Social Giving: The Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits

Social giving represents the next wave in nonprofit fundraising. Are you ready to incorporate it into your efforts? Learn more in this comprehensive guide.

March 18, 2023

First, there was direct mail-driven fundraising. Supporters mailed in checks and received updates about your nonprofit through their mailboxes.

Then, there was website-based giving. Supporters were able to give whenever and wherever they wanted via an online giving page hosted on your nonprofit’s website.

Now, we’re seeing the third shift in fundraising occur in real-time, as social giving takes center stage. With social giving, supporters want to donate and experience continuing engagement in-channel on the networks they’re already spending significant time on: social networks.

In this comprehensive guide to social giving, we’re going to answer the following three questions:

Let’s get started.

Contact GoodUnited today to begin your social giving journey.

What is social giving?

Put simply, social giving is fundraising that is powered by social connections. 

Over the past few years, the world of social giving has rapidly evolved and grown. You may be familiar with the term social giving as it relates to peer-to-peer and crowdfunding campaigns— as in, any type of giving that occurs due to a social connection.

However, the “social” aspect of social giving now more commonly refers to the social connections that exist on social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. So, rather than just any peer-to-peer or crowdfunding campaign, it could be a Challenge fundraiser hosted using Facebook’s built-in fundraising tools or a livestreaming campaign hosted on TikTok.

Let’s explore this further.

How is social giving evolving?

When considering how social giving is evolving, we have to discuss two main drivers: general innovation in fundraising overall, and innovation that occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Third Shift in Fundraising

The future of fundraising is here, and it’s taking place through in-channel engagement on social media.

If you’ve been in the nonprofit sector for a while, you’ve seen drastic changes in how donors give to nonprofits. First, it was through mailed checks sent via direct mail. Then, online donation pages appeared on websites and credit and debit cards became the only tool needed to make a donation.

Now, we’re watching a third shift in how donors give happen. Now, donors prefer giving virtually and in-channel in the social networks on which they spend significant amounts of time. Of course, this refers to the “Donate” buttons on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; the Challenges on Facebook; the 24-hour giving days that are replacing formal galas and auctions.

This graphic illustrates the third shift in giving to social giving.

Jeremy Berman notes a number of reasons why digital-native, in-channel, social giving is on the rise:

  • The “ease of giving” is a crucial determining factor in whether or not someone makes a donation. Giving on social media is frictionless— payment information is already loaded and supporters can make a gift with the click of a button.
  • Supporters want to give where they spend time. Donors are busy. Rather than driving to an event or navigating to an unfamiliar website, supporters want to give where they’re already spending their time— on social media.
  • It’s the home of the next generation of supporters. Millennials now make up the largest percentage of the workforce, and their financial significance is only going to grow. Further, Millennials and Gen Z alike have a growing desire to drive positive change. Social media is the platform to connect with the next generation of movers and shakers.

While some nonprofits have shied away from social media-based fundraising tactics in the past, it’s time to embrace what is quickly becoming the next wave of giving.

The Impact of the Pandemic on Social Fundraising

We can’t ignore the elephant in the room— the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on nonprofit fundraising.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged, nonprofits everywhere went into a panic. A downtrodden economy and depressed job market meant many donors had less to give than they would have previously. Plus, what supporters did have available to donate was often directed to pandemic-related causes— and, rightfully so during those early stages of uncertainty.

As a result, the nonprofit sector got creative. Nonprofits sought the support of donor-advised funds and planned gifts, foundations lessened the red tape separating organizations from much-needed grant funding, and social giving experienced a boom.

In an article contributed to AFP Global, Maria Clark cited the need for “future-proofing” a nonprofit in light of the COVID-19 pandemic: “It takes investment to build new revenue streams—both time and resources—so don’t wait until you ‘have to.’”

Clark identified two main avenues for future-proofing an organization: embracing entrepreneurship and diversifying a nonprofit’s revenue sources. It was observable in 2020 and 2021 that top nonprofits accomplished both goals by incorporating Challenges on Facebook , a type of social giving, into their calendars.

As nonprofits were unable to host their traditional peer-to-peer events, they pivoted to Challenges on Facebook as the virtual solution. Check out the following examples:

These Challenges on Facebook have not only been record-breaking both in terms of participation and funding, but they’ve also allowed nonprofits to connect with thousands of new supporters online. As such, we’re watching this COVID-19 innovation stick around long after in-person events are allowed once more. We’ll cover Challenges on Facebook in-depth later in this guide.

How can you drive social giving in your fundraising strategy?

If you’re ready to embrace social giving in your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy, that’s great! However, it’s important to think strategically to ensure your social fundraising strategy is built to last. Remember— social fundraising is rapidly evolving, and creating a strong foundation will set your strategy up for success. 

