Scrolling on phones, reading the news, referencing the latest trends— social media is ingrained in popular culture across the generations.

We’d guess that your nonprofit isn’t using the platforms and their fundraising tools to the fullest extent to engage supporters. Few are! The truth is that social fundraising has come a long way from the standard “Donate” button featured on profiles and Facebook fundraisers.

Throughout this article, we’re going to cover the ins and outs of using an innovative new strategy, Facebook Challenges, to engage supporters through the following points:

The best way to learn is by observing the nonprofits on the frontlines of innovation. Whether it was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge years ago, or Facebook Challenges as we’ll discuss in this guide, your peer nonprofits are the best resources to continue driving your social fundraising efforts forward. Therefore, we’ll also discuss how Susan G. Komen used Challenges in their 2021 fundraising strategy and the results of that effort.

Let’s get started with an introduction to the fundraising method.

Introduction to Facebook Challenges

Facebook Challenges are time-bound virtual peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns that take place entirely through the social network.

During a Challenge, participants are tasked with completing some sort of activity while they raise peer-to-peer funds for your nonprofit. All participants are added to a corresponding Facebook group to connect with one another and raise funds using individual Facebook fundraisers started on behalf of your organization.

There are a variety of benefits that accompany Facebook Challenges, including, but not limited to:

  • These campaigns are straightforward to plan and host, as your nonprofit likely already has access to all of the tools needed to host the event (Facebook) unlike other more involved virtual fundraising events.
  • They offer a low barrier to entry for your supporters, many of whom have existing Facebook accounts and are familiar with the platform.
  • Facebook Challenges can be repeated throughout the year, whether you want to host multiple events for your entire audience or regional events to target certain segments of your supporter base.
  • Challenges cultivate a digital community of supporters, who can then connect with, encourage, and learn from one another.

And lastly, but certainly not least, Challenges are an additive fundraising method. We’ve seen that nearly 90% of participants are new to the nonprofit or cause. This means that you’re connecting with a new audience and not diverting the attention of your existing supporters away from your other fundraising efforts.

How to Host a Challenge

Are you thinking that Facebook Challenges would be a good addition to your nonprofit’s fundraising lineup? Here’s how you can host a Challenge for your nonprofit step-by-step:

1. Define the parameters of your event.

This includes choosing the date of your event and the duration for which it will run. Remember that these events are additive— so, you can host them concurrently with your other fundraising initiatives.

Further, choose the Challenge task that participants will complete. This could be a physical task (walking, running, etc.), a mental task (meditating, reading, journaling, etc.), or even a service-based task like volunteering. Check out this comprehensive list of P2P fundraising ideas to begin brainstorming.

Lastly, set goals for the event including the goal fundraising amount and the anticipated number of participants.

For example, Susan G. Komen hosted its first Facebook Challenge in February 2021. During the month-long Challenge, participants were tasked with an exercise-based activity (burpees) while they raised funds on behalf of Komen.

2. Create the tech infrastructure.

Next up, you’ll head to Facebook to create your Challenge group and corresponding Facebook Ads campaign.

When you create your Facebook group, choose eye-catching, branded cover and profile photos so participants will trust that the group is associated with your campaign. Also, write a description that discusses what the Challenge is, how it will generally progress, and what you’re raising funds for. This group is what could turn first-time participants into passionate supporters of your cause, so take time to ensure it’s configured in a way that creates a positive first impression of your nonprofit.

From there, you’ll use a paid Facebook Ads campaign to spread the word about your fundraiser. With the ads, you’ll direct participants to sign up for the Challenge and join the corresponding Facebook group. When defining the targeting parameters of your ad campaign, target both known supporters of your nonprofit (like those who already interact with your organization) and individuals who you haven’t interacted with yet, but are likely to be interested in your cause (such as lookalike audiences with similar characteristics as your current supporters).

3. Invite participants to join the Challenge.

Using your ad campaign, invite users far and wide to join the Challenge. At this point, you may choose to share educational resources to help participants make the most of the Challenge— whether workout tips, mission-related facts, or fundraising tips.

4. Engage with participants throughout the event.

Once participants join and your Challenge begins, that doesn’t mean that your nonprofit’s involvement is complete!

Continue engaging with participants throughout the Challenge to ensure it’s a fulfilling and memorable experience for all. This includes sharing discussion prompts, encouragement, and updates in the Facebook group as well as connecting with participants one-on-one on Messenger to discuss their personal connection to your cause.

This is what happened when Susan G. Komen used these steps to host its first month-long Facebook Challenge:

  • It more than doubled its goal of 6k participants, with 13k participants signing up to join. Of these, approximately 10k were new supporters of the nonprofit.
  • It raised double the donations than originally expected.

This was a way to build a meaningful Community in the digital world among people touched by a cause or a diagnosis, during a time when we were living apart and unable to connect in-person,” said Michelle Strong, Vice President of Marketing Strategy at Susan G. Komen. To learn more about Komen’s experience, explore the full case study on the GoodUnited website.

Next Steps for After the Event

After your Challenge ends, there are a few ways you can maximize your engagement with the new supporters you connected with during the campaign.

For example, you can keep the group itself open, whether to hold future Challenges or to allow the existing community to continue engaging with one another. Further, you can continue communicating with participants who connected with your nonprofit via Messenger throughout the year, to continue building those one-on-one connections. You can also add the new supporters and their contact information to your constituent relationship management (CRM) system to connect with them again down the line.

Lastly, you can continue hosting more Challenges throughout the year. Consider hosting Challenges for certain segments of your supporter base, such as events hosted for supporters in different geographic regions. Keeping the momentum of Facebook Challenges going is one way to set your fundraising calendar up for success.

If you’ve read this far, you may be eager to begin using Challenges, but hesitant about how the process will work. After all, your team may already be strapped for time and other resources, and not have the capacity to manage a Challenge and engage with participants on a one-on-one level.

Don’t fret! There are now social fundraising solutions providers that can help you along the way. For example, a provider can assist with creating your initial Challenge strategy, managing your Facebook Ads campaigns, and engaging with participants within the group itself. From there, they can develop custom automated messaging sequences to carry out one-on-one communications with Challenge participants long after the campaigns end.

If you’re considering incorporating Challenges into your strategy, there are surefire strategies to make it happen. Good luck!

About the Author

Josh Hirsch

Josh Hirsch is the Social Content Marketing Manager for Susan G. Komen. He has worked in the nonprofit sector since 2006 with a focus on educational philanthropy for both public charter and independent private schools. He has an extensive background in social media, digital communications, and marketing along with experience in grant research and writing, individual giving, special event planning, stewardship, and cultivation of donors. He is the Membership Chair for the Association of Fundraising Professionals First Coast Chapter and Past-President of the Palm Beach County Chapter. Josh is also a member of the AFPeeps, the social media vanguard for the AFP International Conference and other AFP initiatives. He has spoken nationally on digital communications and has had numerous articles published in professional journals. Josh received a Master of Science in Family, Youth and Community Sciences and a Bachelor of Science in Advertising from the University of Florida. He has a Certificate in Strategic Fundraising and Philanthropy from Bay Path University and is a Certified Social Media Strategist by the National Institute for Social Media.

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