The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Facebook for Fundraising: Worth It or Waste of Time?

Your organization’s free Facebook ride is over! Now, when checking Facebook page activity stats (aka Insights) for our client organizations, I make sure to dive in with a sweet treat in hand. That’s because I need to balance the bad news—which tends to decrease followers and reach—with something good.

I bet you’ve noticed the change, too—that is, if your organization is striving to use Facebook to strengthen connections with supporters and prospects and spur them to give. And by now you’ve probably heard the raging discussion about Facebook’s value—or lack thereof—for nonprofits and for-profits alike.

If you’re not up on these changes or are unclear on the facts, let me fill you in. You need to know what’s going on so you can make the right decisions for your fundraising and marketing agendas.

Facebook—so adored, so dear to so many of us at a personal level—has dramatically changed its spots.

Those of us who have been in the Facebook weeds for a while, trying to figure out how best to use it to drive causes and donations forward, know how tough it’s always been—and now it’s even tougher.

This graph, from a recent study by EdgeRank Checker, says it all:

Facebook Fundraising Software

 

There are two main reasons Facebook use is more in question than ever:

1. Longtime challenge: Facebook constantly changes its algorithm for which posts are fed to your page fans’ newsfeeds and its page design—without advance notice or how-tos. Keeping up with these changes requires an enormous expenditure of time and expense, especially for those of us with limited staff and budgets (most nonprofits).

2. Most recent ugh: Pay to play, along with a huge decline in organic reach for your content. Now the frequency with which your posts appear on fans’ newsfeeds depends on your organization’s level of Facebook ad spend.

As the chart above illustrates, if you don’t pay Facebook to boost your content, you can expect that only six of every 100 fans will even see your posts. How many people do you expect to read, much less act, on it?

What’s clear is that Facebook isn’t free. Plan to pay to have your messages delivered. Now it’s just another paid advertising channel, albeit one with targeted reach if your organization thinks the expense is worth it.

My recommendation: Use Facebook only if you fulfill all of these criteria:

1. You’ve selected Facebook as the social media channel of choice because you know that your low-hanging fruit (priority prospects and donors) are on Facebook, and you have a good way to drive them to your page and keep them there. Few organizations can effectively utilize more than one social media channel, at least to start.

2. You use Facebook as a complementary channel to direct marketing (online and offline), your website, and the other places where you have a positive track record of motivating the actions you want (giving, registering, etc.). Content, look, and feel are consistent across channels. Tone varies depending on the channel and segment of folks you’re reaching out to in each channel or campaign.

3. You set concrete goals for whatever is measurable on your page (much isn’t) and try to link actions taken on other channels back to Facebook (and other influences).

4. You are willing to invest a lot of time and expertise in your Facebook presence, plus a lot of cash for ad buys. Your nonprofit will be competing against Zappos and Proctor & Gamble—what are your chances?

Most organizations I know don’t fit this profile. So, for most, Facebook is not worth the investment, even if your CEO or board chair is pushing it hard.

Exceptions!

1) If your organization works with cats, puppies, or other adorable animals, that’s another reason to pursue Facebook reach. Take at look at RedRover’s Facebook page. Cute animal photos pull big-time on Facebook!

2) If you’ve successfully built a loyal, active group on Facebook, keep up the good work. Two examples, from small to mammoth, are the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation and Planned Parenthood of America, which has nurtured a dedicated, at-the-ready group of activists via Facebook.

If you decide to invest in Facebook, these relevancy strategies will help build your reach:

• Be transparent, helpful, and accessible.

• Share behind-the-scenes content.

• Engage your audience with questions.

• Share self-explanatory pictures and visual content.

 

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build the strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org

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About This Blog

Carrie Saracini
Content Marketing Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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