By Brent Merritt, a digital strategy consultant at Metric Communications and blogger at The Caliper. His work is focused on nonprofits, advocacy, and public affairs.

Facebook Fundraisers are a relatively new fundraising tool, but they’re already driving a major boost in revenue for some nonprofit organizations. The 2019 M+R Benchmarks Report observed that for certain nonprofit sectors the impact has been “dramatic,” and for health nonprofits, in particular, it appeared “nothing short of transformative.”

The reason these peer-to-peer fundraisers are so effective is that they can tap into networks of people who aren’t personally invested in your cause but who are willing to give based on their relationships with your organization’s supporters. Additionally, Facebook has made both creating and donating to Fundraisers a highly streamlined process.

Given the significant fundraising opportunities this tool presents, it’s absolutely worth the effort to determine how you can use it most effectively. The M+R report highlights that November is the biggest month for Facebook Fundraisers, accounting for nearly a quarter of yearly revenue in 2018, so there’s no better time than right now to evaluate and refine your plan.

The tips below will help you with two key objectives: promoting Fundraisers year-round and maximizing their impact during your fundraising campaigns, each of which requires a distinct approach. The focus for year-round promotion is making sure your supporters get a nudge to create a Fundraiser whenever they happen to be ready. The focus for campaigns is encouraging donations to Fundraisers during timeframes when it’s most important for your organization.

Year-Round Promotion

Many people create Facebook Fundraisers around their own schedules, especially for birthdays and other special occasions, so don’t expect them to align with your organization’s campaigns. It’s important to highlight the impact of Fundraisers regularly so supporters are likely to get a reminder whenever they may be most amenable to setting one up.

Basic promotion can be as simple as a monthly Facebook post that reports how much Fundraisers have brought in recently for your nonprofit. Use these tactics to increase your chances of reaching supporters at the right time:

1) Promote using targeted audiences

Organic reach for organizations on Facebook has been reduced to fairly anemic levels, so paid promotion is an essential way to get your message in front of more followers. For Fundraiser promotion, in particular, consider targeting your followers based on their birthdays since it’s such a popular tie-in.

When you create a new Ads audience, search the Detailed Targeting field for either “upcoming birthdays,” which will target users who have a birthday within one week, or look for the specific birthday month you’re interested in targeting. Also, be sure to restrict your audience to countries where people can create Fundraisers for charities. You can reach your birthday-based audiences by boosting your organic Fundraiser promotion posts or by creating ads with a more direct ask to create a Fundraiser, using the Reach ads objective. Either way, be sure to include the setup link that you’ll find on your organization’s Fundraisers page.

2) Cross-promote via multiple channels

Another way to work around limited organic reach on Facebook is to promote Fundraisers via your other communication channels (this approach also has the benefit of being free). Add a reminder to your content calendar to publish regular posts on social platforms beyond Facebook, be sure to include frequent reminders in your email newsletters, and don’t be afraid to send an email every now and then dedicated to social fundraising, like the example below.

3) Send direct invitations to past creators

As any good fundraiser knows, the most effective way to get something you want is usually to ask for it directly. Take advantage of the data Facebook collects to contact people who have run successful Fundraisers in the past. For starters, look at your highest-revenue fundraisers from 12 months ago, contact anyone who was celebrating a yearly event (birthday, anniversary, etc.), and make a gentle ask about whether they’re ready to fundraise again this year. Even if your outreach only results in one or two extra Fundraisers per month, the additional revenue will add up over time.

To export your fundraising data from Facebook so you can analyze it, go to Settings, click the Donations tab, and download a Multi-Day Transaction Report for the time period you want to look at. Hint: If you have some Excel skills, you can store all of your donation data in one sheet and use PivotTables to create a really helpful data dashboard.

Campaign Tactics

4) Create urgency with deadline marketing

Use your organization’s account to set up an “official” Facebook Fundraiser at the start of your campaign that runs for its entirety. Plan to share this Fundraiser periodically along with reminders that highlight the approaching end-of-campaign deadline. Start slowly and increase the frequency of your reminders as the campaign goes on. The exact cadence will depend on the length of your campaign, but as an example, you might want to highlight “two weeks left,” “one week left,” “two days left,” and “last day to give!” If you reach your initial goal early, you can always raise it to a higher figure.

As with any organic posts, you can boost these deadline reminders to be sure they reach a significant portion of your audience. If you have a smaller Facebook audience, you may want to boost them to all of your followers; if your following is large or your budget is limited, consider boosting to a higher affinity group such as a Custom Audience of past donors, or followers who have recently engaged with your Facebook Page.

5) Take advantage of the matching donation feature

Another effective way to create a sense of urgency is by adding a match to your Facebook Fundraiser. The current maximum match is $2,500.00, which is fairly modest, but enough to help build some momentum with donations. You can add a match at any point while your Fundraiser is running; the best time is closer to the end so the motivating power of the match compounds with the urgency of the approaching deadline.

6) Invite your allies to create Fundraisers

As mentioned earlier, your average supporters may be more inclined to create Fundraisers around their personal life events, so campaigns are the time to call on outside allies as well as organizational insiders. If your nonprofit has relationships with celebrity ambassadors or social media influencers, ask if they’ll create a Facebook Fundraiser in support of your campaign. Not every nonprofit can get Steph Curry on board, but even a minor public figure with a decent social media following can make a meaningful impact.

The same goes for people on the inside – depending on what feels appropriate for your organization, you can ask the management team, board members, staff, and even volunteers if they’re willing to create a Fundraiser as part of the campaign. This can be especially effective if a public-facing member of your team is popular with your supporters; the community may rally to their personal Fundraiser as much or more than an official organizational one.

Bonus Tip: Identify Major Gift Prospects  

7) Never let good data go to waste

If you’re keeping a master file of your exported Facebook Fundraiser donation data as suggested previously, you can mine it for potential major gift prospects. The exact criteria will depend on your organization but will probably include larger donors and repeat donors. The data you export won’t include contact information for most people, but you can cross-reference donors with your database, or even reach out with a direct message through Facebook.

Find What Works for You

As with any area of fundraising, the specific tactics that work best for raising more via Facebook Fundraisers will vary from nonprofit to nonprofit, but the guidance above should give you some tools to choose from as you refine your approach. With a major spike in Facebook Fundraisers activity and revenue expected in November, there’s no better time to experiment with different approaches and determine what works best for your nonprofit. You may find you’re able to cultivate a steady new source of revenue; you could even see the “dramatic” or “transformative” results some nonprofits are reporting.

About the Author: Brent Merritt is a digital strategy consultant at Metric Communications and blogger at The Caliper. His work is focused on nonprofits, advocacy, and public affairs.