Facebook and fundraising

I am dedicating this week’s blog posts to exploring ePhilanthropy related topics. Since this field of resource development is still cutting edge (or should I say bleeding edge), I encourage everyone who is dabbling, experimenting and playing with tools in this field to please weigh-in using the comment section of this blog. Today, I turn my attention to Facebook.

My partner and I just rented “The Social Network” from Blockbuster two weekends ago. (Yes, I know I’m a little behind on my rentals). After watching the movie, I am left with the following questions:

  • How can Facebook be valued at $50 billion (source: Kerry Dolan of Forbes)?
  • How can Facebook have 750 million active members (source: Facebook statistics)?
  • Are there any fundraising success stories where a non-profit raised significant contributions using Facebook as a solicitation platform?

Of course, my curiosity got the best of me and I ended up spending hours and hours on Google surfing and clicking. I was a bit surprised when I didn’t find much of anything. As a matter of fact, The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Peter Panepento blogged about it last year and concluded that Facebook isn’t a solicitation medium; it is a relationship building platform that might best be used for prospect introduction and awareness building as well as cultivation and stewardship activities.

It is important to remember that The Chronicle based its conclusions on “survey research,” which I believe always needs to be looked at a little skeptically. While there are truths in what was reported, I also found this interesting blog post by Sarah Kessler where she points to five successful Facebook fundraising stories (however I didn’t find much fundraising data backing up her conclusions).

While non-profits still seem to be figuring out how Facebook can fit into a well-rounded resource development plan, one trend that seems to be emerging is for-profit organizations partnering with non-profit organizations in the Facebook environment on cause-related marketing projects. For a good example of what I mean, check-out this example of what Arby’s is doing on Facebook to help end childhood hunger.

If you want to jump in and play on the cutting edge of philanthropy using Facebook, here are a few suggestions you may want to consider:

  • Do your homework first and make the decision upfront on whether you want to use “group fundraising strategies” or “traditional fundraising strategies” to develop, organize and implement your efforts. Peter Deitz has an awesome PowerPoint uploaded to SlideShare with lots of educational and benchmarking value.
  • Figure out the biggest question facing Facebook fundraisers … how can you encourage your efforts to take off and go viral? Ken Goldstein of The Nonprofit Consultant Blog demonstrates this idea nicely with his story about a woman and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
  • Determine which of the four fundraising applications you will use in your Facebook environment (or will you more than one)? Peter Deitz of Social Actions did a nice job laying out all of your options in this NTEN blog.

I guess, I still hang onto the opinion that Facebook is probably still a better venue to create awareness, introduce prospects to your mission, cultivate prospects and steward donors. However, I am open-minded. What does your organization do on Facebook? Have you ever had resource development success on Facebook? If so, please share specifics. We can learn from each other.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on July 27, 2011, in resource development and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

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