“Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes” (“I fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts”)
— Virgil, Aeneid

Facebook has announced that it is eliminating its five percent transaction fee on donations to nonprofits (personal fundraisers still have a 6.9% + $.30 fee in the US).  In a NY Times piece, donors report it being simple to give to and raise funds for nonprofits on the site.

From early reports, it may be advantageous to use organic Facebook reach to fundraising directly on the site.  (As the Times article reports, you must click a pop-up box to leave Facebook to donate through non-Facebook functionality, creating friction in trying to leave the walled garden.)

But I would not recommend a wholesale change of strategy from this development, for a few reasons:

You don’t own the donor. In its terms of service for donations, Facebook says it will provide the nonprofit with first name, last name, and email address (if provided).  Notable in their absence are physical address and opting into communications, meaning that you have no effective way to contact this donor (especially if they choose not to provide their email address).  This, then, is a donor who is unlikely to retain if only because you can’t take steps to retain them.

You don’t own the donor, part II: You probably have a rule for your direct mail list exchange and rental that you will not rent to competing organizations lest they poach your donors.

So let’s say you are starting a nonprofit to perform cleft palate surgeries.  Your obvious competitors are Operation Smile and Smile Train.  You try to rent their direct mail lists; you can’t.

Then you look on Facebook and oh look!

You can advertise to those people who are interested in Operation Smile and Smile Train.  Cross-reference that with Facebook’s categories of charitable donors and your poaching operation begins.

But those are just fans.  Could you get the people who donated to those two organizations through Facebook?  Absolutely – Facebook has made no promises to keep your donor information secret (that I could find).

But would they do that?  Well, up until September, they allowed advertisers to target ads to a category called “Jew Haters” so I wouldn’t personally count on their moral rectitude winning out over revenue considerations.

You don’t own the donor relationship.  Congratulations!  You have a great welcome series, online and offline, that thanks donors appropriately, starting with a warm thank-you letter, followed by a series of communications that learns more about the donor so you can communicate with them in the way they’d like.

You can’t send it.

Even if you have the email address, Facebook says it is sending a payment receipt to donors, including your name, logo, mission statement, and EIN.

As you might guess, this receipt fills in the blanks and checks the boxes.  It does not, however, tell a donor what their gift did or anything about the organization, resulting in an acknowledgment that is as personalized as a McNugget.

In short, Facebook donations may be good at helping you get transactional donations.  But it will take more information sharing, privacy negotiations, and abilities to do donor stewardship in place before donors through the Facebook platform are ready to become organizational donors.  And it’s then, and only then, that I’m going to get interested in building my house on rented land.  The cost of fee-less transactions is more than I’m willing to pay.


This article was posted in: Integrated fundraising and marketing, Media usage / trends, Mobile marketing and fundraising, Online fundraising and marketing, Social media, Uncategorized.
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