In recent years, Facebook fundraisers have emerged as an easy way for donors to contribute to their favorite charities. While they’ve been regarded as a generally hands-off way for nonprofits to increase donations and expand their giving base, some organizations have strayed from making the most of this outlet.
The reasoning behind this is simple: Facebook doesn’t make it easy for nonprofits to understand or manage fundraiser activity. Identifying, thanking, and nurturing top donors or fundraisers is a challenge that’s added on top of the already high workloads of a stressed staff.
Regardless, Facebook Challenges are incredibly popular among users. Choosing not to optimize the practice is choosing to leave valuable funding and relationships on the table!
This comprehensive guide walks through all things Facebook Challenges, from getting started to making the most of this powerful platform.
Let’s dive in.
A Facebook fundraiser involves nonprofit supporters raising donations directly through the Facebook platform. This is done by sharing images and information about their personal connection to the cause and encouraging their friends and family members to give.
These fundraisers can be started at any time, whether associated with birthdays or after spontaneous inspiration. When done well, it’s a no-fee, convenient, and fulfilling way to give to nonprofit organizations.
The process begins with a donor creating a fundraiser on Facebook. They share it with friends far and wide— whether created in association with their birthday or not. Then, their friends, family members, and general network donate in support.
However, these donations don’t flow directly to your nonprofit like a typical donation might. If you aren’t registered with Facebook Payments, fundraisers set up in your honor will be associated with Network for Good. This is a donor-advised fund (DAF), a specialized type of philanthropic savings account that can collect interest.
Facebook fundraisers handled via Network for Good follow a predetermined set of steps that take significantly longer than direct donations. These steps are as follows:
These steps can (and will) occur without your nonprofit’s interaction in the process at all. However, by taking hold of Facebook fundraisers and optimizing the process, you can raise significantly more (and in a significantly shorter period of time), for your organization.
Facebook Challenges are time-bound fundraising events. As these events take place entirely through Facebook, they have a low barrier to entry for participants.
During a Challenge, participants are tasked with completing a specific activity (such as walking 10K steps per day) over a defined time period (such as one month). While doing so, they raise funds from their friends and family members using a Facebook fundraiser.
During the Challenge, participants are added to a Facebook group pertaining to the effort. In this group, they’re able to connect with other participants, donate to one another’s fundraisers, share progress updates, and generally experience a sense of community with other individuals who have similar interests as them.
The steps of hosting a Challenge are as follows:
At GoodUnited, we offer services to activate your supporters using Facebook Challenges. This includes managing the initial Facebook ad campaign, managing any Challenge groups created, and posting thank-you notes on 100% of the fundraisers created. Further, we’ll create custom automated messaging sequences to connect with your supporters one-on-one, something we’ll explore further in the next section.
There are a variety of reasons why organizations resist Facebook fundraisers.
It’s true that on the front end, Facebook Challenges can be confusing, hard to manage, and without easy access to donors or fundraisers. The most common complaints we’ve heard with the process are:
These complaints have led to more than one organization issuing statements on their Facebook pages, encouraging donors to give directly through their website rather than through the platform. Even more common are nonprofits simply ignoring the process— which may still result in funding, but certainly not as much as if the platform was optimized.
However, even if nonprofits don’t love Facebook Challenges, donors do.
Facebook fundraisers provide a social setting, manageable giving levels, and a platform that is already connected to their bank or credit card.
Let’s explore two similar scenarios to see why this works so well. We’re going to explore a day in the life of Mindy, a philanthropically-inclined individual donating her birthday to her favorite charity, “Mr. Bones Rescue.”
Scenario 1: Mindy’s Birthday Facebook Fundraiser for Dogs
Mindy creates a Facebook fundraiser in less than 10 minutes, sharing a photo of her rescue dog and her personal connection with Mr. Bones Rescue. She shares it with her Facebook friends, and the following occurs:
In under an hour, Mindy has raised $200 for her favorite charity. She posts an excited “OMG! You guys are the best!” and re-shares the fundraiser.
