The recent analysis of giving through Facebook Causes by The Washington Post was not encouraging. It found that only a fraction of the 179,000 nonprofits that signed up for the Causes application have brought in even $1000, and only two have brought in over $100,000. A recent survey published by NTEN, Common Knowledge, and ThePort had a similar conclusion: Only 39 percent of respondents said they’ve raised money on Facebook. 29 percent said they had raised $500 or less there during the previous year, and only 1.2 percent said they had raised over $10,000. Things haven’t improved much since Care2 published their 2007 analysis, The Long, Long Tail of Facebook Causes.
But maybe we’re rushing to judgment. It took years for email to become a viable fundraising channel. And maybe the people most likely to sign up for a Facebook Cause are too young to give large gifts.
On the other hand, many people feel that social media don’t lend themselves to fundraising. Engagement, awareness, and advocacy, yes, but not fundraising. What’s wrong with that? Plenty, if you’re expecting big bucks. Especially if you’re investing tons of staff time that could be focused elsewhere. But maybe those expectations are simply unrealistic (at least today).
I think it’s worth investing judicious amounts of staff time in social media as long as it’s seen as a long-term investment. If social media fundraising follows the trend set by email appeals, those organizations that figure it out will be way ahead of the game. But if I had to choose between investing scare resources in my website, email strategy, or Facebook, I’d focus most of my time and money on the first two.