Social Fundraising Using Facebook Timeline Apps
You may have seen or at least heard about the announcement Facebook made Jan. 18 with the launch of the Timeline apps. Many of you probably first encountered the apps in action by seeing what your friends listen to on Spotify or reading in the Washington Post Social Reader App.
Among the first 60 apps that were announced by Facebook as part of this launch were three apps from developers that provide fundraising tools to the nonprofit sector: Artez Interactive, Causes and FundRazr.
Facebook and other social networks introduce new features regularly. However, I believe that the recent changes to Facebook are significant and will present a very important opportunity for nonprofits to empower people to fundraise and advocate on their behalf.
In fact, it’s quite possible that the direction Facebook is heading with Timeline apps will help Facebook make good on the promise of social media becoming an important, productive and measurable channel for fundraisers.
So what’s the big deal? Why is this announcement potentially so important for fundraisers? Here are five reasons why I think this announcement will make a difference for the nonprofit sector.
The Timeline apps expand beyond the limitations of "Like." The "Like" button is ubiquitous and easy, but it isn’t always necessarily the right sentiment and at times can be passive.
Apps can now use specific verbs as determined by the app developer. These verbs describe what you are doing, not just how you feel. For example:
- Jane Smith donated to the American Lung Association.
- John Martin is fundraising for the Salvation Army.
- Amy is walking to cure cancer.
The verbs are limitless and applied on an app-by-app basis. These verbs/nouns are engaging well beyond "Like," and the action is more likely to draw in your Facebook friends and family to join or support your fundraising activities.
Being uncomfortable asking friends for money is the No. 1 reason that volunteer fundraisers often struggle with fundraising. Asking is hard. No one can appreciate this fact more than professional fundraisers.
Facebook Timeline apps take the pain out of the "ask" by making sharing super easy, automatic and very natural. Facebook users only need to activate the app once, and it will automatically post their actions to three areas on their Facebook pages:
- Facebook feed — where you see what all your friends are up to
- Ticker — upper right-hand side that displays real-time updates
- Timeline — the new area of Facebook that chronicles your updates and Facebook activities
Think of each post as an "ask." Your fundraising or donation activities appear automatically on these areas of Facebook, letting your friends and family know that you are fundraising or donating to a charity. It’s then easy for your network to click and join in and support your efforts. No donation amount or confidential information is posted, only your activity.
Volunteer fundraising is all about storytelling. It starts with volunteers serving as the face of your organization to their families and friends. They communicate the stories of what they are doing and why it's important. This happened even before online fundraising hit the scene more than a decade ago with people sending letters and going door to door. Online made it easier to tell the story using pictures, videos and electronic updates.
Facebook’s new Timeline takes this to another level. Timeline apps make it possible for fundraisers to chronicle their personal journeys. This could include involvement with a cause, registering for a fundraising walk (as an example), then joining a team, setting a goal, getting a first donation, getting to 50 percent of that goal, hitting the goal, doing the event, and sharing updates and success online.
A component that is becoming more of an expectation in the world of the "real-time" Web is having a feedback loop for donors. Timeline apps can serve as this feedback loop for your donors, who can now instantaneously share their support of a cause with their Facebook friends.
Social proof is the effect you feel when you see what others you know and respect are doing and the impact it has on you doing the same. This is an important dynamic when it comes to where to have dinner, what shoes to buy, what music to check out, what articles to read and even what causes to donate to. TechCrunch recently published a post that stated, “Learning from friends thru (sic) the social web is likely the killer app of social proof in terms of 1:1 impact.”
The new Timeline apps from Facebook show which of your friends are also using the app. This community effect of friends establishes an endorsement that can positively influence others to jump in and help out.
Multichannel fundraising is increasingly becoming an important theme in how fundraisers use online, mobile and social channels collaboratively. Look for this to gain momentum in 2012, where it’s very likely that we will start seeing Timeline activities generated from mobile and "big browser" devices.
Mobile is already an important factor, with more than 350 million mobile Facebook users. This, combined with the fact that many of the first 60 Facebook Timeline apps also have app counterparts available in the iTunes store and Android market, will serve to accelerate this multichannel trend in fundraising (and in areas outside of fundraising).
There are currently only three Timeline apps focused on serving the nonprofit community. However, the platform is now open for developers everywhere to get to work. There will certainly be a learning curve to understand how to best leverage this new social fundraising opportunity using Timeline apps. But the good news is that the foundation has been established for advancing our sector’s mobile and social activity and results. If you haven’t already, jump on to the Facebook Timeline apps and embrace the learning curve!