Problems Fundraising on Facebook

It’s two weeks before a charity event that I’m personally raising
funds for, and almost no one I know is aware of it. At least, not many
of my social media friends. You see, in the past several years, I’ve
raised significant funds (thousands of dollars) via social
networks like Facebook and Twitter for the CT Challenge and the MS Society with my bike rides.
This year, however, I’m getting almost no response on posts that link
to my fundraising sites. A recent post with a beautiful photo
in my state park that referenced my fundraising got 4 likes, and no
comments or shares.

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A similar landscape shot from the previous day got 11 likes and 7 comments. The difference – no fundraising link. Contrast that with a picture of my wife and me on our anniversary
300+ likes and 61 comments. Now, we’re a very good looking couple, but 300 likes is a lot. There’s clearly something going on in the Facebook algorithm.

This is not me berating Facebook. Let’s posit that Facebook isn’t doing this to “hide things from people intentionally” or to be “evil.” Dr. EvilI am asking, theoretically,
if the Facebook algorithms are down-ranking fundraising links or money appeals because they believe people don’t want to see that content for whatever reason.
When I was at Microsoft, we had an analogy of a giant, walking throughout the land. Even if this gentle giant tried, he was still going to stomp some farmer’s field, or knock down a tree. He might crush things too small to notice, without even meaning to do so. Facebook’s latest algorithm changes may be like this giant – no ill intent, but things are getting squashed in the name of “showing people what they want to see.”
If this is true, it has major implications for many non-profits who
ask event participants to share links and fundraise on their networks. Let’s take another case.  My friend Geoff Livingston has been responsible for “Give To The Max” days and other, major online events that have literally raised millions of dollars for non profit causes. Geoff’s recent IndieGogo campaign got much less engagement than his regular articles and posts.

He told me, “I would say the engagement was pretty low compared to other posts perhaps 20-25% of what I normally get. I only got traction by pounding it everyday. The page didn’t really help much, I could have just as easily have done myself with PayPal.”

Let me be clear (because I teach social media for non-profits at NYU
and think about this a lot), there are lots and lots of tactics that I
haven’t discussed. Some of my personal email outreach has been
effective. Some email sent via the charity’s donation system has had
almost no effect – possibly ending up in spam or filtered into one of
Gmail’s Tabs. I’m not one of the people who have the ability to pay to promote my own personal posts. I could be making personal appeals to FB friends to like and share my post via messages, or directly tweeting to people to ask for re-tweets. There are creative ways to promote your fundraising – Beth Kanter does public thank you’s to donors, promoting the cause along the way. There are many other methods.

The thing that most concerns me here is, if I’m struggling, how are
people who spend less time thinking about social and fundraising going to fare? How will this affect the non-profits who count on the funds?

Have you seen problems reaching people with fundraising messages on social media? Share your thoughts… and do feel free to pass this along, so interested folks can donate.


4 thoughts on “Problems Fundraising on Facebook

  1. Interesting post, Howard. This seems worth further testing — I wonder if it would be possible to survey nonprofits and see what their experience has been?

  2. I have a cat blog, rather Savannah has a blog…and she is semi active using TWitter and she has a FB page and gmail address. She does depend completely on FB, blog and Twitter RTs to get the word out when trying rescue cats/dogs…individuals or victims of hoarding when up to hundreds can be at risk. She also uses social media to raise funds for animal rescue around the world. There is a very large contingent of cat bloggers who use FB…rather who have “been using” FB to engage beyond their blogs. I am talking people who do this for money and have thousands of blog/twitter followers. We have all been hit drastically by what FB is doing. NONE of us can afford the thousands of dollars FB expects if they are going to allow our own ‘friends’ see our FB posts. We have all been rallying inside a group on FB trying to find alternatives to using FB. Several of us are experimenting using Triberr but it is still clumsy at best and does not have the range we all need/want. At this point, as I volunteer for 3 small rescues, it is clear the FB ‘get FB richer faster strategies’ is killing the rescues ability to get their messages, fund raisers, celebration of lives saved out to their followers. People who are wanting to see their content don’t receive their posts any longer. FB is clearly becoming the venue for only very large for profits. What a shame.

  3. Hi,

    I am having the same problem. I am riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge, and have made two posts, one with a spattering of donations received and a second that seemed to get buried within minutes of my posting last night, to which I have received zero responses (likes/comments/donations). I believe something strange is going on, and I am willing to bet it has something to do with the fact that FB has a method of fundraising in which they receive a cut. So, if you are linking directly to your fundraiser, FB may be blocking because of that. Just a hunch, but I’m definitely suspicious.

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