Facebook is hardly a new platform for nonprofit organizations to interact with supporters. At this point, your organization has probably already created a Facebook page, amassed a decent number of supporters following that page, and perhaps even used Facebook Ads to expand the reach of your social media-based fundraising efforts— such as running ads to promote any upcoming virtual fundraising events or peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.

At one point, the discussion around using Facebook revolved around how to build an audience on the platform and then direct that audience to another digital location such as your online donation page. You may have read about how to translate a Facebook following into in-person volunteers or even email subscribers.

For 2021 and beyond, we’re now seeing the focus shift. Rather than moving Facebook supporters to a different channel, the goal is to grow relationships with them from within the platform itself. This trend first emerged in 2015, starting with general fundraisers and later, Facebook Birthday Fundraisers. According to GoodUnited, these fundraisers have since raised billions for nonprofit organizations.

In this post, we’re going to discuss the following three ways that you can inspire and grow your relationships with supporters without ever leaving the Facebook platform:

  • Flexible Fundraising Events on Facebook
  • Facebook Messenger as an Acquisition Tool
  • Heavier Reliance on Facebook Groups

Then, we’ll wrap up with three tips to help your organization make the most of the trends. Let’s dive in.

Flexible Fundraising Events on Facebook

If your organization relied heavily on peer-to-peer events prior to the COVID-19 pandemic— think: major walk-a-thons, nationwide 5k races— then you’re probably in a unique position right now. While you found a way to pivot to virtual in 2020, the events you hosted probably left something to be desired in the donor stewardship department.

Heading into 2021, we’re seeing some hope on the horizon for a return to in-person events in the distant future. But, we still don’t know what a post-COVID world will look like for events-based fundraising. Will you stay virtual, even though these events may not raise as much as you’d hope? Will you plan a return to in-person events, though your supporters may not feel safe doing so just yet? Will you take a hybrid approach to combine the two?

This is where Facebook’s fundraising tools step in as a way to quickly execute new events, engage new online constituents, and secure revenue as you finalize your events fundraising strategy for 2021 and beyond.

In this guide to virtual fundraising, we discuss a variety of events that your team can execute directly on Facebook with little hassle such as:

  • Facebook challenges, such as a “Meatless Monday” challenge in which supporters eat vegetarian one day a week for a month, and raise funds in support of their efforts.
  • Facebook Live fundraising events, such as a livestreamed tour of your facilities with live calls to donate.
  • A virtual walk-a-thon, in which supporters pledge to walk a certain distance each day and raise funds using a Facebook fundraiser while doing so.

Because the majority of people use Facebook in their personal lives, there’s a low learning curve when it comes to starting fundraisers, promoting them, and raising funds. Plus, by keeping the event on Facebook, you also benefit from expanded reach (to all of your participant’s “friends”), cost- efficiency (little to no cost for your team), and increased accessibility (any Facebook user, from any time, at any place).

These events can generate revenue for your team with little effort. Of course, after you generate that revenue, you want to build relationships with the users that start these fundraisers for the long haul. That’s where Facebook Messenger comes into play.

Facebook Messenger as an Acquisition Channel

Did you know that Facebook Messenger can serve as a powerful donor acquisition and retention tool to capture donors’ attention and keep them around for the long run?

Conversational messaging in-platform (directly through Messenger), has up to 10x higher open and engagement rates, 40x higher event participation rate, and 40x higher advocate response when compared to communications sent via email.

Facebook Messenger empowers organizations like yours to:

  • Share information about your organization. This includes links to educational resources, volunteer opportunities, and other fundraising opportunities on Facebook and beyond. This is especially true when it comes to using Messenger to connect with first-time Facebook supporters and creating a lasting impression.
  • Amplify existing programming. For example, if you’re hosting one of the aforementioned virtual fundraisers on Facebook, you can tell supporters about it through Messenger and invite them to join in the fun.
  • Help supporters be more successful with their fundraisers. If you connect with supporters while they’re hosting a Facebook fundraiser, whether a one-off birthday fundraiser or even a larger P2P event, you can share tips and tricks to fundraise effectively and avoid zero-dollar fundraisers.
  • Collect new information about your social supporters. Through Messenger, you can ask questions to ascertain key information such as how to contact the supporter, how they prefer to engage in the future, and what drew them to your mission. Then, you can collect and store this data in your donor database and use it to improve your efforts going forward.

