Going into 2020, the American Cancer Society was planning over 2,000 events, which would account for over $300M in revenue for the organization. When lockdowns were put into place, in-person events were cancelled for the foreseeable future. Virtually overnight, the prospect of that revenue vanished. American Cancer Society was not alone. Nonprofits around the world were scrambling to fill the gaps left by the disappearance of in-person fundraising events.
While in-person meetups were gone, ACS was able to pivot to another tool: Facebook.
While Facebook pages are important for nonprofits, Facebook has been increasingly deprioritizing them in favor of groups. Groups are a wonderful way to promote events. Because they allow everyone to participate equally, they better drive a sense of community as members can share photos, stories, and experiences related to the fundraiser. It’s also much easier to create a separate group for every fundraiser, allowing only those in the right geographic region or with the right interests to follow them. American Cancer Society started unique groups for each of their events, from a running event in Florida to a 50 squats per day challenge in Arkansas.
What encourages others to join the group and drives engagement is posts from the community. For groups we at GoodUnited supported, participants were taking an average of 20 actions (comments or posts) during each event. This is the best way to replicate the in-person fundraising experience online. When people feel they can chat with one another and express themselves, they feel they’re more a part of the organization. This means they are more likely to consistently donate and show up for new events.
By keeping everything in the Facebook ecosystem -- whether that’s running events in Facebook groups or using Messenger for one-on-one communication -- 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.
Over 95% of people who joined ACS’s Facebook fundraiser groups were new to the organization. Instead of simply bringing in-person fundraisers online, ACS tapped into an entirely new group of supporters. When transitioning to virtual fundraising, keep an open mind about who might be willing to donate. COVID has led to upheaval in every part of life, and there are many people who may be interested in supporting your organization for the first time because of it.
While COVID has been a substantial challenge for many nonprofits, there are ways to continue driving revenue. Even after this pandemic has ended, the value of virtual fundraising won’t be going away. Nonprofits that take the time now to establish a virtual fundraising setup will be well-positioned for a post-pandemic fundraising world.