Keep the following five tips in mind.

Understand what motivates social fundraising.

Social fundraising connects your nonprofit with an entirely different audience than you’ve encountered in the past. These supporters aren’t participating for a tax write-off or because they have a well-established relationship with your nonprofit. It’s important to understand what motivates social fundraisers, so you can use these motivations to inspire further action.

There are a number of motivators behind social fundraising, including:

  • That it’s an easy, convenient way to give. It’s hard to say “no” when it only takes one click to make a difference.
This graphic shows an example one-click fundraiser builder, something that appeals to social giving supporters.
  • The individual has an affinity for your mission. They may have never heard of your nonprofit itself before, but, they have a personal connection to your cause and are happy to have discovered a new avenue to further it.
  • There is a sense of community with social giving. Unlike mailing a check or making a quick donation on a website, both of which are solitary, social giving is inherently community-driven. Whether it’s creating a birthday fundraiser and sharing it with friends and family members, or meeting new peers during a Challenge on Facebook, social giving is a way to bond with others through philanthropy.

Craft your social giving campaigns with these motivations in mind. For example, you can:

  • Communicate with supporters about how social giving works. Share how easy it is to give via social networks with a step-by-step explainer about how to participate in Challenges on Facebook and general Facebook fundraisers. Bonus! With a social fundraising services provider like GoodUnited, you can empower supporters to join Challenges on Facebook with one click of a button. With the one-click Challenge builder, supporters can use pre-selected language and imagery to set up their personal campaigns alongside your Challenge on Facebook.
  • Seek out lookalike audiences on social platforms. For example, you can use targeted Facebook Ads campaigns that target Facebook users who have similar characteristics and interests as your known supporters. This allows you to market your campaigns to individuals who are likely to support your mission, even if they aren’t familiar with your nonprofit yet.
  • Make the most of peer-to-peer-adjacent social fundraising tools. There are now providers that are making more traditional peer-to-peer fundraising features available on social networks. For example, you can access a Referral Button that allows Challenge participants to refer their friends to join the campaign. And, you can access Challenge Teams, so participants can sign up as a group rather than independently.

With these strategies in mind, you’ll be appealing to the next generation of online supporters and connecting with new audiences online.

Plan fundraisers with a digital-native mindset.

In 2021, Tiltify released landmark research on “The New Normal” in peer-to-peer fundraising. In the research, Tiltify stated, “For peer-to-peer fundraising programs to remain relevant in the rapidly changing digital world, they must evolve their strategies and tactics to better meet the needs of the tech-savvy public.” Essentially, it’s time to embrace a digital-native approach when planning fundraising campaigns in 2022 and beyond.

Source: Tiltify x GoodUnited Digital First Study

A digitally-native approach means that, rather than conceptualizing a fundraiser for in-person engagement and pivoting it to the internet, you plan a campaign with the idea that it will take place on the internet from the start.

There are a few interesting points to highlight from Tiltify’s research with regards to embracing a digital-native mentality:

  • It’s time to embrace innovative digital engagement methods. For example, Tiltify notes that TikTok is experiencing a booming growth in both the general number of users and nonprofit engagement. This could also mean embracing creative digital peer-to-peer activities, such as video gaming and streaming fundraisers.
  • Donors should be active participants in the event. With in-person events, donors give to their fundraising peer and might hear about the participant’s experience walking a mile, running a race, or something along those lines after the event occurs. With a virtual campaign, donors can keep up with participants' success using rewards, targets, and polls. For example, participants can complete a new “silly” task for each $100 raised. That way, donors and participants are engaged from start to finish.
  • Fundraising events outperform individual-created campaigns. Essentially, you’re likely to raise more by hosting Challenges on Facebook rather than simply equipping your supporters with the knowledge to host their own individual birthday fundraisers.
  • Fundraisers who have hosted 3+ campaigns raised almost 3x as much as first-time fundraisers. A digital-native mentality means recognizing that virtual fundraising campaigns can be repeated throughout the year. You can create a Facebook group for a physical fitness-based Challenge and keep the group open throughout the year. Every few months, you can activate that same group of successful fundraisers in a new campaign— perhaps, each time targeting a different physical fitness activity.

By conceptualizing campaigns with digital engagement in mind from the start, the possibilities for your P2P efforts greatly expand. Thinking outside of the box in this manner is key for successful social fundraising.

Embrace social media fundraising.

Let’s explore the many avenues that social giving can take for your nonprofit.

Social media fundraising tools started with the introduction of the Donation button on Facebook, soon followed by birthday fundraisers and individual campaigns hosted by Facebook users on behalf of nonprofits. Now, you can access the following on:

  • Instagram: The Donate sticker in stories. Clicking on the button will open up a page through which the supporter can donate directly to the nonprofit.
  • TikTok: The Donation Sticker and nonprofit Profile Link. Through both, supporters can click on the button in mind and visit a screen through which they can make a donation to the corresponding charity.

