fundraising: will facebook help?

Depending on who you listen to, Facebook (FB) will either completely revolutionize your fundraising or it is a complete waste of everyone’s time. Most of us are in the “somewhere in between” camp. It makes sense that Facebook would help fundraising, but at this point there aren’t a lot of clear and clean examples of FB making huge differences in income. Probably there are people who would dispute this, but most of the FB fundraising success stories I know of have huge “yes, but…” question marks that make definitive conclusions suspect.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) has just published an interesting article that offers applications to the world of nonprofits and ministries. The article sketches out how Dessert Gallery (DG), a popular Houston-based bakery and café chain used Facebook. The Dessert Gallery began by emailing 13,270 customers from their mailing list to gather store evaluations and data on shopping behavior; 689 people responded. Three months later, DG resurveyed customers, this time they got 1,067 responses.

People who had replied to both surveys and had become fans ended up being DG’s best customers. Fans spent about the same amount of money per visit but increased their store visits after becoming FB fans. These fans also generated more positive word of mouth than nonfans. They went to DG 20% more often and gave the store more of their eating-out spending. Also, they were the more likely to recommend DG to friends.

Here’s a key point: Only 283 (or 2.1%) of the customers on DG’s mailing list became fans within three months.

HBR points out that in an analysis of 50 Zagat-rated Houston restaurants, Facebook pages averaged just 340 fans despite the fact that most of the businesses had tens of thousands of customers. So in the restaurant game, at this point most of the bakery’s competition also has a relatively small number of fans compared to the number of customers each had.

So. What does it mean? Well HBR makes it clear that these are early indications and not definitive, you can expect more from HBR on this.

HBR’s conclusion is that FB is a tool with a narrow niche application. OK, makes sense if you’re a café/bakery in Houston. What if you’re a nonprofit or ministry? What does it mean?

I think there are a few take-aways for you:

1. Be intentional. They set out to learn something and designed the promotion to allow them to track what happened. I’m continually amazed at the number of smart organizations who aren’t tracking basic online and social media stats. If you track stats (everything you can get your hands on: fans, friends, clicks, hits, bounce rate, etc) you have the ability to test and learn.

2. Be realistic. On one hand, such a small number of fans doesn’t seem like a good investment of time and energy (maybe money). On the other hand, increasing traffic and giving people who love your bakery a platform to brag on you is huge. You may not gather huge numbers of fans at first, but your donors are looking for a platform to dialog with you and brag on you. Set reasonable expectations. Don’t expect income to increase when you begin using FB. But giving your friends and fans a place to interact with you will help. Big numbers aren’t the key in social media…devotion is the key. You really, really would rather have a few people who love you beyond all reason than a horde of people who clicked “become a fan” with as much enthusiasm as they bought a goat on Farmville. Once you get your mind around the few fans concept, then Facebook becomes the tool you can use to change things.

3. Be present. You gotta get out there and swim. No way around it. This HBR article makes it clear that everyone’s trying to sort it out. You’re unique. Your organization is unlike any other. Learn from what other people are doing but don’t try to do exactly the same thing. Try. Fail. Learn. Try… that’s the way it works.

So, what about you? What do you think of Facebook as a tool for your nonprofit? How are you using it? Are you tracking and measuring to improve your intentionality (and repeatabiiity)? I’d love to know what you’re thinking.

Oh, and you can always become a fan of Oneicity to see what we’re up to. (You knew I was going ask didn’t you?)

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: ms.Tea)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

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