Facebook Fundraising Fireside Chat with Anita Yuen

Facebook Fundraising tools have been a lifeline for nonprofits during COVID. 

In this fireside chat, Givepanel’s Nick Burne talks to Facebook’s Anita Yuen about all things fundraising: how the tools were initially developed, how the pandemic accelerated their use and their potential future expansion.

This fireside chat was filmed during Givepanel’s first Social Fundraising Summit in March 2021.

What We Will Cover:

  • About Anita Yuen
  • The Beginning of Facebook’s Social Impact Tools
  • Impact of COVID on Facebook Fundraising
  • The Rise of Facebook GroupFundraising Events
  • How Facebook Supports Nonprofits
  • Facebook Ads and Facebook Fundraising
  • Facebook Fundraising Global Expansion
  • What Nonprofits Should Tap into
  • Windows of Opportunity
  • Instagram Fundraising Tools
  • In Conclusion

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Watch the Video Here:

About Anita Yuen

Ania Yuen is from the social impact partnerships team at Facebook. She has worked almost every country globally to set up digital fundraising works inside some of the biggest nonprofits in the world. She previously worked at UNICEF, where she worked with Nick. Now, Anita has turned her considerable experience to go from the nonprofit side to Facebook. She has been at Facebook for about four and a half years.

The Beginning of Facebook’s Social Impact Tools

My team leads our nonprofit partnership work across Europe, Middle East and Africa. Alongside this, we develop and launch a diverse range of social impact products and tools. Most notably are the donation tools, on Facebook and Instagram, that we launched several years ago. 

Increasingly, I’m working within the health area, most notably around launching blood donations. We’ve rapidly expanded the ability for people to sign up to become a blood donor on Facebook in lots of different countries over the past year. We now have over 80 million people who have expressed interest in becoming blood donors. We started this in India several years ago. Since then, we’ve expanded it in virtually every part of the world. Most recently, we’ve expanded it in Indonesia and the Philippines. We launched it in England in September 2020.

On Facebook, our first donation tools were one of the first social good products we had worked on. It wasn’t the very first, but was one of the most mature projects. We saw the opportunity begin in the US right after the Ice Bucket Challenge. After this, we developed our first tool – the Donate Button. The first donate button was for the Nepal earthquake, fundraising for International Medical core. Within a few days we had raised over $16 million. That was at the point where our product team started to explore the donation tools further. It’s grown so much since then. Now globally, we’ve raised over $3 billion for charities (increased to $5billion since time of recording), all without charging any fees.

A couple of years ago we launched the birthday fundraiser. It was a promotion to encourage the Facebook community to create fundraisers on people’s birthdays. And that has been a phenomenal success.

Impact of COVID on Facebook Fundraising Tools

The last 12 months have been historic and phenomenal (not necessarily in a positive way). However, we have seen over the last year a 70% increase in the usage of all of our apps across Facebook – this includes Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. There was a 2x increase in overall usage of both Facebook and Instagram Lives. Everything has seen a massive spike. There was an acceleration of people wanting to connect digitally, and also needing to connect visually. 

We’ve seen an overall trend in the sector where fundraising income has suffered for many charities. It’s been an exceptionally challenging year. They’ve been doing absolutely heroic work under really trying environments. At the same time, we’ve seen a lot of amazing fundraisers on Facebook. Over $100 million raised for COVID related fundraisers, particularly in phase one of COVID. There was a willingness and generosity in the UK for NHS Charities Together.

We’ve seen that in different forms and manifestations, across different parts of the world.  And Facebook fundraising in general is still growing. Even in the last three months, we’ve just seen a massive, rapid acceleration of fundraisers like virtual challenges.

The Rise of Facebook Virtual Fundraising Events

Obviously, with COVID lockdowns, people have had to stay at home. And it’s meant that charities have had to simply cancel a lot of offline events. So, the virtual challenges opportunity that has arisen in this climate has been an amazing one. We’ve seen an increase of charities that are raising money using this kind of technique. What’s very cool about this, besides the creativity, is the cost efficiency –  events in real life are often more expensive to run

What’s also exciting about this is the level of engagement from supporters. People join groups on Facebook. You’ll see in these groups 1000s of people who are willing to do something, like a step challenge or a push up challenge, for a cause. The groups are a supportive community for this type of activity, a real powerhouse of supporters. The amount that these users post, the amount that they engage with posts and like posts, just supporting each other, is powerful. 

I think that most charities hadn’t been using groups, but now they’re seeing the extent of what they can achieve. They’re deriving a lot of value from them. And at the same time for us, as a platform, we’re seeing new communities built. This is super important to us. Communities are where people drive a lot of value, where they’re able to keep motivated during a time which is really hard. They can be proud of their connection to a charity by showing and demonstrating their support.

How Facebook Supports Nonprofits

Our donation products can be used by any registered nonprofit and are absolutely free. This is a scalable solution, especially in terms of raising funds organically on Facebook and Instagram platforms.

We are looking at continuing to support charities that we’re working with. We want to make sure that they’re able to use fundraising techniques, like ads, groups and fundraisers, and understand the whole fundraising process. We want to make sure that we’re supporting partners, so that they’re optimising and using best practices across all these Facebook products.

We also want to help build up knowledge, so we built a Facebook social impact organisation website. Here we have resources to help nonprofits get a better sense of the other things they can do – best practices, case studies, information about how they can onboard onto the donation tools. We have a product called workplace, which is essentially almost like Facebook, but it is used for internal purposes. It’s a knowledge sharing and networking product platform that businesses can use for their staff. And it’s absolutely free for nonprofits. 

