Facebook Both Boosts and Challenges Fundraising Efforts

AccuList helps its nonprofit clients with fundraising via direct mail and events as well as digital channels, and online giving certainly has seen tremendous growth in recent years. But the latest M+R Benchmarks report shows a distinct slowdown in nonprofit online revenue. After years of steady growth (a 23% increase in 2017), online fundraisers reported just 1% growth in 2018. Exploring the why behind that drop yields some important lessons for fundraisers moving forward, especially when it comes to Facebook campaigns.

Facebook Changes the Game, But Are Nonprofits Ready?

M+R cites multiple trends underlying lower online revenue growth—from declining e-mail response, to more low-dollar mobile traffic, to falling online donor retention. But the report starts by noting how rising Facebook usage has both undercut revenue measures and signaled potential for future growth. Yes, changes to the Facebook algorithm resulted in, on average, only 7% of followers seeing any given post, but use of Facebook Fundraisers’ peer-to-peer giving really took hold for the first time in 2018. However, because of the way the donations are processed, the Facebook Fundraiser dollars were not included in M+R online revenue calculations. It’s an important missing piece for revenue growth: The Facebook Fundraiser tool for hosted fundraising now accounts for about 99% of all nonprofit revenue processed on Facebook, with nonprofits raising $1.77 through Facebook for every $100 raised through other online channels, per M+R. The impact is big for some sectors. For example, health nonprofits received $29.88 from Facebook for every $100 in direct online revenue in 2018, accounting for about 30% as much revenue as every other source of online revenue, including e-mail, web giving, monthly donors, digital ads, and search. To turn the new Facebook Fundraiser use into a bigger revenue boon, notes the M+R report, nonprofits would need to make an effort to get more individuals (the average now is 56) involved in hosting fundraisers and in attracting both more donors and higher-dollar donors (now the average per hosted fundraiser is seven donors and a modest $31 gift per donor).

Ignorance of ROI Is Far From Bliss

Another recent study pointed to a deeper issue with nonprofit Facebook efforts. The 2019 Digital Outlook Report—from care2, hjc and nten—found that nonprofits surveyed reported spending anywhere from $0 to $100,000 on Facebook and Instagram campaigns. But the majority (over 75%) answered “don’t know” when asked about any resulting revenue! Clearly, the report urges, staff need training in analytics, whether using Google or another tool, as well as calculating not only resulting donations but the value of lead generation, e-mail signups, event attendance, etc. If there is any good news from this kind of ROI blindness, it is that Facebook probably has untapped potential.

Tips for Optimizing Facebook Fundraising

CauseMic recently offered some helpful tips for fundraising with Facebook. In using Facebook Fundraiser, in order to benefit from site traffic and donor information as well as dollars, start by disabling the “donate” button and direct supporters to donate on your website rather than through Facebook. Donors will learn more about the mission and fundraisers can stay connected with them for better retention. Second, nonprofits shouldn’t focus only on the Facebook tool hosting fundraisers; they can use promoted posts and ads to grow the support base, interact with supporters, promote events, etc. When a breaking news story or emergency occurs that impacts giving, it can be incorporated into social media outreach to spread the word and raise money more quickly. Just make sure to use tracking analytics and calculate result values to avoid the ROI ignorance identified in the Digital Outlook Report noted above! Plus, make sure that Facebook is a consistent piece of a multi-channel strategy, and remember that it offers a proven response driver to multi-channel campaigns: video. Use the platform to post videos about donation impact, to host live videos, to publicize upcoming events, and to tell the organization’s story with visual/emotional resonance. Finally, pay attention to timing in planned Facebook campaigns; M+R found that nearly a quarter of all Facebook revenue is raised in the month of November.

For more on general trends in online fundraising, see the latest M+R Benchmarks.

Targeted E-mail Expands Museums’ Direct Marketing Options

While previous AccuList posts focused on direct mail strategies for our museum marketing clients, e-mail marketing is also an area where our expertise can help museums reach new members, event participants, or donors, as well as improve the performance of existing e-mail databases.

