Welcome to the very first installment of Trend Tuesdays, where the Schipulites will bring you weekly trends in the web at-large! To kick off this shindig right, let’s talk about something that doesn’t often get a lot coverage in Internetland: charitable donations.
During a recent jaunt to the hilly and chilly city by the bay, I had the honor of attending the NTEN Non-Profit Technology Conference. I learned more than I’d ever imagined about what makes non-profits tick, what makes non-profits boil, and what makes non-profits happy.
Of course, there are plenty of things that trip a non-profit’s trigger. Widespread public support, mass exposure for a cause, endless supplies of volunteers, databases full of donors, trays full of cupcakes. Okay, I inferred that last one.
But let’s be honest. What do non-profits really want? They want funding, Sherlock! They want donations! They want to have the requisite money to carry out their amazing missions with abandon!
One of the discussion points that threaded through almost every presentation or topic at NTC was fundraising, and getting those dolla dolla bills for your non-profit, y’all. Surprised that social media wasn’t the topic du jour? Sure, the social media ticket is trendy in the corporate and marketing worlds, but for non-profits? Social media only cuts the mustard when it can deliver resources. And I came to discover that a key element to using social media as a fundraising tool is Facebook Causes.
Now, most all of us are already quite familiar with the viral power of Facebook (and if not, let me assist you in emerging from under that rock where you’ve been living). You can consider the Causes application as the Facebook non-profit niche.
Causes is the world’s largest online platform for social and political activism, but with chutzpah. Boasting over 15 million active monthly users (heck yeah, you read that right!), and 50 million users in total, Causes empowers both organizations and individuals to mobilize their social networks. Every single Facebook user has the tools to create a Cause for an issue or campaign, recruit others to join, spread awareness, and raise money for a non-profit beneficiary.
Causes works ’cause it’s deeply embedded within the world’s leading social networks (there’s an application for MySpace, too!), and Causes benefiting a non-profit can:
- Create community and spread awareness
- Connect people and ideas in new ways; and
- Attract new donors and raise money for specific projects & programs.
How does it work? Well, first, a non-profit becomes a Causes partner. By partnering with Causes, non-profits receive official profiles and access to a central dashboard, where they can manage causes, track donations, and download donor contact information. When a non-profit is ready to start its very own Cause, they can get the grab the Facebook Causes application.
HALT! There are a few things to note about the Facebook Causes application. First of all, it’s completely, 1,000% free, but it’s only available (right now) to registered 501(c)(3) organizations. This pretty much means that donations can only be processed for Guidestar-listed or Canadian charities. True, any average Joe (or Joanne) can create a Cause via the Causes application, but the recipient must be a registered 501(c)(3) organization. Non-profits get all the good schtuff, don’t they?
Another bonus? Since Causes is a third-party application, the non-profit partner is able to have Causes, a Fan Page, and a Group on Facebook, if it so desires. Talk about TRIPLE your fun! The Causes application, however, does MORE than a Fan Page or a Group. The Causes application has the ability to accept donations, it features advanced communication tools that Fan Pages and Groups don’t offer, and it comes bundled with great tools for fundraising, such as setting fundraising goals and matching donations.
So how do non-profits make the Facebook Causes application really sing?
- Title: Make sure the Cause has an action-inducing, attention grabbing title.
- Cause of Action: Convey a sense of urgency with the cause of action.
- Make the Case: Make the Cause’s case in three points or less.
- Background & Objectives: Provide a concise background for where the Cause is currently, and where the Cause is going. Don’t forget to include relevant links!
- Imagery: Use an evocative photograph that inspires people to take action.
- Recruit, Recruit, Recruit: Use the recruiting tools associated with the Facebook Causes application to invite the maximum number of potential supporters every day (which is 60), and personalize the ask and the thank you messages you send. But don’t stop there! Take your recruiting outside the Facebook borders to newsletters and email, too!
Of course, there are the naysayers of Facebook Causes. In fact, a recent Washington Post article pointed out that fewer than 50 of the 179,000 nonprofits that use Facebook Causes have raised $10,000, and only two (the Nature Conservancy and Students for a Free Tibet) have cracked the $100,000 mark. Yikes, right?
We can’t deny that online donations are only 3% of the donations that non-profits receive. But wasn’t it just yesterday that people couldn’t imagine shopping online, watching movies online instead of going to the theatre, or making friends with complete strangers online? What makes us think online donations to charitable causes are any different? If we’re looking at past trends, then they’re not any different at all. Facebook Causes is a great step in the right direction for learning how to better meet the needs of non-profits.
A non-profit’s priority is fundraising, right? Then we go to them, young Padawans, and we show them the way.