Facebook Fundraisers: The Best and Worst First Date You Ever Had
Turnkey’s peer-to-peer clients describe Facebook fundraisers as a blessing and a curse.
The money is great. It just shows up, which is both amazing and, well, great. Last year, Facebook fundraisers put over $300 million into the pockets of 750,000 nonprofit organizations.
But the problems are myriad:
- Your boss thinks you can sustain it and wants to build a budget with it included. You have no idea if it will be around tomorrow.
- Your constituents fundraising on Facebook think you are rude; you didn’t even say thank you! (That’s because it is incredibly hard to do so unless you’re rife with people willing to manually reach out on Facebook pages to those fundraisers via a post on their wall.)
- Event fundraisers want to know why the heck their thermometer isn’t rising when they are collecting all this money on Facebook! They call your office. You reallocate. Rinse and repeat. A lot. Customer service dollars skyrocket.
- Your donors from Facebook think you are uncaring; you didn’t say thank you nor did you follow-up in any way. And you never will, because they are invisible to you.
Let’s get the playing field built out. First, there are a few kinds of Facebook fundraisers (FBFs). There are birthday FBFs, which is the majority of what’s happening, around 85 percent of all Facebook fundraising. There are a few non-birthday FBFs. A few. Then, for any nonprofit with a TeamRaiser/Facebook integration, there are 15 percent coming through the Blackbaud TeamRaiser application; which is great—but doesn’t help you with the 85 percent.
The 85 percent are important because studies have shown they are typically new fundraisers. They went out there and acquired themselves, when acquiring fundraisers is so darned hard! They did something spontaneously that we work hard to get them to do. Why? It was frictionless, easy, a low lift. The opportunity to do good lived where they already were—on Facebook.
Forget the money for a moment. Here is what is more important… they showed all their friends they are supporting you. If you can get to them close to the time when they do that, their own internal pressure will get them to say yes to your next, appropriately incremental, ask for action. And that is the biggest opportunity around Facebook fundraising. It gets people to align with you, publicly.
So again—and we know it may be difficult—forget about the money you get from Facebook. That’s just short-term thinking. What it’s really all about is the lifetime value of the fundraiser after you acquire their contact information. The lifetime value of Facebook fundraising adoption alone is $694 per fundraiser, according to Blackbaud. But what is the lifetime value of a constituent in your organization? That is the number we care about, if only we could find out who these people are, so we can communicate with them.
Now there are new technologies to help us get the names and contact information from Facebook fundraisers. Turnkey uses them every day. But even with those technologies, there are issues to work through. Here are some of the conversations we are having with our clients:
- Who is in charge anyway? It’s peer-to-peer, but the digital team owns Facebook.
- Whose budget does the revenue go in?
- Who gets the collected data?
- Whose budget does the spend come out of?
- For “cannibalized” peer-to-peer event monies, (people who thought they were fundraising for an event) who pays for the significant customer service to re-allocate funds? Shouldn’t the walk manager have directed the walkers to the right place anyway? Doesn’t that mean the digital team gets the revenue?
Oh… it gets ugly. Believe us when we say that it is worse than the ethical dilemmas around frozen embryos. No one has had to deal with this before. It is the Wild, Wild West. All we can say is, “Ride ‘em cowboy!”
So, finally, Facebook—bring it on. You are helping people connect with nonprofits that are saving the world. We will meet you where you are. Let’s get out and play together.
Otis Fulton, Ph.D., spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising,” and the 2023 book, "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape," and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.
Otis is a much sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.
Katrina VanHuss has helped national nonprofits raise funds and friends since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Her client’s successes and her dedication to research have made her a sought-after speaker, presenting at national conferences for Blackbaud, Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Nonprofit PRO, The Need Help Foundation and her clients’ national meetings. The firm’s work is underpinned by the study and application of behavioral economics and social psychology. Turnkey provides project engagements, coaching, counsel and staffing to nonprofits seeking to improve revenue or create new revenue. Her work extends into organizational alignment efforts and executive coaching.
Katrina regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” She and Otis are also co-authors of the books, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising" and "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape." When not writing or researching, Katrina likes to make things — furniture from reclaimed wood, new gardens, food with no recipe. Katrina’s favorite Saturday is spent cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass, making something new, all while listening to loud music by now-deceased black women, throwing in a few sets on the weight bench off and on, then collapsing on the couch with her husband Otis to gang-watch new Netflix series whilst drinking sauvignon blanc.
Katrina grew up on a Virginia beef cattle and tobacco farm with her three brothers. She is accordingly skilled in hand to hand combat and witty repartee — skills gained at the expense of her brothers. Katrina’s claim to fame is having made it to the “American Gladiator” Richmond competition as a finalist in her late 20s, progressing in the competition until a strangely large blonde woman knocked her off a pedestal with an oversized pain-inducing Q-tip. Katrina’s mantra for life is “Be nice. Do good. Embrace embarrassment.” Clearly she’s got No. 3 down.