Study Museum E-mail Benchmarks and Success Stories

Evidence that e-mail can be a successful player in museums’ multi-channel campaigns comes from Constant Contact’s March 2019 e-mail statistics for house databases in the arts, culture and entertainment vertical (including museums and galleries), which show overall e-mail open rates averaging 17.54%, and click-through rates averaging 6.81% for the vertical. Those results are better than the all-industries averages of 16.74% open rate and 7.43% click-through rate, plus ahead of all but 13 of the 34 verticals tracked, and far ahead of some verticals, such as technology (e.g. web developers), automotive services, salons, retail and consulting. Marketers can also use e-mail to prospect for new members, donors and event participants. For example, marketers report success with event audience building via a series of e-mails that start with a promotion linked to ticket purchase, RSVP and/or social-sharing request, then follow up with reminders prior to the event, and finish with a post-event thanks e-mail that includes a request for an online review. Other successful e-mail series reward loyalty or re-engage dormant supporters by offering special perks (such as discounts). E-mail automation can make contact strategy even easier with programmed triggers, such as a re-engagement e-mail automatically sent six months after a last visit. For some creative inspiration, check out this nonprofit e-mail gallery and Pinterest grouping of museum e-mails.

Invest in Clean, Targeted E-mail Lists

Earning response to a house database or prospect list requires a few e-mail basics: 1) personalized, targeted messaging; 2) a brief subject line that inspires opens and engaging CAN SPAM-compliant creative content that inspires click-throughs; 3) mobile optimization of the e-mail with a clear call-to-action linked to a mobile-optimized digital landing page; and 4) an updated, clean opt-in e-mail list to avoid spam filters. As data experts, AccuList’s services especially focus on the last point. For responsive, targeted prospects, AccuList’s proprietary research has identified the top choices among opt-in e-mail rental lists (plus telemarketing and direct mail lists), including lists of museum members/donors, lists of museum mail-order buyers, and lists by type of museum and collection (download our free compilation of top list datacards). For clean, targeted house lists, AccuList points marketers toward database enhancement and hygiene, including identification of recent e-mail address changes through Electronic Change of Address (ECOA) lists, enhanced targeting by adding demographics from outside lists, and expanded e-mail reach by appending opt-in e-mails to postal records.

Pair Mobile-Optimized E-mail and Landing Pages

Every e-mail—regardless of target audience—needs a clear call-to-action linked to an online page that makes that action easy to accomplish. For fundraising e-mails, check out these best practices suggested by online fundraising software provider DonorBox: 1) include a prominent Donate Now button in the e-mail with a link to an online landing page, either one page for general donations or a page per specific project; 2) include suggested donation amounts on the landing page and tie those amounts to outcomes that show how they will improve the museum and visitors’ experiences; 3) optimize the e-mail and landing page for desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets; 4) include recurring giving options on the online page for higher donor retention; 5) if appropriate include a donation “thermometer” or other graphic of progress on the donation page to encourage more donations; 6) allow for multiple secure payment gateways, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal in addition to credit cards; 7) and, finally, make sure the donation form and its processes are as simple, clear and quick as possible.

Combine Social Media Engagement With E-mail Targeting

E-mail can be a natural complement to social media campaigns, which is why social media networks themselves use e-mail marketing for customer retention. Museums can pair social media’s ability to engage and build brand, community and web traffic with e-mail’s advantage in delivering highly targeted and personalized messages, enhancing the power of both channels. Social media apps and forms can be used to capture new e-mail opt-in subscribers, for example. With platforms like Facebook, house e-mail data can be matched with the huge social audience to deliver demographics- and interest-targeted ads and promoted posts to existing names and lookalikes. Social media also is good at soliciting user-generated content (reviews, images, videos and posts), which can be used (with permission) in e-mails to boost response. And both social media and e-mail targets can be matched with direct mail for multi-channel power. Check out AccuList’s social media user lists, Facebook match and target options, and Digital2Direct programs combining direct mail with Facebook or e-mail lists.