Effective Fundraising with Facebook Causes

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 06/18/2009 - 8:33am

Susan Gordon, Causes

Facebook provides an unprecedented opportunity for nonprofits: 200 million monthly active users, about half of whom are signing in and communicating with their friends on a daily basis, is an organizer's dream.

We developed Causes because we know what it takes to be an activist and we know how much social networking can revolutionize grassroots organizing. Our mission is to empower individuals to mobilize their friends for collective action, who then spread the word to their friends, and eventually create movements that span local communities and even the globe. Since we launched in May 2007, 60 million people have started using Causes and over 250,000 causes have been created about every topic from halting global warming to supporting arts education.

One of our favorite stories came about because Michelle Miles didn't have time to volunteer at her local hospital, the Arkansas Children's Hospital, due to her busy school and work schedule. So, Michelle started a cause. Then, she grew her cause, The Race to End Cancer, to 5.4 million people who now write on the wall about their experiences with cancer, donate money to the Arkansas Children's Hospital, and post pictures on the cause.

In addition to individual activists, nonprofits themselves have also started causes to build communities of supporters around the issues they work on. The Love Without Boundaries Foundation created a cause despite being small, entirely new to Facebook, and having no paid staff. They have raised over $150,000 to provide medical care for Chinese orphans and even have 10 babies they call the "Facebook babies" because their surgeries were made possible by donations through the cause.

If you don't have a presence on Causes yet, there are two things you need to do.

  • First, sign-up as a nonprofit partner by going to www.causes.com/partners/new. This will give you tools we've built just for nonprofits including a dashboard where you can track causes, track donations, and download donor contact information.
  • Second, start a cause by clicking "Start a Cause" under "Find Causes" when you're in the Causes application.

If someone has already started a cause benefiting your organization, get in touch with them and build a relationship. Maybe they will add you as an administrator so you can work on the cause together or maybe they're already doing a great job and you can help them in their efforts in other ways. Having multiple causes will only broaden the reach of your organization on Facebook. Be sure to encourage supporters to start causes to benefit you or try starting a few causes and experimenting with what works and what doesn't for you organization.

There is no sure-fire formula for cause success, but we do know some things that can make the difference between starting a cause and starting a great cause.

Of primary importance is what you name your cause. Would you rather join a cause after seeing "Bob Smith just joined the cause Kids TimeĀ©" or after seeing "Bob Smith just joined the cause Stand Up Against Child Abuse"? We think the second one too. So, don't just use your nonprofit's name -- create an active, compelling, concise title that your members can rally around.

Also, when choosing your picture, think bigger than your logo. Do you have a picture of individuals volunteering, or of the people that you serve? People who don't know of your organization should look at that picture and say "Yes, that's a cause I want to join."

Can nonprofits fundraise effectively using Causes? There has been a lot of talk around this topic lately. First, we should note that nearly half of the causes on our platform have not enabled donation processing and are instead created purely to form community and raise-awareness about a specific issue. That said, causes that do actively fundraise on Causes have many tools to choose from, including a fundraising goal feature that allows you to create a thermometer, countdown, and recognition of donors, a matching donation feature where anyone can offer to donate a specific amount of money if the cause reaches a donation or membership goal, and a Birthday Wish feature, that allows users to donate their birthday to the cause.

Our top fundraising cause is the Nature Conservancy who has raised $262,984 to date, and we've seen another 15 nonprofits raise over $50,000 so far. Across the platform, users have donated over $9 million in 24 months and our daily donation total is up 10x over the past 12 months.

We're not promising a magic bullet for fundraising; if you start a cause, do not expect checks to start pouring through the front door with no effort. But we have developed some excellent tools that, when combined with your knowledge of fundraising and messaging, can bring in donations from new donors who you have never before reached. Moreover, remember that your supporters have more ways to contribute than with their pocketbook -- they can participate in recruiting, spreading awareness, leading dialogue, signing petitions and fundraising from others.

With the basics under your belt, you should start thinking about strategies for fundraising, recruiting, starting, and circulating a great petition, creating contests, and sustaining meaningful discussion on your cause. Because each nonprofit is different and has different goals and emphases, you should check out the new resource center and blog, packed with that information and more. Go to http://exchange.causes.com and click on our Nonprofit Resource Page. After considering the tools and resources available, if you'd like to launch a campaign or would like help taking your cause to the next level, we'd love to hear from you at partner@causes.com.

One final note: If you have a birthday coming up, consider using our new feature, Birthday Wish, to raise money for your favorite cause by asking your friends to donate as your birthday present. Go to http://apps.facebook.com/causes/birthdays/new to get started.

Nonprofits have the opportunity to encourage their supporters to create Birthday Wishes as well. Just send that link out through email, announcements to your cause members, and include it in your email signature. The average active birthday wish is now raising about $100 and our users have reported countless positive experiences using their birthdays to change the world. Imagine if you could convince 100, 1,000, or even 10,000 people to donate their birthday to your cause!

Stay tuned to our blog for the most updated information on our new features and don't hesitate to get in touch with us at partner@causes.com. Thank you for using Causes!