How Facebook impacts fundraising (and how it doesn’t)

There’s an interesting study out: 2012 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report. It has a lot of information.

One set of findings really stands out, though. Because they highlight the challenge and opportunity that social media place before fundraisers. It’s these two adjacent key findings:


  • Average cost of a Facebook Like: $3.50
  • Average value of a Facebook Like over 12 months following acquisition: $214.81

These numbers seem to say that you can get a Facebook Like for $3.50, and that person will then return $214.81 in the following year. The study makes no claim of causality between the two findings, but pulled out of context and displayed together like that, it can sure seem like they’re connected.

If those two figures were causally connected, every nonprofit on the planet should right now cancel all types of all new donor acquisition and plow every possible penny into getting Facebook Likes. That would be the fundraising equivalent of having a license to print money.

But that’s silly. Of course it’s not at all how it appears. And the survey respondents don’t seem to have the illusion, as the majority have sober attitudes about the potential for social media fundraising.

Here’s how to think about what’s going on there: Some, maybe most, of those likes are already donors. Their Like is not their first contact with the organization, but part of what you might call their “engagement portfolio” — ways they interact with the organization.

The questions we should ask are these:


  • Does giving increase after a current donor becomes a Facebook follower? (It’s entirely believable that it might.)
  • Does donor retention improve among those who Like?
  • Is the increase in value, if any, enough to make the $3.50 cost a good investment? (It wouldn’t take much — an increase of just $7 would mean getting Facebook Likes return 2:1 on the margin.)
  • What types of Facebook engagement creates the best return? (Surely, like every other communications medium, you can do it well or poorly, and doing it poorly is a lot easier.)

A survey can’t answer these questions. And most likely, not all donorfiles act the same. You have to take a close look at your own data.

You may find social media are a high-impact donor engagement tool that more than pays for itself. You may find it’s a worthless time and money black hole. But it looks to me like it’s not something to ignore.

Download the report here (PDF; registration required).


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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