07.Jun.2016

Joe Crowley
Digital Strategist

Beware the Social Shortcut

Losing control over your donor’s contact information

If you work at a Nonprofit Organization (NPO), it is highly likely you have recently been hearing a lot of conversation around the new tools available to charitable organizations on some of the major social networks. Within the past year, heavy-hitters like Facebook and YouTube have rolled out options that allow for donations directly inside their sites.

On the surface, this idea makes sense; these are great channels for reaching wide audiences and growing awareness, but beware of the fine print before shifting considerable effort into social media giving.

In 2013, Facebook gave NPO marketers the ability to change the “Contact Us” call-to-action (CTA) button with “Donate Now.” Upon clicking, the user is presented with a message that they are about to enter a third-party site in order to complete their transaction. This process, while clunky from a user-experience standpoint, was effective in that it offered NPO’s access to a much larger audience than they might have normally been able to reach. More importantly, it allowed the NPO to maintain control over the donor record.

In 2015, Facebook expanded this feature and started allowing certain large charitable organizations the ability to accept donations directly inside Facebook. While this system is markedly better from a user-experience perspective than its predecessor, it comes at a potentially expensive cost. Facebook shares the name and donation amount for every contribution received, and the charity receives 100 percent of proceeds, but the user now must opt-in to share their personal details.

This last small detail is the mystery box in the equation that must be considered. Money coming in is always a good thing—and so is the potential for exposure to the networks of prospective donors. But all of these incredible benefits are predicated upon the user taking an additional step just to share their information. If you have recently seen opt-in stats your enthusiasm should be effectively curbed; Neilson reported that only 10% of Facebook users will opt-in to an offer for updates from a company they are following.

For a select few (very large) organizations, a service that aggregates many small, anonymous donations can be a welcome solution to a legitimate challenge. For the average organization operating on a more human scale, however, maintaining and cultivating relationships with donors is vital to growth.

Social media offers a lot of benefits to charitable organizations of any size and it’s not a stretch to say that reaching a wide audience—to thank them, engage them, and move them to action—has never been easier. Where I advise caution is in properly setting goals and expectations for social channels. Is sacrificing a donor relationship for a quick $20 a feasible long-term growth strategy?

If your social channels are not contributing the levels of growth you seek, Lipman Hearne can help; we have a long, successful history of helping NPO’s expand and grow. Simply put, you can have the best of both worlds—reach and retention—when you combine a strong donor strategy with a strong social strategy to help bring your campaigns to life.