How to Turn Facebook Fans Into Donors

Twitter conversation with Nicole Harrison (@SocialNicole)

A recent study with seismic implications for online fundraising tells us that donors acquired via Facebook are worth $214.81 in gifts per year when organizations follow up with those donors via both electronic and traditional means (in other words, email and direct mail). Great! So let’s just carpet bomb our new Facebook fans with a ton of mail in both their inboxes and mailboxes, right? A friend of mine and fellow nonprofit pro, Nicole Harrison, reminded me via Twitter why fundraising organizations might want to take a second and rethink that approach.

To be clear, someone “liking” your Facebook page is NOT an open invitation to spam them either electronically or through the US mail. That strategy could lead to some fundraising success, but it would likely do more damage than good with budding supporters who are not yet ready for the full “donor treatment.” I’m not suggesting you can never solicit these fans. Instead, I’m recommending that you start by building a relationship with them online that leads to them making their first gift.

So how do you convert fans into donors?

Get them to make their first gift in the space where they originally connected with your organization. It all goes back to the two main tenets of any good social media strategy – grow your online supporter base by 1) providing them with valuable content they’ll want to read and watch and 2) acknowledge them in the various spaces where they’ve connected with your organization. Retweet them, respond to Facebook and blog comments, answer emails …show them their concerns matter by acknowledging them. The first step in online engagement should be friendraising, not fundraising.

As long as you’re consistently focused primarily on the friendraising approach, then there’s nothing wrong with using those online spaces (Facebook, Twitter, email, websites) to ask for support. When you do reach the point where asking for a gift is appropriate, keep these tips in mind…

Keep it Simple

Remember the Tootsie Pop commercial that asked “how many licks does it take to reach of the Center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop?” When building your online giving websites, consider how many clicks it takes to get to the online giving form. From every page on your site, it should never be more than two. Make sure your Facebook page follows the same rules.

Don’t worry about asking for support on the social networks either. This type of post should be relatively rare and a very small percentage of what you’re posting overall, but an inteligently-worded, timely update that asks for support is fine. Pay close attention to organizations like the Humane Society of the United States and Oceana for great examples of how and when to do this. During the giving process, that’s when you ask for a donor’s email and the right to send them further information via email and snail mail. Not before they voluntarily make that first gift.

OK, so now you’ve got them. They “like” your org, they’ve made a gift, now let the inundation begin! Not so fast. Yes, now you’ve earned the right to solicit them, but be sure you’re taking a strategic approach to how you’re soliciting them. Statistics tell us dual channel donors – those who give online and off – are the most valuable. However, mailing donors is costly. If they gave online, they might also give offline …but what if you focused a more concerted effort on not just soliciting, but stewarding those donors online? Would an online-only approach be more efficient than the dual approach? (your largest donors aside).

For the answer, let’s take another look at the Blackbaud study that tells us the average Facebook-acquired donor gives $214.81 per year when solicited via dual channels. When the online-only approach is taken, that number drops to $161.30 per year. The cost to acquire those Facebook fans via online engagment? A tiny $3.42. A large nonprofit organization in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area tells BWF that the cost of acquiring a donor via direct mail is $43. Subtract that from $214 and you get a yearly donor net value of $171. Subtract the $3.50 from the $161 online-only donors give and you have a yearly donor net value of $157.50. Considering that, under this scenario, the dual channel approach and online-only approach are nearly neck and neck, what happens when organizations dedicate a more appropriate amount of resources to online engagement? (Keep in mind that many organizations are still in their infancy when it comes to effective online strategies, despite that fact that they’re raising money in the space)  It’s a safe bet that the online-only approach will then be not only more efficient, but more lucrative in every way.

For more information on social media in philanthropy, visit

One thought on “How to Turn Facebook Fans Into Donors

  1. Pingback: Using Social Media to Do More | Domoremission

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