Blog       How Dementia UK built their Facebook fundraising program to over £1 million

How Dementia UK built their Facebook fundraising program to over £1 million

Despite the questions over saturation, falling audience numbers, and lower engagement, Facebook fundraising is still growing and has, for some nonprofits, become a key pillar of their fundraising strategy. And where charities have invested in it, the impact has been felt. 

Dementia UK, a specialist dementia nursing charity, saw the opportunity to grow their social fundraising program in 2021 and have gone on to develop a sustainable, successful strategy that allows them to raise millions, connect with supporters, and explore innovative avenues for fundraising. 

We teamed up with Dementia UK’s Lucy Brown and Lucy Canning at Fundraising Everywhere’s 2023 Fundraising Tech Conference to share insights on how they built a social fundraising strategy to last.

What has Dementia UK achieved with their Facebook Challenge program?

You came for the results, so let’s start there. 

The objective for Dementia UK was clear – to create a sustainable, impactful new revenue stream that goes beyond one-time achievements. Having started their Facebook Challenges journey in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused a boom in supporters taking part in virtual challenges, the team faced the prospect of maintaining that same level of income and engagement that had kicked off their Facebook Challenge experience. But did they manage it? 

Financial year Virtual Challenges Income Virtual Challenges Registrations
2020/21 £3,179,928 41,557
2021/22 £2,464,803 56,418
2022/23 £3,002,229 85,660

2023/24 (as of November 2023!)

£2,582,771 86,496

In a word, yes. Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, the organization raised over £3 million (!) in the financial year 2020-21, with a significant portion generated from a single event in March 2021. 

Most excitingly though are the subsequent years which have seen consistent growth, with over £3 million raised again in the financial year 2022-23, showcasing the sustained success of their Facebook Challenges program. 

Now that you know the results are possible, let’s dive into how Dementia UK built this sustainable growth from the ground up. 

The Facebook Challenge model

At the core of Dementia UK's success lies the Facebook Challenge model but if you’re not familiar with this, let’s do a quick recap. 

Facebook Challenges are innovative fundraising campaigns that harness the power of social media to engage your supporters, raise funds, and spread the word about your cause. These Challenges are designed to be effective, starting with targeted Facebook ads through to creating a vibrant community within Facebook Groups, promoting active engagement and fundraising. 

Not sure where to begin? Check out GivePanel’s Facebook Challenge Playbook for a step-by-step guide to running Challenges on social media platforms. 

Despite managing four Facebook Challenges annually with the support of GivePanel’s platform, Dementia UK acknowledged early on that the success of their Facebook Challenges program depended on more than just a compelling model. The team structure played a pivotal role and in 2021, the team comprised of just one full-time virtual events coordinator, Lucy Brown. Recognizing that the growth potential was evident, Lucy led the charge on a proposal for a team expansion.

Dementia UK's Virtual Events Fundraising team

The proposal was not just about increasing the number of Challenges but also focused on strategic team growth to make Facebook Challenges a sustainable and repeatable source of income for the nonprofit. With an aim of running 7 Facebook Challenges per year, and as a result a growth in income, reach, and ROI, Dementia UK hired their first virtual events fundraising team. The structure included:

  • A Virtual Events Manager
  • 2 Virtual Events Executives
  • A Virtual Events Assistant
  • And 2 part-time Facebook Community Coordinators 

This evolved team structure has been instrumental in managing the increased workload and ensuring the success of the expanded Facebook Challenges program. Their success is evident not only in the overall growth of their social fundraising pillar but also in the individual success of their Facebook Challenges that continue to match (and in some cases exceed) 2020 figures.

Fundraising Tech 2023 slide deck (delegate bag version)

Walk 31 Miles in May Challenge: A case study

One such Facebook Challenge was Dementia UK’s 2023 Walk 31 Miles in May Challenge. One of their most successful to date, here are three key strategies that made this Challenge hit dizzying heights: 

Building a fundraising community through engagement - Lucy Canning, one of Dementia UK’s Virtual Events Executives, emphasized the role of the team’s Facebook Community Coordinators as the linchpin in fostering engagement. The coordinators responded to over 17,000 Facebook posts during the Challenge, creating a positive and encouraging space. Peaks in engagement were strategically utilized at the start and end of the Challenge to motivate participants and celebrate their achievements.

Fundraising Tech 2023 slide deck (delegate bag version)-2

Adapting for success - Daily stats became a crucial tool for the team, providing insights into the event's performance. Reacting to positive indicators early on, the team secured additional funds for marketing, resulting in increased Facebook Group participation. Reactivity was further demonstrated by sending a zero-pound fundraising email to boost activations when needed.

Providing flexibility - Dementia UK offered two fundraising options – Facebook and JustGiving – to cater to the preferences of their diverse audience. Results indicated that 18% of the income for the May Challenge came through JustGiving, demonstrating the success of providing flexible options to supporters. The seamless integration with GivePanel ensured a smooth transition for supporters choosing JustGiving.

Their hard work paid off as the campaign exceeded expectations and raised an incredible £1,075,335.20. Check out our success story to read more about Dementia UK’s Walk 31 Miles in May Facebook Challenge, including just how many group members the team was moderating!

Dementia UK

Key learnings: Growing a social fundraising income stream

Dementia UK cracked the £1 million code, proving that sustainable social fundraising growth is not just achievable, but replicable. But what are their key learnings to pass on to nonprofits aiming to do the same and cultivate a robust social fundraising income stream? The team focuses on 4 important elements:

  1. Strategic planning and gradual growth - Lucy Brown stresses the importance of planning and gradual growth when it comes to managing a Facebook Challenge program. She recommends regular evaluation of your efforts and continuous testing to keep on top of the most effective strategies.
  2. Engaged team structure - Prioritize building a dedicated virtual team and engage both internal stakeholders and volunteers in your mission. Your team serves as brand ambassadors and no one knows more about your cause than you do so make it count in the group. 
  3. Adaptive marketing and reactivity - Gain senior management buy-in for media spend and regularly review patterns to adapt strategies accordingly. Reactivity is key!
  4. Diversified fundraising options - Provide supporters with diverse fundraising options, such as JustGiving, to ensure flexibility and responsiveness to platform-specific challenges.

Dementia UK's journey with their Facebook Challenges program serves as a model for nonprofits seeking to innovate and thrive in the social fundraising landscape. The blend of strategic planning, engaged team structure, adaptability, and diversification of fundraising options has allowed them to succeed in a competitive and ever-changing market.

Grow your nonprofit's social fundraising program 

Want to follow in Dementia UK's footsteps but lack the internal resourcing? Check out our partner marketplace and build a social fundraising program that suits your needs with the help of our handpicked experts.  

If you're still on the fence, talk to a member of the GivePanel team about why social fundraising can help you meet supporters where they already are, raise more and collect data that you can actually use.

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