Research & Insights

Can Facebook Increase Charity?

People who are already logged into their social media accounts are more likely to share their charitable donations online and encourage their friends to chip in.  

These results come from a study conducted by Marco Castillo, Ragan Petrie and Clarence Wardell, and are published in the June 2014 issue of the Journal of Public Economics.

The experiment involved over 2,700 participants who made a charitable donation via the website of a non-profit organization. After checkout, donors on the website were given the option to share their donation and encourage their friends to donate by posting their gift to their Facebook wall or sending a private message in Facebook.

Some participants were also told that an extra monetary amount (either $1.00 or $5.00) would be given to their charity if they asked a friend to donate.

The bonus donation did increase participants’ willingness to ask their friends to donate to the charity, both in terms of wall posts and private messages. Unfortunately, Facebook posts encouraging donations have notoriously low response rates, and the cost of paying participants to share was more than the charities raised from the increase in donations.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that charities shouldn’t ask donors to share their experience on Facebook.

Participants who were already logged into Facebook were 130 percent more likely to ask their friends to donate than participants who weren’t currently logged into the site or lacked an account. Participants also preferred asking their friends to donate via wall posts as opposed to private messages.

“Charities can increase donations by simply asking donors to share that they have donated. This can potentially increase the number of new donors a charitable organization has access to at virtually no cost,” suggest the researchers.

Journal of Public Economics 

Marco Castillo and Ragan Petrie, George Mason University
Clarence Wardell, tinyGive, Inc

Posted: April 21, 2016
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