What Facebook And Google Cannot Do For You In Fundraising

When everything shut down, digital became the hero of COVID, and people couldn’t get online fast enough. From Zoom meetings and online shopping, to fundraising, the world went digital. As the world starts to open back up, and in-person is becoming possible again, shouldn’t your fundraising shift too? Can fundraising really survive being completely online? Through all this, we have been missing the personal element that cannot be replaced by Google or Facebook. These channels cannot replace the effect that face-to-face fundraising has on the entire donor experience, an experience that has impacts for years to come! 

Using digital platforms has always allowed organizations to reach a broader base and wider geographic range. But what does that actually give an organization? Definitely brand reach, at a high cost. However, given there is an abundance of online marketing, information and social media our attention is becoming increasingly narrowed. The attention span of a human was last quantified by Microsoft as 8 seconds, even a goldfish can give you their attention for longer!  It’s the age of information overload. How do marketers compete with that, and how do you get people to donate to your charity?  

Having run numerous campaigns in multiple channels for more years than I care to share, I can tell you integration is key. I can also say that nothing beats the results I got from running a face-to-face program, not Google, not Facebook, and here’s why – personal experiences drive results.  When a fundraiser goes door-to-door they are having meaningful conversations, creating awareness and building your brand. That in-person connection generates a better opportunity to acquire donors, because it makes the experience more personal and builds trust with a potential donor. The more understanding an individual has regarding what their donation is going towards, the more comfortable they are giving to that charity. Last year alone during COVID GFD brought in over 35,000 monthly donors for those charities that kept their door programs safely running. Having heard from a number of different charities through donor research, when asked what was the one thing their donor remembered about their donor journey, overwhelmingly the response was the face-to-face experience, even years later. Why, because it is personal and a relationship with your cause developed, that lasted more than 8 seconds!  

In May of 2020 during the first COVID lockdown in Canada, I attended a charity session, hosted by AFP, and well attended by multiple charities in the sector (Breaking Bread, Raising Dough). I heard from charities, as they were scrambling to pivot and think of ways to continue to generate funds, that they were thankful for the base of recurring donors they already had built up over the years during this time of uncertainty, largely as a result of face-to-face efforts. This was reinforced by our larger charity partners many times as we worked with them to re-establish their campaigns.

The people you reach online are pulled in by an ad and typically only give a one-time gift; total fundraising from online giving was less than 12% in 2019 across the US and Canada.  Many online ads and campaigns are targeted for one-time gifts with a plan to follow-up, such as petitions, peer-to-peer and cause marketing. Depending on the call to action, it can be difficult to convert these donors to monthly.  On average those that do give monthly give less than at the door. A global study conducted by Anne Morison Consulting, and presented during GFD’s Fall 2020 Webinar, shared that while digital retention may be higher in the first year it nets by year two with that of door-to-door, but door on average delivers a $5/donor higher gift.  Therefore, in the long run, your ROI is higher on door. Face-to-face specializes in direct-to-monthly acquisition, which as a monthly gift does not require conversion efforts down the road, but can benefit your cause with upgrades. Definitely something to think about!

No doubt there are many ways that digital has elevated the fundraising experience. Services such as Virtual Fundraiser born out of COVID allow potential donors to interact with representatives in seconds upon visiting a charity’s site. Digital provides great exposure and warms up your audience, geo-tracking is another great example of how digital can be used in conjunction with your door campaign. However, Google and Facebook cannot build trust, assurance and acquire potential donors, the same way face-to-face fundraising can with canvassers coming to your door. When it comes to fundraising, digital compliments any fundraising campaign, and warms up your donor, but door is the strongest method of filling the funnel, to allow you to acquire monthly donors, and fulfil the “user experience” people crave today when they spend money. Face-to-face delivers on all fronts!


About the Author:  Carolyn Soro is a marketer and fundraising specialist with 10years in the non-profit space, having run successful campaigns at Plan International Canada and UNICEF Canada for many years before coming to Globalfaces to become their VP of Marketing. Now Carolyn heads up all our social efforts, and works with multiple charities to provide guidance on campaigns and stewardship efforts.  

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