But, it doesn’t stop there:
Mindy re-shares the fundraising page, now at $605, with a delighted “What? This is crazy!” At this point, Mindy’s social community is actively monitoring the fundraiser, eager to see how much will be raised and how she will react as it happens.
It has become an impromptu “virtual birthday party,” with all of Mindy’s Facebook friends taking part. By the end of the day, she’s raised $1400 for her favorite charity— which will receive a check, fee-free, in two weeks because they’ve actively opted-in to the process.
Once Mr. Bones Rescue receives the funding, they post a photo on their wall of happily sleeping dogs with an excited “Thank you, Mindy!” Mindy shares this post, and all of her friends can see where their donations were spent.
Scenario 2: Mindy’s Direct Birthday Fundraiser for Dogs
Mindy decides to donate her birthday to her favorite charity. After navigating to their Facebook wall, she notices that they’ve posted that they prefer direct donations rather than through Facebook.
Respecting these wishes, Mindy creates a post asking her friends and family to donate to Mr. Bones Rescue in her name.
“I’m raising money from Mr. Bones Rescue in honor of my birthday. Please visit their page and donate.”
While Mindy receives 75 birthday salutations on her wall, no one clicks the link. She never finds out if people gave or not, nor do her Facebook friends. In anonymity, her well-wishing friends and family members keep scrolling beyond the donation link.
The nonprofit appreciates Mindy’s shout-out, but they never receive a donation toward their cause. This is because direct donation appeals on Facebook simply don’t work as well as Facebook challenges.
The reasons why are simple:
As a nonprofit, you shouldn’t fight Facebook challenges. We know that they can be confusing, but that’s what the rest of this guide is here for.
This guide is written for you— the nonprofit. However, while you’re not going to be creating Facebook fundraisers on behalf of your supporters, it’s still important to have a general understanding of the steps that they would take to create a fundraiser. This empowers you to market the opportunity to give back and even assist your fundraisers if they run into a snag.
With that in mind, let’s cover the basics of creating a Facebook fundraiser. First, understand that there are three general “pathways” leading to Facebook fundraisers:
Regardless of the occasion, your fundraisers will then follow a prescribed set of steps:
As far as the fundraisers’ efforts, it’s that simple!
Beyond that— as you’ll read more about as this guide progresses— there are ways that your organization can step in at this point in the process. With custom, automated thank-yous and other messaging, you can increase revenue and steward these fundraisers in the long term.
You don’t have to sign up and get approved for Facebook fundraising. If you meet the requirements, all it takes is for a supporter to start a fundraiser on your behalf. However, you’ll soon learn that failing to register with Facebook fundraising can drastically slow down the payout process, so it’s a good idea to be aligned with Facebook’s program directly.
Here are the requirements to get directly approved for Facebook Challenges:
Once you’ve been approved, you’ll have a “Donate” button on your nonprofit’s Facebook page and your social community can fundraising on your behalf. You’ll also gain access to Facebook’s transaction reports, which can provide some valuable information to optimize your efforts.
At this point, it’s a good idea to let your donors know that you’re taking part and encourage them to create their own fundraisers. Remember— Facebook will remind your donors to give two weeks before their birthdays, so you should let them know you’re available to receive!
In 2018, Facebook made a huge announcement— the platform was dropping all fees pertaining to donations made to charities via Facebook fundraisers and Challenges.
Previously, the platform was charging a 5% transaction fee for nonprofit fundraisers. While payment processing fees are still deducted from personal cause fundraisers, this is no longer the case for nonprofit fundraisers.
This was major news for the nonprofit world, as very few fundraising efforts are truly fee-free. Even hosting an online donation page and accepting direct gifts comes with a payment processing fee!
So, we’ve covered the fact that Facebook takes no percentage of fundraiser revenue. However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll receive that funding in a timely manner. This is why it’s crucial that your organization understands how Facebook Challenge payout works.
