Facebook’s decision late last year to remove fees for nonprofit organizations that conduct fundraising on the social media platform may cause nonprofits to take a new look at Facebook as a fundraising tool. Given that Facebook remains the largest social media network, despite inroads by the likes of Snapchat and Instagram, Facebook fundraisers may seem like an obvious choice for nonprofits.
Previously, the fees added up to 5 percent of donated funds for US-based nonprofit, according Quartz. Facebook will now cover the operating costs for vetting organizations, processing payments and other expenses.
Facebook also announced plans to introduce a Fundraisers API to allow nonprofits to integrate their Facebook fundraisers with their websites, Quartz noted. Another new API, Community Help, will allow disaster response groups to gather data on people who say they need help during crises.
Why Facebook Waived Fees
The impetus behind Facebook’s decision may be its desire to act like an ethical corporate citizen and earn some favorable media coverage following allegations it was instrumental in the spread of fake news and Russian interference in the 2016 elections. It may also wish to prevent users from leaving the network to donate through outside fundraising sites.
Fundraising on Facebook offers several advantages. It’s convenient. After the initial donation, Facebook users can contribute with just a couple clicks without leaving the platform. They can also easily share news of their donation with their friends, helping to publicize the nonprofit’s goal – and Facebook’s free fundraising tool.
Disadvantages of Facebook Fundraising
Doing fundraising on Facebook also poses disadvantages, says Julia Campbell, principal of J Campbell Social Marketing, in Social Media Today
There are restrictions. It doesn’t apply to donations made on outside sites accessed from a link placed on Facebook or to personal fundraisers for medical, education or other costs. Nonprofits must complete Facebook’s application process. Most importantly, they must have 501c3 status. If they do meet the network’s requirements, Facebook may take a month to grant approval. Marketers have limited creative control; they can’t control much beyond text and visuals. Facebook says payouts typically take two weeks, but Campbell says payouts can sometimes take up to 45 days. Reports can be confusing to interpret. Customer service is lacking. Good luck reaching a human being if you have a problem.
Lack of donor information may be the worst drawback. Nonprofits receive the donor’s name and email address only if they decide to share it.
Facebook fundraising may be good for getting quick cash for a specific project, but a poor option for building long-term relationships with donors, Campbell concludes. “Nonprofit fundraising on Facebook may be valuable to your organization, however, I always say – don’t build your house on rented land,” she advises.
Social Media Best Practices
If nonprofits decide to pursue fundraising on Facebook, experts advise following best practices to gain the best results:
- Craft compelling, valuable content that focus on the target audience.
- Post videos and especially live video.
- Try paid advertising.
- Tell stories of how the organization has improved lives, especially accomplishments that convince people to donate.
“Stop thinking like fundraisers and start thinking like publishers,” recommend strategists Jim Bowes and Julie Dodd. That means working hard to understand what types of content, what tone and what frequency will encourage donations and other support.
Bottom Line: Facebook fundraising can help nonprofits raise money, especially now that the social media service has eliminated fees for bona fide nonprofit organizations. However, its fundraising tool poses some disadvantages. Experts urge nonprofits to consider their goals and carefully weigh pros and cons of Facebook fundraising.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.