When people talk about Facebook in relation to charities, they often ask what the return on investment is. The general perception of social giving via Facebook is that it’s not a great way to raise money, but is fantastic as a communication and community building tool. This is true, but only to a certain extent.
At JustGiving, the UK’s largest online fundraising website, we have found that encouraging and enabling individual charity supporters to share their donations or updates about their fundraising events on Facebook has a great impact on amounts raised – research shows that just one share on Facebook encourages between £1 and £18 in extra donations.
To look to the future and understand the true potential of online fundraising on Facebook, it’s first necessary to look to the past.
The growth of Facebook
In the summer of 2007, Facebook overtook Google to become the biggest source of web traffic to JustGiving, and then at the end of 2008, Facebook started to bring us more traffic than email. In the intervening years, Facebook has continued to grow in importance and become the primary way that people who use JustGiving to raise money for charity tell their friends about their fundraising event and ask for sponsorship.
In 2012 alone, Facebook drove over 1.8 million individual donors to JustGiving, who collectively gave £34 million, of which £5.3 million was donated by people coming to the site from the mobile version of Facebook.
Building the JustGiving Facebook app
One of the ways we reacted to this growth was by building an application that people could use to donate to charity or sponsor a friend without leaving Facebook – this generated over £250,000 in the first nine months of 2012. Given the continuation of this growth, we expect that by 2015, 50% of donations made through JustGiving will come from Facebook.
In a way, this growth in online fundraising reflects Facebook’s own incredible growth. As of March 2013, it has 1.11 billion monthly active users, of which 751 million users accessed the site through their mobile.
So the prospective audience is huge, and more importantly, hugely engaged. But how do non-profits make the most of it?
Making the most of Facebook
To start, organisations that have Facebook pages should make the most of its features and plan an approach that engages their online community.
Advice from Facebook includes setting clear guidelines about what is and isn’t acceptable to post on your wall – this will help when users veer off-topic or post things you don’t approve of. It can also reduce the risk that people will leave negative comments, a fear which puts off many first-time social media users. By having clear guidelines, you can reduce that risk and give yourself the room to ban people who don’t abide by them.
Another useful approach is to create a ‘conversation calendar’ whereby you plan the content you will share on your page in advance. This helps create consistency of communication, as well as making sure that you have a good mix of messaging. Don’t bombard people with messages about campaigns one week and only fundraising events the next – have a rich mix of topics that show the breadth of work your organisation is involved in.
Watch out for Facebook fundraising part two: share more, raise more