Messenger is a revolutionary way to grow relationships with Facebook supporters one-on-one. But, how do you get supporters of your organization to opt in to communicate on Messenger?

One way is to connect with supporters directly on the Facebook fundraisers they’ve created. So, you’d navigate to your nonprofit’s Facebook page, view the Fundraisers section, sort by those most recently created, and comment a thank-you. With this thank-you, you would then invite them to opt in to communicate via Messenger.

However, this isn’t the only way to get supporters to opt-in to Messenger. Facebook Groups can also be instrumental in doing this (and maximizing your Facebook presence overall). Continue reading to learn more.

Heavier Reliance on Facebook Groups

In recent years, Facebook Groups have taken priority over individuals in Facebook’s algorithm. Essentially, supporters are more likely to see posts made within a group they’ve joined, than those of the individual friends they’re connected with. For your nonprofit, that means it’s a good idea to rely more heavily on Facebook Groups in your social media strategy in the new year.

Knowing this up front, how can you use Facebook Groups to elevate your social media strategy? We’ve compiled a couple of ideas:

  • Virtual events. You can host entire virtual fundraising events via Facebook, including livestreaming and in-group donations. And, if you’re hosting a hybrid event that requires supporters to sign a waiver to participate (think: a walk-a-thon, 5k, etc.), you can simply share a digital waiver via your virtual event group. According to Fundly, online waivers are just as legitimate as those on paper!
  • Supporter groups. For example, you can create a group for volunteers, new supporters, and even well-connected ambassadors. You can tailor the content shared within these groups to best suit their interests, and continue engaging with your top social media supporters year-round.

And then, within the groups, you can make posts inviting supporters to connect with you via Messenger and continue engaging in-channel. It all comes full circle! But, how do you get supporters to join your organization’s Facebook groups, to begin with?

You could do this manually, as in, when a supporter donates or signs up to volunteer, you send them an invite to join the group on Facebook. Or, you could use Facebook Ads to expand the reach of your groups, using targeted advertisements to invite known supporters of your organization to join the group of most interest to them.

Wrapping Up

Nonprofit use of Facebook has come a long way since the landmark Ice Bucket Challenge back in 2014. Now, rather than sending supporters off of the platform and into a website donation page, the goal is to raise your relationships with supporters directly on the platform.

We’ve covered the new ways nonprofits can use Facebook in 2021. So, what can your organization do to make the most of these trends? There are a few steps you can take today to set your organization up for success as fundraising on Facebook evolves:

  1. Examine your upcoming fundraising calendar. Look for ways to incorporate Facebook, whether hosting quick fundraising events, incorporating one-on-one conversations via Messenger, or creating specialized groups to connect throughout the year.
  2. Create educational resources about Facebook. Increase your internal team’s Facebook literacy as well as your supporters’. For example, answer key questions about getting involved (“How do donors receive donation tax receipts from Facebook?” “How do donations end up with the nonprofit?” “How can we spread the word?”) so supporters can get involved easily.

And finally, our final tip is to work with a Facebook fundraising managed services provider.

Connecting with a large group of supporters in groups and via Messenger can be a heavy administrative lift, especially if your organization already has a large Facebook presence. There are now providers that can help you understand your supporters, inspire them to continue engaging with you, and grow your relationships over time through custom, automated messaging sequences. This allows you to connect and build intimacy with Facebook supporters at scale. Good luck!

About Author

Nick Black

Nick is the Founder and CEO of GoodUnited, a venture-backed Software as a Service (SaaS) startup that helps nonprofits like Wounded Warrior Project, American Cancer Society, World Wildlife Fund create 1:1 relationships with their donors through the combination of data science and human judgment delivered in conversational messaging platforms. Nick’s work with GoodUnited resulted in being named The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s 2017 Distinguished Young Alumnus.

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