By DonorSearch

T. Clay Buck, CFRE, Expounds on Facebook Fundraising, Social Media, and Where Priorities are Best Invested


One hundred and twenty million dollars was raised on Facebook on Giving Tuesday in 2019. That’s a staggering number. Here’s a bigger one:


That’s two billion. With a B for BILLION. Dollars. Or two thousand Giving Tuesdays.

In September of 2019, Facebook announced that fundraisers on its platform had raised two billion dollars in the five years of its existence. Fully half of that – one billion ($ $1,000,000,000) — came from birthday fundraisers. You know the, “In honor of John’s birthday, he’s asking for support of . . . “ kind of post? We see them in our feeds all the time.

Think about the impact of $1B on the nonprofit sector – how much GOOD that is doing.

It’s mind-blowing and staggering. And it points out that we absolutely, 100%, cannot ignore the impact of Facebook or social media on fundraising–and that we should have a presence whenever, wherever and however we can.

That same report says  that 45 million people contributed to, or started a fundraiser on Facebook in the last five years. 45 million.  

That’s more than the populations of New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago metropolitan areas combined.  

And yet some fundraisers are hesitant and cautious about engaging in Facebook or using social media at all!


I’m one of them.

Here’s the main reason why . . . don’t sacrifice good, solid, proven fundraising practices in exchange for social media. My concern and caution is that, too often, the Billions of Dollars and Millions of People become an enticement for investing strategy in a platform that is, by definition, organic and mercurial.

Those birthday fundraisers? They were mostly started by someone with a big heart and a good idea.  

Yes, there are larger nonprofits that have a powerhouse social media engagement team who can encourage and develop relationships with those social media fundraisers. But most do not. And the temptation can be that social media is a free platform, it’s easy to use and LOOK AT ALL THE MONIES . . . and then they drop very successful streams like direct mail, integrated digital and peer-to-peer platforms.

Secondly, let’s be really honest and direct here – as wonderful as social media platforms are, their business is in making money by promoting ads and selling access to data. Facebook alone has been plagued with security breaches and data privacy issues. While I applaud the philanthropy they encourage – and, indeed, the giving their founders and executives champion – there’s no altruism in making the platforms available for fundraising. They’re getting data and users. Again, that’s fine, as long as we acknowledge that’s what it’s there for.


Social Media is not the silver bullet, saving grace that fundraising seeks.


Last, and it’s a common complaint – the nonprofit, most often, does not get the donors’ data. And I hear the argument, “But donors have the option to provide it if they want to – they DON’T  WANT to.” 

The Facebook permission box for a donor to allow the nonprofit to get their email address is small and part of the gift confirmation. It’s not direct enough or visible enough to give the donor a clear, precise choice. And a nonprofit can’t customize the messaging to say, “Hey, Ms. Donor, we are SUPER grateful and really want to keep you updated on how your gift is used. Can we stay in touch?”

The most successful, effective, fundraising program is one that integrates multiple channels and truly engages the people who really believe in the mission. In terms of investing in fundraising that is transformative vs. transactional, nonprofits need to focus their time and energy on the long-term. I don’t think any practitioner, consultant or expert is saying you should not ever be using social. Just recognize that it’s not the panacea it may seem to be and raising those billions of dollars took a ton of work. Work that is just as effective in methods that yield higher, repeatable results.


The perspective of Taylor Shanklin on adapting to today’s donor behaviors to build trust and community

Six in ten global internet users say that they are constantly online and digital consumers are now spending an average of 2 hours and 23 minutes per day on social networks and messaging platforms, according to the latest findings in the 2019 social media usage study by Globalindex. 

On the email marketing front, American workers receive an average of 126 emails a day (Radicati), and up to 60% of email opens will be done on a mobile device (IBM). 

With all of that being said, I have some questions for you.


Yes, you.

First set: When was the last time you pulled out your phone and scrolled through at least one of your social media feeds? Were you looking forward to the experience? Perhaps curious to see what you might learn or find out?

Was it…

  • An hour ago?
  • 20 minutes ago?
  • 5 minutes ago?
  • Are you on there right now and that’s what pointed you to this article?

Second set: When was the last time you checked your email and scrolled through the unopened newsletters sitting in there? Were you looking forward to the experience? Curious to read those bolded, unread subject lines? Or were you overwhelmed by the list of unsubscribe buttons you now feel inspired to click on?

The way that we humans interact with technology and information continues to evolve. I ask these questions about your interactions with social media and email because it is important to think about our own experience with online information before we spew information out to our supporters.  How do we perceive these experiences?

When we look at such experiences from our own perspective, we might think differently about how we engage supporters and potential supporters of our cause.  When we look at such experiences, it puts us in the donor’s mindset.

I think most humans are good and want to support important causes, whether that is because the cause is important to them on a personal level, or important to someone close to them. However, donor behavior, and what is happening in their daily lives, is changing, and nonprofits need to be ready to adapt to such change.  Continuing practices of the past that no longer fit into the current donor’s attention feeds will create a long-term damaging effect.


2020 is the time to adapt, to invest, and to get with the digital, relationship-focused program..  Today’s and yesterday’s donors are inherently the same – they are humans who are kind and good and want to give.  But, their preferences for how you engage with them, how they give and how you get their attention are wildly different today. We need to invest in doing a better job at this adaptation and “new school” community building.  

This is what we will talk about in our Fundraiser Faceoff on January 14 when Clay Buck and I face off on digital fundraising practices of today. Register here.


T. Clay Buck, CFRE | Tactical Fundraising Solutions

Clay is an experienced fundraiser with proven experience in all aspects of development. He has particular expertise in developing the systems and infrastructure that support donor-centered fundraising, particularly with individual donors and annual giving. Having been both a front-line fundraiser at several nonprofits across the country and a consultant for large, national firms, he brings a unique perspective on developing and crafting fundraising programs that really work.

Taylor Shanklin - Vice President of Marketing | The Pursuant Group

Taylor serves as Vice President of Marketing. She brings a background of nonprofit industry expertise to lead the marketing team. Taylor is responsible for driving brand awareness and evangelism of Pursuant’s thought leadership, events, and industry events. With 11 years’ experience in both client services and marketing at leading nonprofit technology companies such as Convio, Blackbaud, and Kimbia, Taylor has interfaced with hundreds of organizations on both national and local levels. By working with so many different clients, she truly understands nonprofit organizations’ pain points and brings solutions to life through Pursuant’s resources.

Fundraising Faceoff | The Masterminds Blogs