Charities always ask: Will we make money on Facebook? I always think that is the wrong question to ask to be honest. In this piece from the guardian last week, John Brundson suggests that charities aren’t quite getting social media. Well worth a read:
The study by software services firm Blackbaud shows that only 0.4% of US charities have raised more than $100,000 on Facebook, and highlighted that “there are very few fundraising success stories on Facebook”.
Among the reasons given were that Facebook does not have an inbuilt donation platform. And herein lies the problem – not that there is not an “inbuilt” platform, but that charities just don’t understand what Facebook is.
Nothing of any real use is actually “inbuilt” on Facebook. Facebook exists as a platform to deliver applications and functionality largely built by third parties. If there isn’t an effective fundraising application on Facebook it’s the charities’ fault for not making one happen, not Facebook’s fault for providing a platform not designed by default for fundraising.
However, there are donation applications for Facebook – JustGiving has one. The fact that Facebook isn’t working for charities and that speakers at a major international fundraising conference don’t even know about existing fundraising applications point to the same issue – charities aren’t succeeding with social media because they aren’t engaging fully with the social element.
Where is the platform for shared research and development for online charity resources? Where is the online lobby to get social platforms to create fundraising applications, or to demonstrate the demand for them from third-party developers? Where is the think-tank to share experiences, knowledge and information?
Do fundraisers really have to get together once a year in the Netherlands to share experiences, or should they be doing this online every day?
One of the most powerful impacts of social media is the ability for groups of people who share similar aims to come together and make things happen collectively that couldn’t be brought about individually.
Charities seem to get this when it comes to engagement with their causes, but they don’t get it when it comes to working together to transform the way they use technology.
Innovation and collaboration are intrinsically linked – inventor Thomas Edison got this when he created his “invention factory” at Menlo Park – throwing together great minds in different disciplines to create a collective intelligence much greater than the sum of its parts. Social media lets this happen on a global scale.
If Facebook isn’t working for fundraising then it’s up to us to make it work that way. To do that, we need to start sharing thoughts and experiences and learning from each other.
The time is right for a Menlo Park of fundraising that creates new ways of engaging with donors and shares best practice and innovation to help fundraisers understand that the power of social media is limited only by our imagination, not by the platforms on which it takes place.