Facebook: The Biggest Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Platform in the World
Social Media Takes Ownership of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Social media fundraising may well supplant traditional peer-to-peer fundraising platforms as the technology of choice for social fundraising. Leading the way is Facebook fundraising, with Instagram and TikTok showing signs of following. We'll focus on Facebook here.
While traditional platforms were built with raising money in mind, Facebook was built with "being social" in mind. It turns out, "social" is the fuel that drives peer-to-peer fundraising. Facebook runs on the readily available, high-test fuel of social engagement. And Facebook offers a low lift, no-transaction-fee platform stand up. Of course, the tradeoff is that you don't get much fundraiser or donor data without intervention. Today, we have to begin to accept that we will not get constituent data until the constituent wants us to have it. It is up to us to create an experience that makes the constituent want to give us their data. If we create FOMO, we'll get data.
For our purposes in this article, we ignore integrations between Facebook and traditional platforms like TeamRaiser and DonorDrive. Here we discuss what is driving the overarching threat to these traditional platforms. That threat is the use of Facebook fundraising as a primary peer-to-peer fundraising platform.
Inside Facebook fundraising, there's a lot to know, and the body of knowledge is growing every day. Yet, that accumulated body of knowledge is threatened by the great unknown. What if Facebook changes the rules (e.g. algorithms, pay model, etc.)? Never have so many people leaned on a platform so much with so little control. Control over their constituents' experiences or their own experiences.
Facebook feels a lot like Mother Nature. We are dependent on it and have no control over it. We can only build structures to try and take advantage of what Mother Nature offers. Let's talk about those structures.
Facebook fundraising support partners are addressed here in two broad categories. We include an important addendum we will call "other required players." We are categorizing using the ways the competitors have sorted themselves: The heavy use of Messenger and new code to acquire and drive fundraising versus the heavy use of groups and other functionality to acquire and drive fundraising.
Coded Tools Focused on Messenger
Coded tools are just that — expansions of functionality based on integrated technology. There are several big players in the market:
- GoodUnited: U.S. firm that was first to market four years ago.
- GivePanel: U.K. firm that came along quickly.
- Charity Dynamics: A long-time U.S. platform implementer (among other services). Charity Dynamics recently expanded from using only TeamRaiser-integrated Facebook fundraising to supporting organic Facebook fundraising
There are significant differences in each offering in terms of functionality and cost. Those differences deserve investigation to assess which one works best for your organization. Here are features, some of which they all share, some of which are unique:
- Messenger Automation (Bots) — used to encourage fundraising, for recognition, and to acquire data (email addresses primarily).
- Live interaction on the fundraiser's wall to assist in acquisition using macros for speed.
- Constituent experience improvement through recognition experience.
- Reporting upgrades from what Facebook typically provides.
- Dashboarding to allow management strategies for nonprofit staff members responsible(s) for outreach.
Reasons you might go with one or the other include:
- Staff resources in-house to support the digital effort
- Whether you are pivoting or standing up a new campaign
- What percent data acquisition you need… there are tradeoffs
- How much you can invest, regardless of how high the ROI
- The engagement level of your volunteer base
Facebook ‘Groups’ Expertise
Many digital media "experts" have exactly this — expertise in using existing functionality like groups. But some have developed their expertise and skill to the point that they have intellectual property to protect. We'll describe this expertise in broad strokes, respecting that intellectual property and applauding it. The questions below are what these experts swim in every day as they use groups, forms, Messenger, positioning and cross-platform communications planning:
- What and how are we using inherent functionality in Facebook, including the ability to fundraise?
- Who does the posting?
- Are volunteers engaged in the management of the group?
- How big a lift is this for the nonprofit staff?
- How do people sign up?
- Is there associated In-Real-Life collateral, like t-shirts?
- What kind of nonprofit and cause is most likely to get traction?
- Does the length of effort matter?
- Does the kind of activity matter?
- Should we engage in an ad buy, and if so, how much and targeted to whom?
- Can and should we use other communications channels in addition to Facebook and Messenger?
- Will we recruit offline and how?
We consider the leaders in this area:
- Get Your Stories Straight. First to market, most in-depth experience
- GoodUnited. Coming on strong and developing more tools and expertise each day
- No one else. This situation will be rectified shortly, we know, as the world turns.
The approach in each case is significantly different.
Do the entities with coded products ever collaborate with those who are using existing functionality? Yes, and to good effect. The pairing is like a bottle of sauvignon blanc and a glass with which to drink it.
You will have noticed we aren't being very specific. We avoid details here, because that might imply that you can read this article and start making decisions. Please don't. Consult an expert. Talk to your fundraising friends. Interview providers. Understand your organization's limitations and abilities. Finally, do some fundraising yourself on Facebook. Ask a friend to fundraise for your organization on Facebook. In short, get ready to make decisions instead of making decisions.
2 More Players Required on the Field
Ad Buy Expert
We've mentioned ad buys several times. While Facebook fundraising is its own special "thing," buying ads is not necessarily a part of that thing. You'll need an expert in this area to design ads and for audience targeting and execution. You may have that expert already inside your organization, or you may need help.
The partner with whom we have had the greatest success on this front is Revunami, led by Amin Tehrani. Amin is, oddly, a reluctant partner serving Facebook fundraising initiatives, and this makes him perfect for it. Amin lives and dies by supplying a very specific ROI for his work. For whatever reason, Facebook has made it impossible to connect ad buys to Facebook's fundraising performance. Perhaps next week, that will be different.
Here Amin discusses ad buys for Facebook fundraising:
"Engagement seems to drive the algorithm that presents your nonprofit as a Facebook fundraising option. My advice to clients is to create an engaging environment that makes Facebook fundraising a likely outcome of an engagement. A reflection of the success of your engagement program is that they join your group, that they start a fundraiser, and that they fundraise."
In short, Amin advocates for a healthy, stable relationship with constituents — the folks who will then join a group and/or start a fundraiser for you. We surmise that Amin cares tenderly for his wife, and she for him, the outcome of which is a healthy marriage.
Last and most important, you need a peer-to-peer expert to keep the team on track. A peer-to-peer fundraising expert understands the human side of the fundraising effort. These are the people who know, for example, that the strongest ask for a donation is from a volunteer fundraiser, not a staffer. They know how to prime a fundraiser's identity in messaging to activate him or her. They know that recognition is paramount to success. They know that appealing to someone to fundraise in exchange for something ("incentivizing" them) is the death knell of success.
This person imparts peer-to-peer wisdom to people who are intrigued by the tech, not the humans. This person (an employee or consultant) must be in a leadership role on the Facebook fundraising and group challenge project to help evaluate sentences that start with, "Wouldn't it be cool if…"
Nothing is cool if it doesn't get humans to do what we want them to do — fundraise, give data, and return.
Summary of this advanced-level reader article:
- Facebook is the most ubiquitous peer-to-peer platform in use in the U.S. today.
- Social interaction fuels Facebook fundraising.
- Recommended partners for Facebook fundraising:
- Partners with integrated tools to assist data collection and experience improvement for your nonprofit and your constituents
- Partners with necessary functionality expertise to drive fundraising
- Facebook ad buy and target audience expert
- Peer-to-peer expert
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.