Effective Fundraising with Facebook Causes
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Effective Fundraising with Facebook Causes

As more and more nonprofits find Facebook to be a useful tool for engaging their constituents, one question always arises: How can I get these constituents to donate?

One of the first tools to consider to try to answer this question is Causes. Causes is an application that can be added to a user's Facebook Profile or a nonprofit organization's Facebook Page. It allows users to donate directly to the organization or simply show their support for the organization in a very visible, public way.

We blogged about Causes and other online fundraising widgets in the past. But a recent post on the NTEN blog by Causes employee Susan Gordon caught our attention: she details exactly how to set up a Cause and some best practices for effectively using Causes to raise money.

Susan (who, by the way, is an alum of one of our JCamp 180 affiliated camps. Is it yours? …get your Alumni databases in order!!) offers a lot of great advice and examples; I'll focus on a few here:

  • Causes' 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 beginning in May of 2007, 60 Million users have used Causes.
  • If a supporter has already started a cause benefiting your organization, don't try to shut them down! Instead, get in touch with them and build a relationship. Someone who creates a Cause in your organization's name is clearly a big fan - embrace them! The more Causes created at a grass-roots level, the farther the reach of your organization via Causes.
  • Experiment! There is no sure-fire formula for a successful Cause.
  • Create an active, compelling, concise title for your Cause that your constituents can rally around. Don't just call it the name of your organization. Remember, on Facebook, users will see that their Friends have joined the Cause. It's more powerful to see "John Doe just joined the Cause Give a Jewish child a special summer at Camp ABC" than "John Doe just joined the Cause Camp ABC Scholarship Fund."
  • When you choose a picture for your Cause, don't just use your logo. Consider photos of individuals participating or volunteering instead.

Of course, at the end of the day, everyone wants to know: can we actually raise money for our organization using Causes? An April article in the Washington Post discussed the limited amount of money raised by most Causes so far and questioned how effective Causes can actually be. However, a rebuttal by the Association of Fundraising Professionals stressed the importance of engaging your constituents and the power of Causes (and Social Networking in general) to help raise awareness and find future prospects. And, the reality is that many organizations ARE successfully raising money via Causes. The Nature Conservancy has raised over $250,000 on Causes; another 15 nonprofits have raised over $50,000 each. And Causes in general is finding more people willing to donate via Social Networks: their daily donation totals are up by a factor of 10 over the past year.

So, what does it mean for you and your organization? First, search existing Causes to find out if anyone has already created a Cause in the name of your organization. If so, reach out to the administrator and thank them! If not, consider setting up your own Cause and posting it on your Facebook Page and your personal profile. Experiment with the name and photo associated with your Cause. Set Goals. And then - like every other fundraising campaign and channel - evaluate your efforts and decide if it was worth it and how you might adapt to leverage this powerful tool in the future.

Have you already used Causes? Let us know what's worked well, what hasn't worked, and what you might do differently in the future.