Facebook Fundraising—Your New Constituent Acquisition Device. Yes, Really.
Let’s face facts: Facebook is in our peer-to-peer fundraising space. And while that is scary, it opens up a world of possibility if we choose to come out and play. Let’s talk about the playing field, how to get on it and what might happen to your organization if you do. The score in the Facebook birthday fundraiser game is kept in dollars raised and constituent data collected.
Organic Facebook fundraising is commonly referred to as “birthday fundraisers.” In this case, “organic” means that the fundraiser spontaneously started a Facebook fundraiser without prompting from the organization for which they are raising money. For our purposes here, we’ll use the term “birthday fundraiser,” although not all are started around birthdays.
Facebook birthday fundraisers are important. About 85 percent of all Facebook fundraising comes via this channel. Last year, Facebook fundraisers put over $1 billion into the pockets of 750,000 nonprofit organizations. That is nothing to sniff at.
Some of the challenges in handling this new kind of revenue include:
- Your boss thinks you can sustain this newly found revenue stream and wants you to build a budget with it included. (Be wary.)
- Without appropriate tech, it’s nearly impossible to know who these birthday fundraisers are. So, you are unable to even thank them for their efforts... let alone try to retain them. Your birthday fundraisers are left feeling unappreciated. (We’ve solved this, give us a shout.)
- Event fundraisers want to know why 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. A huge staff time burn, and frustrating for your fundraisers. (Not a problem for fundraisers coming through the TeamRaiser integration. Big problem with organic Facebook birthday fundraisers.)
Integration Though Blackbaud
Facebook is part of our world already through the work of Blackbaud’s Facebook TeamRaiser integration. This integration allows fundraisers to click through from their TeamRaiser participant page to Facebook to start a fundraiser.
“When Facebook Fundraisers emerged, they offered both fundraising opportunities and logistical challenges to nonprofits. To help solve the challenges and accelerate the opportunities, Blackbaud worked in partnership with Facebook to develop the TeamRaiser integration with Facebook Fundraisers,” Kathryn Hall, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Blackbaud, said. “This solution offers peer-to-peer fundraisers a way to accelerate reaching their fundraising goals and everything they raise is instantly reflected on their event fundraising thermometer. At the same time, it relieves event staff of the challenge of tracking down and accounting for dollars raised on Facebook Fundraisers. They’re automatically credited to a TeamRaiser participant and credited to their personal page totals. It’s a win-win all around.”
This integration has proven very successful in tempering some of the challenges created by the existence of Facebook fundraising, but the integration emanates from the nonprofit instance of TeamRaiser. So, if you’re not already registered for an event to fundraise, you won’t ever see this opportunity to fundraise on Facebook. All the challenges still exist for that group of fundraisers who don’t come through to Facebook that way, which, as of today, is the vast majority. This is where Facebook birthday fundraisers can help. Between the TeamRaiser integration and a good working knowledge of how to maximize the opportunity of the organic Facebook birthday fundraiser, all your Facebook fundraising bases are covered.
Outside the TeamRaiser world, with new technology, we can now acquire the contact information of brand new birthday fundraisers. And in the best-case scenario, we can nurture them into your existing channels. How do we get the birthday fundraisers’ contact data? Technology has emerged to do just that. We at Turnkey were flattered to have been asked to introduce this technology to nonprofits. The solution lets you interact with the birthday fundraisers to collect their contact information while improving their experience—read: "We get to say thank you." Happily, improving their experience as we collect their contact information also increases how much they fundraise.
All This Data—What to Do?
What do we do with the data once we get it? Our recommendation is to turn it over to the people in your organization who know how to nurture peer-to-peer fundraisers, which is exactly what the Facebook birthday fundraiser is. But, to-date our experience is that the “ownership” of revenue and contact data coming from the birthday fundraiser varies widely. Our organizational charts are not built out for what is happening. The technology is way ahead of our internal constructs. Here are some of the titles of our clients who are directly in charge of Facebook birthday fundraising:
- XYZ of Individual Engagement
- XYZ of Direct Response
- XYZ of Digital Fundraising
- XYZ of Online Engagement
Not one of our clients has the birthday fundraiser managed by (or even collaborates much with) the internal peer-to-peer fundraising staff. These birthday fundraisers have done something that clearly distinguishes them as willing to be peer-to-peer fundraisers—namely, they went out and did peer-to-peer-fundraising! Why wouldn’t we acquire their contact information and let the peer-to-peer experts manage them?
We will acknowledge that the revenue windfall is a boon to the department into which it flowed, but we also have to behave thoughtfully in order to serve our missions. We have to conquer our internal silos. We have already seen instances where the political landscape became so fraught with angst and anxiety over internal squabbling that nonprofits have chosen to not turn on Facebook fundraising at all or have chosen not to even attempt to acquire the fundraiser data. Think about what that means: “I’d rather raise less money than break down our silos.”
Again, 85 percent of all Facebook fundraising starts organically and has these challenges because they don’t come via TeamRaiser. Organizations with the TeamRaiser integration still have the majority of Facebook fundraisers starting organically. And the 85 percent are important because studies have shown they are typically new fundraisers. We don’t know them yet. They went out there and acquired themselves. Considering that acquiring fundraisers is difficult and expensive, this is exciting! 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. By the way, the book “New Power” by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms explains this phenomenon beautifully. And while they might have materialized on Facebook in Year One, in Year Two we can push them through our own systems, like the TeamRaiser integration, which will give us full visibility.
Now let’s forget about the money raised for a moment. Here is what is even more important… these people showed all their friends on Facebook they are supporting you. By doing so, they have created an internal pressure on themselves to say “yes” to your next ask, which (if you follow our advice) will also be a low lift for them. Let us be clear, once Turnkey helps you gain a conduit to talk to them again—don’t ask for money. The initial revenue from the Facebook birthday fundraisers is great, but that is just the short-term win. We are positioning for high lifetime value.
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.