Category: non-profit organizations

Unravelling Facebook Causes

I just had to sit down and untangle this Facebook “hairball” (one of many I might add) because, if it’s understood and used correctly, it can be great tool not only for you but for an organization that decides to support a cause.

So… here goes… 5 minutes to becoming an expert at Facebook causes.

First, a couple of facts.

From the point of view of the organization looking to raise money through causes, the Facebook application called “Causes” organizes itself into a hierarchy.

At the bottom of this hierarchy is the organization that receives the funds. They are called, in causes terms, the Beneficiary.

A Beneficiary must be a 501(c)3, non-profit organization that is registered with Guidestar and, as part of it’s profile, have enabled “on-line donations”.

This is required because a lot of the information that Causes obtains and passes on through Facebook is obtained from the Guidestar database.

The next step up the foodchain is the cause.

A cause can be created by anyone (including the owner of the Beneficiary). Causes are then “affiliated” or associated with a Beneficiary. This affiliation enables a Facebook user to join a cause or donate to a cause and enables the donations to flow through the cause to the Beneficiary.

From a Beneficiary point of view, this scheme enables one or more causes to be associated with a single beneficiary. For example, if I am part of a non-profit beneficiary called “Save The Forests”, I (or any other Facebook user) can start a cause that benefits Save The Forests. I can can start a cause called “Plant A Tree” so others can donate to that cause (and benefit Save The Forests). Other Facebook users who are interested in what Save The Forests does can also start a cause. For example, Joe (who I may have never met) can start a cause called “1000 Trees” that also benefits Save The Forests. The “social idea” here is that if Joe believes in the cause that he created, so will his friends on Facebook.

Creating causes in not some uncontrolled process. A key to the whole thing working is the concept of “affiliation”. In order for Joe’s cause to benefit my Beneficiary, Joe has to request that his cause become “affiliated” with my Beneficiary. If I approve the affiliation request, then all is well. If I don’t (perhaps because Joe’s cause doesn’t quite match my brand), I can reject the affiliation. This frees Joe to affiliate his cause with some other organization if he wants to.

So… if you are a beneficiary, here are a couple of rules to follow when using Facebook..

  1. First, make sure your organization is registered with Guidestar. Guidestar checks out the legitimacy of who you are an if you have all the proper paperwork and approvals filed. They get a lot of their information from the IRS who is the gatekeeper of al things 501(c)3
  2. Go to and register your organization as a beneficiary. This page is your interface with the company that writes and maintains the causes application on Facebook. Use this tool to make sure that your Beneficiary is well described and that the associated graphics represent who you are. Also make sure that you make yourself an administrator / owner of this beneficiary. The Facebook causes application pulls its information from the site.
  3. As a Facebook user, create at least one cause and affiliate it with your beneficiary. Make sure that you are the administrator of this cause and make sure that the description and images you associate with the cause reflects the purpose of the cause.
  4. As the owner of the beneficiary, approve the affiliate request that you sent to the cause.
  5. Change your profile so that this cause appears as your primary cause.
  6. Invite your friends to join the cause and send out information to members of this cause as you see fit.

That’s it!

Happy causing!

Donation Page Blues

For any non-profit web sites, the donation page (where you make the ask) is the key page on the site. Mess this page up by making it too confusing or too long and all the time and effort that you put in to informing and convincing the reader that you are the right organization goes out the window. The donation page on a non-profit site is equivalent to the checkout process on an e-commerce site. On a non-profit site, you may not leave full shopping carts but the end result is the same — lost revenue!

If you examine your site analytics (I assume you use site analytics… right?) and you see that the last page most of your visitors see before they leave your site is your donation page (and not the confirmation or receipt page), you’ve got problems.

Here are some checkpoints and questions that you should be aware of when figuring out how to improve your donation page:

  • Can I get to the donation page very easily from anywhere on the site?
  • Am I asking for the minimal amount of information that I need to get or am I making the whole process too tedious?
  • Can the entire donation process be completed in no more than three minutes?
  • Do I give a nicely formatted receipt (that meets IRS standards) as part of the transaction?
  • Do I provide a way to easily print the form and do I e-mail the form as a backup?

By the way, make sure your receipt is a single page that doesn’t use a lot of color ink. In a previous site I worked on, one of the biggest complaints we had about our receipt came from older folks and other who are against waste and extra expense. Black and white is fine here. The critical thing is the information

  • Are the giving options (e.g dollar amounts or giving methods) that I offer understandable? Have I tested the process with people outside my organization who I don’t know?

Like many other parts of a site, you should be able to test different versions of your form to find out which one works best. Design your form so you can test different versions that contains changes in stories, layouts, pre-set giving amounts (or none at all) and copy.

  • Make sure that your form has a clear, one sentence call to action such as:
    • “Help us support a hungry child”
    • “Work with us to plant trees and stop erosion in Kenya”
  • Give your potential donor an assurance of that their credit card information and other information will be protected.
  • Offer alternative ways to make payments (e.g. credit cards, EFT, check)
  • Clearly answer the question “where do I send a check?” Not everyone likes on-line donations.
  • What if I want to donate something other than dollars? (e.g stock). How do I do this?
  • Consider offering the following features:
  • sign up for recurring giving
  • collect e-mail address and opt-in
  • Donate a gift (or purchase) in someone else’s name
  • Send a gift card
  • Privacy (please do not use my name in your annual report)

And finally, for large or special circumstance donors who may want to do something other than give a one-time donation, provide information about how to contact someone in your organization who is an expert at handling their request. The higher up in the organization, the better. If they are going to donate a substantial amount to your cause, start treating them like a major donor as soon as they see the site.

On Line For Non-Profits

Having previously spoken at conferences focused on using the web to raise support for non-profit organizations, I can confidently say two things:

First, the Web, as a story telling and publishing medium has huge potentials for non-profit organizations, Second, the problems that people have using this medium are the same problems that have plagued people who use the web for e-commerce, blogging and whatever other uses can be thought of. That problem is finding a good, clear scheme to organize and present all the information you think that your user needs.

At a conference I recently presented , many of the representatives of non-profits in the audience wanted an idea about “what was right” when it came to having a site that informed people about what they did and appropriately “made the ask” (as they say in the non-profit world) for financial or volunteer support.

Here is what we discussed as the top 10 questions that someone using your site wants to know. If you are a non-profit, check your site to see if you can to easily find the answer to these questions within two or three clicks from the home page. Better yet, if you are a non-profit, test how well your site communicates your core ideas and beliefs by having someone else use your site to answer them for you.

Here are the questions that your site should be able to answer:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. What do you believe / Why do you do what you do?
  4. What have you already done to prove your expertise
  5. Why are you the right people to do what you do?
  6. Can I trust you with my (hard earned) dollars?
  7. How can I contact you?
    • How can I talk to a human being?
  8. How can I participate?
    • by volunteering
    • by giving
  9. How do I receive your services?
    • eligibility requirements
  10. How do I donate?