And of course, Facebook has the Donate button, birthday fundraisers, and Challenges on Facebook.

As a quick recap: Challenges on Facebook are time-bound peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns in which participants complete a specified activity (ex: walking 10k steps per day) for a set time period (ex: 30 days) while raising funds from their peers on Facebook. During the Challenge, all participants are added to a corresponding group in which they connect with one another and engage in a digital community.

To host a Challenge, you simply:

This graphic shows how to plan a Challenge on Facebook, one type of social giving.

  1. Set the parameters for the Challenge. This includes choosing the dates and duration as well as the Challenge activity that participants will complete.
  2. Create the digital infrastructure. This is the Challenge group that participants will connect with.
  3. Advertise the event. This is done with targeted Facebook Ads, through which prospective participants can easily sign up with a single click.
  4. Engage with participants for the duration. You’ll want to post in the Challenge group, as well as connect with participants one-on-one with conversational messaging in Messenger.

Considering Challenges have the potential to connect your nonprofit with tens of thousands (or more!) new supporters, you may be wondering how it’s possible to have conversations with each and every participant in Messenger. Let’s explore that idea further in the next section.

Prepare to automate your messaging.

As your nonprofit’s social audience grows, it’s likely that the individual conversations with each Challenge participant will outpace your team’s capacity. But, the last thing you want to do is abandon these messages or create a sub-par experience for all of the new supporters you’re engaging with.

Some nonprofits have shied away from messaging automation in the past, whether due to a fear of robotic-sounding recordings or difficulties creating an authentic experience. However, when it comes to social fundraising, embracing messaging automation is the only way to scale up and build your relationships with each individual social supporter sustainably. 

There are now providers that can author a series of custom, automated messaging sequences that align with both your nonprofit’s brand and priorities as well as the responses from supporters. For supporters, it will feel as though they’re speaking (via Messenger) with a representative of your nonprofit; but, you won’t have to have team members waiting by the computer to hit “send.”

Not only will this allow you to scale up conversations, but you’ll also get to learn more about your supporters, obtaining information that will help you optimize your social giving procedures going forward (such as if you choose to host repeated Challenges down the line!)

Partner with a social fundraising services provider or social giving platform.

We’ve briefly discussed partnering with a social fundraising services provider to bring your social giving strategy to life.

To give you an idea of what this would look like, consider GoodUnited’s  turnkey social giving solution:

  • In-Channel Messaging: This refers to personalized and meaningful messaging experiences that drive results. We’ll author messaging sequences and identify, target, and retarget social donors across social channels.
  • Cultivation Engine: We’ll turn unstructured social fundraising data into actionable insights to help you engage social donors in-channel. We’ll help you understand who your social donors are, how you can retain them going forward, and how you can host successful recurring fundraisers throughout the year.
  • The Lab: This is where the majority of testing takes place, including A/B testing messaging journeys. We’ll test small before scaling up, ensuring your engagement strategy will work before deploying it to a larger audience.
  • GoodUnited Web App: This includes the Challenges Dashboard with same-day revenue reporting and social donor and fundraiser profiles. You can monitor and optimize Challenge performance in real-time.

Beyond accessing a team that will orchestrate your entire social fundraising strategy— from managing Challenges to automating conversational messaging and ongoing optimization— you also access a team that’s on the forefront of social giving innovation. In the past year alone, GoodUnited has unveiled a number of groundbreaking social fundraising tools, including:

  • 1-Click Challenge Builder: Empower participants to join a fundraiser with a single click.
  • Fundraiser Stories: Visualize what matters to your participants to understand what will motivate them to return for future fundraisers.
  • Activity Tracker: Give participants the ability to easily log and track their Challenge activity completion.
  • Challenge Teams: Allow participants to sign up in teams, something that’s shown to raise more revenue than individual participants.
  • Referral Button: Invite participants to refer a friend and further expand your social audience.

These innovations are merging the best of social fundraising with traditional peer-to-peer tools, creating the ultimate social giving experience for both your nonprofit and participants alike. And, you can only access them by partnering with a provider that’s on the front lines of innovation.

Social giving is where nonprofit fundraising is heading; if you’re not incorporating it into your efforts, it’s time to start!

If you’re venturing into social fundraising for the first time, or you’re looking for tips to elevate your strategy, consider partnering with a social fundraising services provider. Reach out to our team at GoodUnited today to learn more.

In the meantime, explore the following additional resources about social giving and Challenges on Facebook:

Contact GoodUnited to begin your social giving journey.