It’s important to understand that whether you officially register to get paid for Facebook fundraisers or not, you’ll still receive donations intended for your organization. However, registering is the difference between receiving an electronic transfer in two weeks or a check three months down the line.
With that, let’s break down the two main ways that Facebook handles fundraiser payout.
Facebook handles fundraiser payout through two channels: Facebook Payments and Network for Good.
Facebook Payments is a direct payout system, while Network for Good is a donor-advised fund. With Payments, once your organization achieves the minimum donation amount, you’ll be eligible for payout which occurs on a biweekly basis. On the other hand, with Network, all donations made within a month are deposited into the DAF (a charitable savings account that gathers interest) and are later directed to the nonprofits they were intended for.
So, how do you choose which method to sign up for? There are three factors to keep in mind:
1. If you don’t sign up for Facebook Payments, you’ll be waiting for funding.
Facebook Payments is the fastest way to receive donated funds. Nonprofits that sign up for Payments will receive funding on a biweekly basis after they’ve reached at least $100 in donations raised. These transfers are made by direct deposit.
With Network, on the other hand, your nonprofit will receive the donations raised about two months after the initial donation. This is because all of the donations collected in a month are deposited into the DAF on month one, then distributed to the intended nonprofits in month two.
2. If you don’t sign up for Facebook Payments or Network for Good, you could lose funding.
As you’ve seen, you can still benefit from Facebook Challenges even if you don’t get officially approved for the program. Network for Good will direct raised funds to your organization, whether you’re registered or not.
However, that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll correctly piece the donation intended for your organization with your organization. For example, if you’re a regional chapter of a national nonprofit, they may mistakenly send donations intended for your local organization to the larger national organization.
3. If you sign up for Facebook Payments, you may receive additional donor information.
Unlike with Network, donors can opt-in to provide contact information to your organization if you’re registered with Facebook Payments. This information is provided in the Daily Transaction Reports and can be invaluable when it comes to thanking donors after the fact and continuing cultivating relationships.
Occasionally, a donor will contact a nonprofit to whom they’ve donated to via Facebook Challenge and request a refund. They may have accidentally made a donation, accidentally added too many zeros to the total contribution, or simply have changed their minds.
Regardless of their reasoning, the donor’s next steps are the same:
Contacting Facebook for a refund via Facebook’s Help Center.
While the funding ends up in your nonprofit’s hands, your organization can’t handle the refund request independently. This is because Facebook Fundraising is set up using a donor-advised fund (DAF). For a refresher on this process, jump back up to our section on “How Facebook Fundraisers Work.”
Because the donation passes through this DAF, Facebook is responsible for issuing tax receipts, ensuring donations aren’t fraudulent, keeping a record of the funds, and filing taxes. This also means that any refunds issued need to come from the DAF and not your nonprofit.
One of the biggest points of concern among nonprofit outreach coordinators and communications directors is that they have little to no control over how fundraisers depict their organization on Facebook— whether in words or photos.
For a nonprofit, protecting your brand is absolutely essential. Your donors trust your brand enough to give their own hard-earned money in support of it. It’s been carefully crafted, and with one rogue fundraiser, can be damaged as well.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to regain some control of how your organization is represented. Here’s how:
When a supporter starts a fundraiser, they select your nonprofit from a list. They write their own title, such as “Brian’s Birthday Fundraiser for [Nonprofit’s Name].” Then, they’re prompted to write a personal message about why they’re raising money for you.
The personal message that pre-populates looks something like this:
“Want to join me in supporting a good cause? I’m raising money for [Nonprofit’s Name] and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Every little bit helps. Thank you for your support. I’ve included information about [Nonprofit Name] below.”
This is then followed by your mission statement. Further, Facebook will automatically suggest your cover photo as the image for the fundraiser— and many fundraisers will choose to use this suggestion. While people can change all of this information, it’s a great idea to give them a solid foundation to start from!
