Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Friday, September 10, 2010

Is Facebook Causes A Good Investment?

A new posting on the Blue Sky Collective blog claims that "Facebook Causes Continue to Show Little Promise as Fundraising Tool." In the post, they examine the Nature Conservancy's Cause page and finds this:
"Today, they have 286,000 members and have raised nearly $388,000!  Sounds great, right? That's about a $1.36 per member.  That's pretty awful. ... If I were a nonprofit manager, I would think twice before investing more time and money into Causes."
Here's my response that I posted to the blog:
I think you're looking at the wrong numbers. Whether they've raised $1.36 or $2.40 per current "member" is insignificant.

I want to know how much did they spend to raise the $388,000? Was that from current donors who gave through Facebook rather than their mail appeal? Or was a significant amount of that from new donors?

The cost of acquisition per donor is an important part of deciding whether or not the Facebook strategy is paying off. Obviously, if it's more than $1.36 then there better be some other value for the organization using Facebook Causes other than the income.

But, I'm willing to guess that the the cost per donor is quite small, and, once the Causes page is up and running, the marginal cost for each additional donor acquired goes down.

I'd love to hear from somebody from the Nature Conservancy with more data, and whether or not they feel they've gotten a good ROI from Facebook Causes. They're no bunch of dummies. I'm guessing they've done the analysis and are satisfied.
What about you? Has your organization set up a Facebook Causes page? How much have you spent, and how much have you raised? Did it come from your communications budget or your fundraising budget? Are you satisfied with the result?

I think the jury is still out, and I worry that we're making decisions about the worthiness of new tools for fundraising based on testing it in the worst economy in 70 years. I say, keep on testing, keep on communicating. The full ROI may not be there yet, but when the economy does return, you don't want to just be starting your social media strategy then.


  1. Ken,

    I haven't jumped into the Facebook waters for our nonprofit yet but I keep reading and learning because I think it's just a matter of time. I appreciate your observation that they were focusing on the wrong number.

    My current theory is that online fundraising is the new direct mail appeal. If you raise about 10% of your annual fundraising goal through online fundraising, I'd call that success.

  2. Ken,

    Does this mean Facebook Causes is a for-profit enterprise?

    Non-profits have to pay to get fans through them?