We’re looking at how we can build out more online events and webinars. So stay tuned for that! We are thinking quite actively about that, particularly now, where all events have become virtual. There’s an opportunity for us to reach more people through these kinds of events.

Facebook Ads and Facebook Fundraising

There is interest in trying to connect Facebook ads and Facebook Fundraising in some way. At the moment, they are not connected. But, we’re always looking at how we can listen to partners and help them generate more income on the Facebook platform. We’re also looking at how we can help nonprofits skill up on Facebook advertising. We want them to fully maximise this opportunity, especially as charities have had to pivot towards digital due to COVID.  Alongside our specialist website, we also have resources like blueprints and training courses for nonprofits.

Facebook Fundraising Global Expansion

Charitable giving donation tools are now available in 20 different countries. The adoption of these tools has been amazing. It’s been immensely satisfying work as part of a team who have expanded to different countries. It’s also been personally satisfying to see so many cases of people actually being able to raise the funds they need, all over the globe. The Australian wildfires cause was a breakaway fundraiser in 2020. It’s a perfect example of how the world mobilised to raise funds. We’ve expanded so people in countries where the tools are not available can donate and create fundraisers for nonprofits. We’re always thinking about expansion.

The starting point for us has always been to think about the ecosystem. So we often, when we’re thinking about the donation tools, charities are the beneficiary. But what about other users? Keeping this top of mind is super important for us.

The real opportunity came when we opened up the donation tools, so that an individual can use them and raise money for charity, or a public figure can use the tools to raise money, or a brand can create a fundraiser. We think quite broadly around the whole Facebook ecosystem, and how the whole community within Facebook can actually support causes that they care about. So in that respect, we think quite widely in terms of market expansion. We’re always thinking about new markets, but there’s a lot of complexity that needs consideration when entering into new countries. There’s certain requirements, tax receiving requirements, currencies, payment gateways, things like that.

But, overall, we’re always asking – how can we improve the experience for nonprofits? How can we improve the experience for donors and fundraisers? And where are there new opportunities?

What Nonprofits Should Tap into

COVID has forced digitization of individuals, of companies and of nonprofits. We have all had to very quickly pivot towards digital, and accelerate with digital plans and investment. It’s become necessary now..

In the broader context of this, I would say there are two things that I would advise nonprofits to tap into. The first is really to understand the consumer and their needs. Take, for example, the virtual challenges. You know why it is working so well, right now? It’s blowing on a need. We’re all locked in our homes. We all feel like we should be doing something active, but we’re probably not. But we need a good excuse to do it for mental health. It’s about a moment.

There’s consumer insight that says hey look, you know people want a good excuse to do something. Virtual challenges are a perfect opportunity for people to do that. It also means they can communicate to their friends and family whilst they’re doing something that feels good. It’s fulfilling a lot of different kinds of needs. One thing that’s really important for charities to do is understand how consumer needs have changed through COVID. And how can they help meet that need?

But I think where this can get turbocharged is when you then look at charities who have actually invested in digital and they’re spending more resources. This is the second thing I’d advise. They’re set up for digital success as they have a developed digital muscle within their organisation. We saw that organisations and charities that had strong digital teams were able to pivot very quickly and scale up existing activity. They didn’t have to start from fresh. This is a composite combination of charities that have a finger on the pulse of what is actually happening, how they can meet the kind of supporter or donor need, all combined with strong digital capacity. It’s competency and capacity. 

Windows of Opportunity 

With all the fundraising and digital fundraising opportunities there are now, the window of opportunity has become narrower. This means that speed has, as it is cliche to say, become even more important. We know that certain digital techniques will likely have a lifespan.

We see this with Instagram – there might be something that comes up in the public sphere, and  it gets a lot of engagement. And there’s a moment where you can kind of fundraise for it. But fundraising appeals on Instagram are not going to go for months and months. So how does a nonprofit kind of capitalise on that? Well, they have to be able to have their finger on the pulse of what is actually happening out there, to know that they have a kind of window of opportunity. And they have to have the digital competency, and the capacity to pivot quickly and move on it.

Instagram’s Fundraising Tools

We launched Instagram donation tools in summer 2019. We had always heard from nonprofits that there was a real interest to raise money on the Instagram platform. So our team launched in 2019 a donation sticker that can be used on stories. You can go to the sticker tray and choose a donation sticker – any charity that is on boarded onto the Facebook donation tools has access to use the Instagram donation tools. This sticker activity has been going well. 

Since then, we’ve launched new features, like the ability to raise money during a Facebook Live (you can link to a fundraiser) and Instagram Live donate buttons. You can see there are public figures, influencers and celebrities that use Instagram. And they’ve been going live a lot, particularly during COVID. So now they have the opportunity to raise funds on Instagram. By adding a donate button to their Instagram Live, people can easily make a donation.

We’ve also recently launched the ability for people to create fundraisers on the main feed on Instagram. A public figure, or an individual charity, can do this. You can just see that we’re constantly looking at how we  can expand the set of tools on Instagram to raise funds. This again plays into our thinking around the ecosystem. We know that public figures and celebrities are huge on Instagram, and they often have causes that they are supporting. I think it’s really important for charities to let some of their biggest supporters know about these tools on Instagram. Because if there’s an opportunity to raise funds via a celeb easily creating a fundraiser on Instagram.

In Conclusion

We know it’s challenging for charities and we just hope that the donation tools are helpful. I think the virtual challenges are immensely exciting. Charities have been so proactive with using the donation tools.

When we first launched, charities were raising funds mostly by people creating birthday fundraisers. But it’s virtual challenges where charities are driving fundraising at scale. Creating these types of fundraisers is great – it’s proactive and there’s a huge amount of creativity involved. I’m just excited to see how that evolves.

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