After taking proactive steps to protect your brand, the rest of the Facebook fundraising process may seem fairly hands-off for nonprofit professionals such as yourself. However, to truly have success with the platform, it’s time to reframe your view of a nonprofit’s involvement in these fundraisers.
The key is discovering these Facebook fundraisers when they’re started— something you’ll read about in the next section— and connecting with the users that started them. After discovering a new fundraiser, you should quickly thank the users that started it publicly on their Facebook timeline.
From there, you should communicate regularly with that supporter and give them inspiration and tips to increase the interaction with their fundraiser. As far as tips, encourage them to:
While this may seem like a complicated effort, there are companies that have optimized the process. For example, at GoodUnited we have created a process for automating this messaging. From the initial user opt-in to our custom messaging sequences using the Facebook messenger platform, we’re able to communicate with supporters where they are— on social networks.
Beyond that, you might even choose to share the fundraiser on your nonprofit’s wall— depending on the creator’s privacy settings— and encourage other supporters of your organization to take part as well. By getting involved in the process, you can secure more donations for your cause!
Users that create fundraisers on behalf of your organization are some of your most powerful supporters. Not only will they give to your organization, but they’re dedicated enough to advocate for you to their friends, family members, and the general public. Discovering these fundraisers is crucial for building relationships with key supporters and sharing information about how they can maximize funds raised.
Beyond that, discovering fundraisers allows you to monitor the progress of their efforts and predict how much Facebook will deposit into your account. But, how do you discover when fundraisers are started?
There are two main ways to do so:
When viewing ongoing fundraisers on your administrator page, you can see the following information:
While this view provides some valuable information, this alone isn’t enough to make an actionable difference in your fundraising efforts. Continue reading to learn why.
One challenge with how Facebook has historically reported ongoing fundraisers is that your administrator page defaults to show fundraisers that have raised $50+ first.
Why is this such a challenge? Well, fundraisers that have already raised $50+ only represent a small percentage of all fundraisers started on your behalf (about 30 - 50% of the total fundraisers). Further, this view defaults to showing fundraisers that are almost complete, first. When a fundraiser is in its final days, there isn’t much your organization can do to elevate it further.
To have a positive impact on your supporters’ fundraising efforts, you need to discover them early on— more than likely, before they have raised $50+. However, to find these fundraisers, you would need to scroll many pages back into the full listing of fundraisers started on behalf of your nonprofit.
Luckily, Facebook has unveiled a powerful new feature that makes this significantly easier.
The newly unveiled “Sort and Filter” option allows you to organize fundraisers by:
To access this view from your organization’s Facebook account, you would navigate to the “Fundraiser” tab and click on “Sort and Filter.”
While this information may not be as comprehensive as nonprofits might hope, it is still a big step in the right direction. For example, the filtering function empowers you to discover fundraisers that your organization hasn’t thanked yet to quickly express your gratitude. And, you can contact fundraisers as soon as they start a campaign to share tips, encourage them, and show appreciation.
It’s important to discover top fundraisers, as these supporters represent those most passionate about your cause (when viewing the total amount raised as a proxy). Connecting with these top fundraisers and thanking them for their efforts is the first step toward valuable relationships for years to come.
While the information in the above section is helpful, it’s still somewhat basic. You’re able to discover fundraisers and filter those by thanked and non-thanked fundraisers, discovering those you still need to acknowledge. However, you’re not able to sort out those which represent top fundraisers and by proxy, top supporters.
Unfortunately, Facebook hasn’t made it easy for nonprofits to find and interact with these top fundraisers.
Nonprofits registered with Facebook fundraising can access two reports— the Daily Transaction Report and the Payout Report. In this section, we’re going to discuss how your nonprofit can utilize the Daily Transaction Report to discover top fundraisers.
At face value, this report isn’t particularly useful. However, by creating a Facebook Fundraiser Spreadsheet, you can discover how much each fundraiser raised and in turn, determine which supporters raised the most.
