Charities in the UK have welcomed Facebook’s decision to allow them to include "donate now’" buttons on their Facebook pages and adverts, but a US social media expert says the tool is unlikely to be a panacea for fundraisers.
The social networking site announced yesterday that it had widened access to the feature – previously available only to the company’s charity partners in the US – to all those listed on the site as non-profit organisations. Organisations will now be able to add the button to their pages on the site for free and add the feature to paid-for adverts.
The Dogs Trust, the NSPCC and Shelter were among the charities that added the feature to their pages as soon as they could, meaning that users who click on their buttons will first be alerted that the charities are not "endorsed by or affiliated with Facebook" and will then be redirected to a web page of the charity’s choice where they can complete their donations.
Beth Kanter, a trainer and author of the book The Networked Nonprofit, told Third Sector she was concerned the disclaimer from Facebook might put some people off donating because they thought it was a scam.
She said people might also be deterred from donating this way because charities could not yet customise the wording on the button.
Writing on her blog, Kanter said: "As non-profits have been incorporating and experimenting with Facebook-promoted posts and ads as part of their fundraising tool box over the past two years, I’ve heard and read complaints from some non-profits about low conversion rates for donations. Some colleagues feel that Facebook has missed the mark on this most recent launch."
But she said Facebook had achieved impressive results when it posted a fundraising appeal on its news feed function after the earthquake in Nepal in April.
When the company introduced the donate button feature in 2013 for its 19 charity partners, critics said it made it difficult for the charities to seek future gifts from donors because the earlier version allowed people to make donation payments within Facebook itself. Some said it was convenient for users but might have disadvantaged charities because they could not access the names or email addresses of those who had donated.
"Unlike the version trialled in 2013, these buttons take users out to the charity's donation pages, with the benefit that the organisation rather than Facebook captures the data," said Charlotte Beckett, head of digital at Four Communications. "This is a great opportunity to take fundraising where people are and to start a conversation with new audiences that will hopefully nudge them from a single donation to a long commitment."
Jacqui Darlow, head of digital marketing at the Dogs Trust, said she expected the button to have a significant impact on donations. "It’s instant gratification for the donor," she said. "They can now click on one of our dog stories and go straight through to our website. It’s putting it in people’s faces a bit more."
But she said it would be much better if people were able to make donations without leaving Facebook.
Rob Salmon, director of digital marketing at the website design agency Torchbox, said he believed that the opportunity to target people by means of a button on their Facebook pages was a positive development for charities.
"However, I do think it is worth considering that the majority of people consume content from a page via the news feed rather than actually visiting a page," he said. "The key, as with so many things in digital, is to test the various options that are open to you, see what the results are and make a judgement on the value."