Erin Teeling at The Bivings Group has done a great analysis of the new Facebook Causes application in terms of its ability to raise money. While the application is still very new, Teeling wonders whether this tool is or ever will be a viable fundraising option for nonprofits or other organizations.
Teeling cites a few reasons why the application may not be a great tool to raise funds. One of these is the reality that the Facebook set doesn't have as much disposable income as say, someone twice their age who's been climbing the corporate ladder the last 20 years. While this might be true, and while a college junior won't write your organization a $50,000 check, I think this assumption is one that nonprofits don't need to make.
At CoolPeopleCare, we've found that people like to give, and like to feel passionate about something. We've found that people who make the least often give the most. If our recent user survey, folks in the bottom 40% in terms of income were in the top 20% of givers in terms of total amount donated to charity.
There's lots of reasons people give, and simply joining a Facebook group may not motivate anyone to donate dollars. But, if you can get a young person to believe in your issue and your cause, you just might have them for life. $20 may not be what you need to cover this fiscal year's shortfall, but if you get someone to a place where they're a loyal donor, your advocate and bought in at every level to what you're doing, then they'll be there down the road.
Unfortunately, lots of nonprofits focus on older, richer donors. What I think the Facebook application shows is that such a focus is shortsighted. As Teeling points out, advertisers and companies have been working hard to figure out how to get their products in front of Facebook's demographic. And that's why you may not make bundles trying to raise money on Facebook - you're competing for someone's $10 not just with other causes, but with iTunes, new releases, and The Gap, all of whom I assume have larger marketing budgets than yours.
My advice to nonprofits is to use Facebook, but to not rely on it to bring in dollars. Connect with the younger set, and get them on board in terms of awareness. These people communicate like no other generation has, and if they like what you're doing, they'll tell everyone of their online friends. What you won't make in dollars, you'll reap in awareness and recognition.