How Facebook (and Social Media in General) Shifted Fundraising Strategies

Recent research finds that giving days on sites like Facebook are shifting nonprofit fundraising strategies. But while social media keeps small nonprofits in the game, larger ones still have an advantage.

A lot has changed for nonprofits in the past few decades, but perhaps there’s no change bigger than Facebook.

It’s not just an engagement tool for many nonprofits—it’s also a lifeline for receiving access to new donations. And according to new research, it’s leading to a fundamental rethinking of the role of technology in raising money.

That’s the key point underlined in “Success in an Online Giving Day: The Role of Social Media in Fundraising,” an academic paper recently published in ‌Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly [paywall]. Basing their research on 704 nonprofits that took part in a 2015 Giving Day in Omaha, Nebraska, the paper’s authors, Abhishek Bhati of Bowling Green State University and Diarmuid McDonnell of the University of Birmingham in the UK, found that digital platforms profoundly affect an organization’s fundraising.

In an article for The Conversation summarizing the findings of the research, the authors noted that social reach appears to have an obvious impact on an organization’s ability to fundraise online.

“For instance, we observed that a 10 percent increase in the number of likes on an organization’s’ Facebook page is associated with a 1 percent increase in the number of donations it gets,” the authors wrote in their post. “Similarly, we saw that a 10 percent increase in the number of Facebook posts a nonprofit made in the year before the Omaha Gives day in 2015 was associated with it raising 2.6 percent more money during that campaign.”

However, the research found that some expected truisms of social media—primarily, that it’s a great way for small nonprofits to punch above their weight—don’t necessarily play out in the real world.

While access to social media makes it easier for small nonprofits (those with budgets below $250,000) to reach larger audiences that they might not be able to with mediums such as television and print, larger nonprofits (with budgets above $1 million) tend to raise three times the money of smaller nonprofits—mainly because their audiences tend to be three times the size. The reason, simply put, is that those big budgets still come in handy for reaching audiences online.

“We believe that because large organizations have larger budgets, they can afford to do a better job with their online fundraising campaigns and do more social media outreach,” the authors wrote in The Conversation.

With trends like Giving Tuesday helping to drive how people donate—and Facebook driving much of that donation—it’s a trend that is likely to pick up in the coming years.

(aydinynr/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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