Research & Insights

For Nonprofits on Facebook It Pays to be Popular

Facebook isn’t just a great place to stalk your ex and catch up with old friends, it is also a great place to fundraise.

Nonprofits, especially smaller organizations, can benefit from leveraging Facebook to raise money.

Using Facebook lets organizations take advantage of the “social network effect,” where calls for donations move through social circles as fans donate, share the message and as a result, encourage their friends to do the same, according to communication scholars Gregory D. Saxton and Lili Wang at the University of Buffalo.

In their study, the researchers examined the Facebook presence and donor patterns of the 100 largest nonprofits in the United States. The researchers also statistically analyzed data collected from Facebook on the organization’s fundraising efforts, donors, donations and number of page members, as well as other statistics.

The results from the study were published in the October 2014 issue of the journal Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.

The researchers found that having more page fans were related to an increase in charitable donations.

Likewise, some causes were more popular than others. Groups that focus on issues like health that “reflect immediate needs or benefits to the general public” had a tendency to raise more money than those associated with other causes.

Donors also typically favored smaller organizations (those with fewer total assets) over bigger nonprofits. However, the researchers emphasize that groups of all sizes can benefit from fundraising on Facebook.

Donations through Facebook pages tend to be small, suggesting the need for complementary fundraising activities and reaching a large audience. Organizations looking to fundraise on Facebook should familiarize themselves with what kinds of posts work for their network and how to best leverage their followers.

“Successful social media fundraising campaigns require not only technical prowess but also equal parts coordination, cooperation and communication,” the researchers write.

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 


Gregory D. Saxton and Lili Wang, University at Buffalo, SUNY

Posted: March 24, 2016
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