FUNDRAISING SUPPLEMENT How fundraisers can use Facebook to reach more people and make money.

By Taslim Somani


There are over 19 million Canadians on Facebook; 14 million of them log in once a day and 10 million Canadians access Facebook on their mobile devices every day. 

Facebook celebrated its 10th birthday this year and in the past 10 years we’ve all been witness to a sea of change in how we communicate with each other and what we say.  Our daily lives are recorded on social media and it’s the channel of choice when it comes to engaging with the brands, media and causes we’re passionate about.

There are over 19 million Canadians on Facebook; 14 million of them log in once a day and 10 million Canadians access Facebook on their mobile devices every day.  Mobile has been a huge boon for Facebook users and the company alike.  Facebook Canada reports that mobile Facebook users log in up to 20 times per day.

With such huge audiences on Facebook so regularly, how are Canadian nonprofits responding?  What are you saying?  How big is your reach?  Are Facebook likes translating into fundraising dollars for your organization?  Here are some tips to build on what you have, reach more people and make money.  And, yes, Facebook can be used successfully for fundraising.  Read on.

Post visual content.

Visual content is ruling the web. Our brains process visual information much more readily than text-based content and we remember it better too.  Photos and videos are great ways to get your organization’s messages across.  But let’s not forget entertainment value.  Facebook users are always seeking a ‘surprise and delight’ moment.  Strive to create content that not only makes your audience think, but laugh and cry and be amazed and then share with their own networks.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or highly produced, but it does require thought and resources to deliver.  Visual content is a great way to build your audience and the bigger your audience, the bigger your return when it comes to asking for a gift.

Allocate proper resources to manage your Facebook page.

Off the side of an intern’s or junior staff member’s desk is not the solution to resourcing your Facebook page and other social media channels for that matter.  I hear variations on this theme all too often: ‘we have this brilliant, energetic summer student in our office and she’s our Facebook saviour’. No offense to summer students – I was one too at one time – but really?  Your Facebook page, like your website, is a public face of your organization.  Does it reflect your brand, your cause and the work you do to help make the world a better place?  Does your Facebook page represent who you are to prospective supporters and donors in a compelling way?  Think about this and then think about how you resource your social media communications.  Yes there’s cost involved, but there’s also a strong case for maintaining the integrity of your organization’s brand and raising more money.

Get expert help

Agencies and consultants are your friends when it comes to creating a strategy and tactical plan for your Facebook page.  They live and breathe this stuff every day, and can help set you on the right track. Sometimes we think we can do it all, especially if we use social media regularly.  But, in my experience working with dozens of Canadian charities, the strategy is often missing, and as a result, the implementation and follow-through isn’t consistent.  An expert social media consultant is a marketing professional at heart, and will incorporate your organization’s objectives and your brand values into an overall strategy with key performance indicators, key messages, engagement opportunities, growth strategies and a tactical plan including a social media calendar, that will help guide the day-to-day execution by your Facebook community manager.

Learn from others

I’ve been following Boston Children’s Hospital on Facebook for years now and I’ve referred to them as a stand up example for years too.  I have yet to see a better example of relevant conversation between organization and audience than on their Facebook page They are timely, relevant, interesting and entertaining.  They talk about what’s current from a calendar perspective e.g. back to school or baseball season, they give voice to parents of kids who are patients at the hospital, and they manage to talk about themselves in a cool way, by posting insider footage and stories from physicians at the hospital.  Ultimately, Facebook must be seen as a give-and-take and is about providing value to your audience.  Follow the best on Facebook and learn from them.

Get email addresses

Email is the workhorse of digital fundraising.  Without a sizeable and clean list of email addresses, fundraising online effectively is nearly impossible.  Try out a variety of tactics to get email addresses from your Facebook audience.  Include an email sign-up page on your Facebook channel.  Invite your audience to sign-up for a newsletter.  Or, create a special event or offer only for Facebook fans.  Be sure that when you collect email addresses, you get the appropriate opt-in permissions record in your database that they’ve come from Facebook so you can tailor your email communications to them moving forward.

Your Facebook audience will give

It has been said that Facebook isn’t for fundraising.  But I disagree!  Fundraising on Facebook is possible.  Three fundraising scenarios work best, and yes, I’m divulging the secret.

  1. Peer-to-peer fundraising, whether for an actual event or for 3rd party events, can help you raise more money than you thought possible.  Participants who use a Facebook app for fundraising will raise more money than those who don’t because they’re tapping into a wider network of their friends and family.  And, if they incorporate mobile into the mix, they’ll raise even more money.
  2. Some donations processing companies provide off-the-shelf solutions for Facebook fundraising apps.  Include the apps whenever you have a fundraising event going on at your organization, and promote the heck out of it.  Giving Tuesday is December 2 this year and it’s a day when there is much media attention around giving.  If last year was any indication, social media will be all over Giving Tuesday again this year.  Create a plan leading up to Giving Tuesday.  Include a donation page on your Facebook channel, have a plan for stories and posts to encourage giving, and resource it effectively so you can publicly thank your donors on that day.
  3. Leveraging the news can also be a way to fundraise on Facebook.  When Robin Williams tragically died as a result of his suffering from depression and the beginning stages of Parkinson’s, the world wanted an outlet to show how much he meant.  Giving your Facebook audience the opportunity to show they care by offering the option to donate can show them you also care about what they care about.

At the end of the day, managing your Facebook and other social media channels takes work.  It’s about strategy and effective execution.  There is much opportunity to build engaged, loyal audiences and supporters for your cause, and that’s the foundation you need to convert fans into donors.

Taslim Somani, Vice-President, Digital and Marketing Strategy at Stephen Thomas Ltd has worked in the digital space since the first Internet boom!  She is a member of the CMA’s Digital Council, is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and contributes to industry publications.  She has worked with dozens of charities on digital and integrated fundraising and marketing campaigns and would love to work with you.



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