Here are the steps to build your own Facebook Fundraiser Spreadsheet:
Drag down this formula to populate the rest of the Total Donation column. Now, you can see who started fundraisers and how much they raised, so you can determine which individuals out of your total population of fundraisers raised the most.
Then, you can contact these supporters accordingly. Be sure to thank them for starting the fundraiser and consider following up with updates regarding what their fundraiser benefitted. This is a great way to build long-lasting connections between that supporter and your organization!
The success of Facebook fundraising has non-profits feeling delighted, eager, and more than a little confused. This is a new process for many nonprofit professionals! However, even with a new format, the first rule of fundraising still rings true:
Thank your donors, and do so quickly.
Unfortunately, Facebook intentionally makes it difficult to thank donors. While you can access donor names, you can’t access email addresses or any other contact information that would make thanking and relationship-building easy. Further, while you can manually click through to donors and thank them individually that way, you can be marked as a potential threat by Facebook and have your account disabled if you click through to too many (a number that evolves).
Luckily, there is a way to identify top donors to your Facebook fundraisers— once again, by creating a spreadsheet and sorting it.
Refer back to the spreadsheet you created in the above section and navigate to the Daily Transaction Report tab. Then, do the following:
By doing this, you can see the highest donation made and the first name, last name, and potentially the email address of the supporter that made it. You can then contact these donors with a personalized thank you message.
In addition, there are a few other ways to find and thank donors:
While Facebook doesn’t provide a ton of donor contact information, it’s still entirely possible to contact and thank supporters through the platform.
In past sections, we’ve briefly discussed the two transaction reports Facebook provides— the Daily Transaction Report and the Payout Report. Let’s dive into these reports, and the information they provide, a bit further.
To access Facebook fundraising reports, you’ll need to navigate to the top of your page and click through the following sequence:
You’ll download this report in a .csv file. You can import these .csv files into Excel or your CRM software, but you’ll likely need to reformat the data to ensure it fits into your database correctly.
After accessing this report, you’ll gain access to a variety of information. First, there will be technical information that’s unlikely to be of much use to you— for example, the transaction ID numbers and the exact time the charge was removed from the donor’s account. You may choose to remove superfluous information to avoid clogging your database.
However, there will also be valuable information such as:
This information, while not in-depth, can be valuable.
For example, if a donor opted in to give their email address, you can use that for future communications. Donation location is valuable as you can see which Facebook fundraising efforts are having the biggest impact for your social audience, and the date can tell you valuable information about the most popular time of year to donate via Facebook. All of this information can empower you to improve the effort going forward.
As a nonprofit professional, you’re well aware that fundraising reporting isn’t one-sided. While your nonprofit seeks robust insights on the donations coming into your organization, your donors often seek their own documentation in the form of a donation receipt.
Earlier in this guide, we covered the fact that Facebook fundraising donations pass through a DAF. Because of this, the platform handles all reporting and receipt issuance. While donation receipts are fairly hands-off for your organization, however, it is important that you understand the process in case any questions are sent your way.
Luckily, the process is simple! When a donor makes a contribution to a campaign, Facebook automatically sends an email to the address associated with their account. This email states that their donation was a charitable contribution and that they didn’t receive any goods or services in return.
As a refresh, Facebook donations are tax-deductible. For tax purposes, this receipt should be all of the information donors need.
However, many Americans donating to your supporters’ Facebook fundraisers won’t choose to itemize the donation anyway. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 reduced the marginal tax benefit of giving to charity, raised the after-tax cost of donations, and generally reduced the value of charitable contributions. For most contributors, itemizing their donations simply won’t be worthwhile.
Regardless, while we know that donors aren’t giving for the tax cut but rather for socially and emotionally motivated reasons, it’s still good to know that tax-motivated supporters will have the needed information. And, it’s even better to know that Facebook will handle the heavy lifting of providing that information for you.
