Facebook and Twitter are both abuzz with this scandalous article in the Washington Post: To Nonprofits Seeking Cash, Facebook App Isn't So Green. Honestly, you'd think the Post had claimed everyone's mother was a lousy cook.
Here's the bad news, according to the Post:
- The majority of nonprofits using the Facebook Causes app have received no donations through the site.
- Only a small fraction of them have brought in even $1,000.
- Fewer than 50 of the 179,000 fundraisers on Causes have raised $10,000.
- Only two nonprofits -- the Nature Conservancy and Students for a Free Tibet -- have raised more than $100,000.
And that's not all. The mean-spirited Post further twisted the dagger by pointing out that while more than 25 million of Facebook's 200 million members have signed on as supporters of at least one cause, only 185,000 have ever given through Causes. That's 0.74%, which might sound okay if you're thinking in a direct mail context, but this is cumulative: all giving to all causes across all time. Woops. Not so hot, as in approaching absolute zero.
Are you catching the pattern here? The report also noted that the Nature Conservancy -- the top fundraiser on Causes -- has brought in $198,000. Impressive? Maybe. But for a large and effective direct mailer like the Conservancy, it might not be so much. They probably get that much every couple of days in the mail.
I don't think all this means you should totally ignore Facebook, though I'd hardly blame you if you did take away that lesson.
The real lesson is be realistic.
There's a gold rush mentality in some nonprofit quarters about social media. Get moving! Get involved! We are obligated to invest! The real cry should be something more like, There's a trace amount of gold in them thar hills!
Facebook is not your get-rich-quick scheme. It's an interesting place to learn how to navigate this strange new world. Maybe it's a good place to get out the word. But for fundraising? Don't hold your breath.