor who will pay for eight elevated mesh dog beds.
The Reason Why Direct Donations Don't Work As Well
When people see other people giving, they want to give too. People also give when they can do it quickly, and in an amount that feels manageable. They like seeing that adding their $20 to other $20s can have a real impact.
Don’t fight Facebook fundraisers. We know they’re confusing for nonprofits, but that’s why we’re here. If you’re struggling, we can help you manage them.
Want to learn more? Read or download The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Fundraisers.