What I learned fundraising on Facebook & Twitter: We need donate buttons!
Facebook likes and Twitter retweets don't necessarily translate into charitable donations. A "donate" button could help.
This Sunday, I’m taking part in my first-ever charity ride to benefit the American Diabetes Association. Over the past week, I’ve been busy fundraising through social media. It’s been eye-opening to discover how hard it can be to turn those likes and retweets into donations. What we really need are donation buttons.
Make no mistake. I’m so very grateful to all the people who have donated since I’ve been making requests. So far, I’ve raised about $4,100 for a great cause, through the kindness of those who follow me on social media. But the lesson I’m learning being on the other side of fundraising (usually, I’m someone who does the donating) is that it’s hard, that a single tweet or Facebook post isn’t enough and that donate buttons might make it much easier.
Fundraising on Facebook
Let me start with Facebook. I’ve been tracking how much I’ve raised via my posts on Facebook versus Twitter. It’s not perfect tracking, but I can generally tell from the time of day or looking at who liked a post if a donation was Facebook-related. So far, Facebook has generated 32 percent of the donations I’ve raised, about $1,300 overall.
Again, I’m so grateful to all those who supported. I also know some of those who didn’t may give to other charities. You can’t give to everyone. But when I have nearly 250,000 people who follow me on Facebook, I just feel like that amount should be higher.
Of course, not everyone who follows me sees everything I post. Facebook is going to give posts visibility to more people if it feels they’re more broadly appealing. It might be that when it comes to donation posts, these aren’t.
I posted this week on Facebook itself about how my engagement on my donation posts seemed to be slightly lower than regular posts, even though I was sharing different things.
For example, I shared my main donation page. I used the ADA app which posted the donation form link. I shared a Medium post I wrote about my ride. I did a Facebook Live test ride (I’m going to livestream my actual ride). I even shared a photo of me with a top local “Red Rider” fundraiser who has diabetes:
These posts tended to get around 15 likes. My regular posts usually do better than that. Not always, and when you’re dealing with a personal page on Facebook, getting good stats for averages is hard. But it just seemed like my donation posts weren’t getting the usual engagement. Overall, as best I can estimate, my combined efforts have generated just over 100 likes: each like amounts to roughly $12.50 in donations.
There are various reasons this could be. I don’t have a personal connection with diabetes. I’m fortunate that it hasn’t affected me or anyone in my family, so I have no personal tale to tell. It’s just a local fundraising event I came across that I was interested in; it’s a good cause, so I’ve dived in to support it.
That lack of a personal connection could be factor. However, I suspect another reason is that some people may have seen my posts but not engaged with them because perhaps they plan to donate later — and then forget. That leads me to the donation button idea, which I’ll get back to in a moment.
Fundraising on Twitter
I’ve raised twice as much money on Twitter as I have on Facebook. There are three main reasons for that. First, I have about twice as many followers on Twitter as on Facebook. Second, I’ve posted about twice as often on Twitter as on Facebook, because it’s generally more acceptable to do so given how the live timeline works. Finally, I’ve had a number of people on Twitter kindly do their own calls for donation on my behalf:
Again, I’m so thankful for the $2,800 raised via Twitter so far. But consider this stat for just one of my tweets:
That tweet was viewed by almost 16,000 people (the impressions figure). Only 0.08 percent of them (12) actually clicked to the donate page. Of those, only one, as best I can tell, actually made a donation of $51 (and thanks so much to that person!).
Now, imagine if that same tweet had a “Donate $5” button on it. If just one percent of those who saw the tweet clicked to donate, that same tweet would have raised about $800.
There are caveats, of course. The donation rate could be much less than one percent, for various reasons. More important, many might not use the button if they haven’t yet registered a payment method with Twitter.
Then again, consider that all the tweets I’ve done over the past week amount to around 65,000 total impressions. Now that $5 at a one-percent rate generates about $3,250 in donations, several hundred dollars more than what I’ve raised via Twitter so far. In addition, many might choose when using the button to donate at a higher amount.
Yeah, I’m all for a donate button!
The buttons we have now
Both Facebook and Twitter do have donate buttons. The problem is that these buttons don’t work for individuals.
I’ve never seen a Twitter donation button out in the wild, but Twitter does have them. They appear to have started for political campaigns last year but are available to “certain charities” according to Twitter’s help page about it — which would be better if it had help for accounts who want to use these, rather than being aimed at those who may see the buttons.
The upside to Twitter’s option over Facebook’s is that it can be embedded in posts rather than account pages, giving it wider visibility. But the downside remains the same as with Facebook: only charities and non-profit groups themselves can use these buttons.
Ideally, both Facebook and Twitter would allow approved charities to issue special URLs to individuals involved with events that could transform into donate buttons. Doing this would greatly spread the word about donations needed for worthy causes. It would also reduce the friction for those who want to give but may not remember to go back and do so.
It would also make it easier for those who don’t want to deal with entering credit card details over and over again for various new charities. Once you’ve contributed once through Facebook or Twitter, you’re ready to go for other donations in the future.
I did ask both Facebook and Twitter about expanding their buttons. Both replied essentially that they have no immediate plans for anything like this but things are always being considered. Let’s hope this might get moved to a front burner.
By the way, I also tried donation posts on Instagram and Snapchat that produced nothing. The chief culprit with Instagram is that there’s no ability to link from a photo, and the whole “follow the link in my bio” thing is pretty lame.
On Snapchat, I tweeted a picture along with a short URL to my donate page. One person out of more than 900 who viewed it made a screenshot of that but didn’t donate. With both services, live URLs or actual donate buttons would be useful. C’mon, Instagram and Snapchat, you can find a way.
Speaking of donations!
As I said at the beginning, I’m new to the fundraising space. I have renewed respect for those who have been doing it for some time and who raise money with less of an audience than I’m able to reach.
If you want some advice from a veteran fundraiser, consider reading the comments from Rae Dolan on my Facebook post:
She’s raised more than $60,000 for her causes over the years (including this walk that’s coming up — donate!). She’s got plenty of good tips in her comment.
As for me, I’ll be biking this Sunday over the two bridges of the Port of Long Beach. Before that journey has even started, I’ve already learned that diabetes touches people I know directly (Eric, Brian, Garofita) or who have friends and family who battle with it (Kristi, Erin, Anthony, Matt, Steve and others). In addition, it impacts tens of millions worldwide.
I hope my ride helps, and if you want to contribute, your donation of any amount is welcome and can be made here.