Charities need to understand Facebook if they want to raise money on it

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:

One of the key presentations at the current International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands covered the failure of Facebook as afundraising platform.

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.

John Brunsdon is director of charity marketing specialists Tickbox Marketing and blogs at Charity Marketing Blog 

SOURCE: The Guardian, 21st October, 2011. 


8 thoughts on “Charities need to understand Facebook if they want to raise money on it

  1. Hmmm, I think that’s a lazy interpreatation of what was being said last week at IFC. The point that was being made that charities shouldn’t, and mostly don’t, see facebook as a fundraising platform, and there are many excellent examples of charities incorporating social media into their integrated multichannel communications (see the Danish Cancer Society for example). To be fair, there are also plenty of examples of those that don’t. John Brundson also chooses to ignore that the IFC have an entirely online conference in May which is exactly the type of forum he maintains doesn’t exist.

  2. Good to get an insight from someone who was there. As I said, I think looking to raise money there isnt the right metric. Having said that, charities should be developing apps that allow people donate on their facebook page.

    I think his point about collaboration is that together charities could create some incredible online tools? Maybe Im wrong on that one

  3. Agree with Conor that charities might be asking the wrong question… Part of the problem is that people need to see social media in as complex light as all other forms of marketing.

    I argued earlier in the year that social media isn’t always activism in its own right, but an invitation to activism (

    Charities need to consider social media in the round alongside other forms of communications – and as vital, but just a step in, the customer journey.

  4. Fair enough, but just am not aware of charities that are asking that question. And there are plenty of donation apps for facebook – causes, paypal etc. Effective use of facebook is a different matter entirely.

  5. I think I did pretty well with it when I set up the Irish Autism Action Account. Not so much direct fundraising but bringing attention to anyone who was fundraising for us, spreading the news about competitions where the charity might win a few bob and engaging the members to support their charity. These days I prefer Twitters and such….

  6. Lisa, I think you had a good approach…engage but not direct fundraising. I would like to see more charities allow people to donate through their facebook page though.

  7. I agree, and thanks for bringing awareness to this.
    Many charities can benefit from Facebook and various other social media outlets. It’s a huge market to make your charity known and pertinently become viral. I’ve donated to many charities, including my latest Donor advised funds at .
    However No matter what the charity is, understanding the market place you are utilizing is essential to succeed.

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