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The Pros and Cons of the “Donate Now” button on Facebook

Facebook recently announced that all non-profit organizations will have the ability to place a “Donate Now” button on their organization’s Facebook page. With all of the attention devoted to the use of social media in fundraising, this is seen by some as a great new enhancement. Is it? Well, that depends.

Pros

  • There’s no real downside, and no cost, to include it and it is very easy to set up.
  • It will likely be most beneficial as a result of peer-to-peer fundraising efforts. One of your donors will mention the organization on Facebook or some other social media site, their followers will click through and end up on your organization’s Facebook page, and having a call to action immediately available may result in additional donations.
  • Since the button will redirect the user to a donation page of your choosing, you have control over the donation process and full awareness of who has donated to you. A pilot program launched in late 2013 processed the entire donation within Facebook; the nonprofits involved had no ability to influence the steps involved in making a donation or even learn the identities of the donors, so the current version is definitely an improvement.

Cons

  • While social media has certainly played an important role in increasing the public’s awareness of various causes, has led to increased activism (or “slacktivism”, depending on your point of view), and is definitely helpful in getting the word out about the specific efforts of non-profit organizations, it still is not clear how much it actually drives online donations. Only one of the pilot organizations from 2013 announced how much money they raised, and it wasn’t much. If it had been a huge success, we likely would have heard more about it, and Facebook probably would have launched this effort sooner. And, most importantly, it’s been well-established in a number of studies that direct mail and email campaigns still generate far greater online giving results than social media, not to mention events, phonathons, personal solicitations, etc.
  • Since the button simply redirects people to your existing donation page, you’re almost certainly better off focusing your solicitation efforts towards directing donors to your website or donation page, not your Facebook page. Remember, it’s an extra click to go from Facebook to your donation page and every extra click likely results in some potential donors bailing out of the process. So, the button may only be useful in limited cases where prospective donors end up on your Facebook page for reasons that have nothing to do with your nonprofit marketing plan and regular solicitation efforts, such as the peer-to-peer example I cited earlier.
  • The extra click I mentioned above? Well, it’s actually two clicks, as the donor needs to click past a warning message that Facebook does not endorse the nonprofit, which may also dissuade some donors from continuing.

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  • More than one skeptic has noted that this may simply be an effort by Facebook to sell more ads to nonprofits. While I’ll give Facebook the benefit of the doubt here, it is telling that one of the first things you’ll see after activating the button is a sales pitch to promote it via a Facebook ad.

So, should you add this button to your Facebook page? Considering the first point I made at the top is that there’s no downside to doing so, why not? It only takes a minute or two and you might raise a few extra dollars. But, make sure that you don’t divert your focus from what really drives your fundraising results. This new button is unlikely to supplant your tried-and-true methods any time soon.

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