News and analysis
August 25, 2015

Facebook's New Donate Button Helps Charities Build Donor Lists

After clicking on the donation button, users are directed to the nonprofit's website where they can make their contribution.

Some 20 months after it began experimenting with the concept, Facebook said this week it is rolling out a "donate now" button for all nonprofits’ pages and paid advertisements on the social-media site.

Clicking on the button prompts a pop-up message that reads "Make a donation to show your support," followed by the statement "Not endorsed by or affiliated with Facebook." Users are directed to the websites of the various organizations, where payment information must be entered to make a contribution.

"Now, it’s easier than ever for nonprofits to connect with people who care about their causes and encourage them to contribute through the website of their choice," Facebook said in a post explaining the new feature.

Facebook introduced a "donate now" button in December 2013 in partnership with 19 hand-picked nonprofits, including the American Red Cross, Livestrong Foundation, and Unicef. Payment information was entered directly on the social-media site. In that pilot, the nonprofits did not get the names or e-mail addresses of people who used the donate button, which is critical for developing relationships with donors.

Beth Kanter, a consultant and social-media expert, said she first spotted the new donate button this week on an add for the ALS Association’s "ice-bucket" challenge. The disclaimer telling users they are being directed to an external website may turn some people off, she said.

Facebook has notoriously low conversion rates for charitable donations. A study conducted by the fundraising-software company Blackbaud found that just 1 percent of all online fundraising is attributed to social media.

Still, Ms. Kanter said, the new donate button may be useful in larger campaigns. "It will be interesting to see if people experiment with it, and how it is used with end-of-year fundraising and different giving days," Ms. Kanter said.

In May, Facebook raised more than $15 million in response to a deadly earthquake in Nepal from 754,000 people after inserting a request for donations into its users’ feeds. The money went to International Medical Corps, which was providing emergency services in the country.

Send an e-mail to Megan O’Neil.