True success on Facebook is determined by more than the posts you share, the birthday fundraisers started on your behalf, and the money you raise.
Just as with fundraising events, major gifts fundraising, planned giving, pledge fundraisers, and more, the relationships you build with supporters are what fuels your organization’s work and advances your mission.
Forging strong connections with each and every peer-to-peer supporter builds the pipeline to lifelong support, whether through volunteering, sustained monthly giving, or even major gifts down the line. This is the difference between a one-off, one-time birthday fundraiser and a lifetime of support.
At GoodUnited, we’ve carefully researched and created processes for helping nonprofits raise their relationships with social supporters. Let's walk through those strategies below.
If thanking each user who starts a fundraiser is overwhelming for your team—which can easily happen if you have many social supporters—we recommend partnering with GoodUnited.
Our turnkey social fundraising solution includes thank-you notes posted on 100% of the fundraisers started on behalf of your nonprofit within 48 hours of the campaigns’ launch.
The Wounded Warrior Project experienced the benefits of this service firsthand. Michelle Mueller, Online Fundraising Manager at WWP, noted:
“We were thrilled for the chance to work with GoodUnited. They enable us to reach fundraisers at scale and post thank-yous on every fundraiser page so donors and fundraisers alike see that we were grateful for their efforts.”
We’ve found that 90% of the users that we thank are new supporters of the cause and nonprofit itself. This quick note of gratitude opens the door to further communications, such as one-on-one conversations via Facebook Messenger, launching new donor relationships with a promising start.
GoodUnited can coordinate quick, low barrier-to-entry Challenges for your nonprofit to host. We’ll create a strategic plan to promote your challenge using Facebook Ads. Then our team will moderate the Facebook groups that accompany the event to inspire a movement behind your nonprofit’s fundraising.
In 2020, the American Cancer Society faced major fundraising event challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic:
“Going into 2020… It was to be a significant year of stability and getting our growth going in several areas. Then, COVID hit.”
American Cancer Society started with a pilot of three Facebook Challenges with GoodUnited.
These events led to 1,262 fundraisers started and $216,341 in revenue. By the end of 2020, they had launched over 100 challenges, netting millions of dollars in crucial revenue. Through GoodUnited-coordinated Facebook Challenges, the American Cancer Society has raised $10 million to date.
They set Facebook’s record for the most donations raised by an organization in a single day and connected with an entirely new audience of supporters—95% of people who joined ACS’s Facebook fundraiser groups were new to the organization.
“We exceeded every metric we set out to meet. This type of fundraising and lead generation is part of our culture now. It won’t replace our traditional peer-to-peer fundraising, but it will work alongside of it to bring in new constituents and drive revenue.”
Explore the full American Cancer Society case study here.
It’s simply impossible for your nonprofit to converse with each and every social supporter in a scalable way. But at GoodUnited, we’ve found a solution.
Using proven data science and human-written messaging sequences, we can tailor every message sent through Facebook to your supporters’ interests. Through these services, we’ve found that communications sent via Facebook Messenger have a 94% open rate when compared to emails, which have a significantly lower 15% open rate.
“With GoodUnited, we can scale quicker than we could on our own. Through Messenger, we can automatically communicate and keep conversations going, filling in the data that Facebook isn’t giving us. GoodUnited has taken a huge amount of that burden off of our plate.”
While some nonprofits shy away from automated messaging, we’ve crafted the perfect combination of data science and human judgment to empower your organization to connect with every social support— something that would be impossible with manual typing alone.
We’ve perfected the Facebook Fundraising process for nonprofits, empowering organizations just like yours with:
We’ve worked with clients spanning nearly every mission area of focus. We’ve created best practices based on data collected from 50+ million fundraisers who have raised $500+ million through Facebook. We can encourage your fundraisers to raise more during their campaign— with tips on how to do so— and then steward those fundraisers for long-term giving relationships. To learn more, contact us today.
To learn more about Facebook fundraisers, check out the following additional resources: