Is the Facebook “Donate Now” Button: Dumb or Helpful?

Facebook has unveiled a new option that could benefit the nonprofit sector:

We are excited to introduce a new ‘Donate Now’ call-to-action option on both link ads and Pages. 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.”

Many in the media were quick to applaud the move by Facebook:

“This is definitely a valuable tool for nonprofits…” — TechCrunch

“This new Facebook feature is hard not to like.” — Huffpost Impact

“…nonprofits won’t be complaining now that they have easier access to a billion and a half potential donors.” — Mashable

“Charities welcome Facebook decision to let them use ‘donate now’ buttons.” — Third Sector

However, not everyone greeted the announcement with great enthusiasm.

Steven Shattuck, Vice President of Marketing at Bloomerang, outlined his issues with this new feature in his post “The Facebook Page Donate Now Button Is Dumb and I Hate It”:

In my mind, this button is problematic for two reasons: 1) This is an obvious ploy by Facebook to get you to buy ads … 2) There is no organic path to the donate button that makes any logical sense or has any basis in reality…. I don’t buy it. It’s the equivalent of a coffee shop putting their tip jar outside and around the corner.”

Non-Profits on FacebookHere is how Facebook designed the “Donate Now” button to work. A nonprofit organization can put the button on its Facebook page and in its ads. People who click on the button will first see a Facebook disclaimer box and then be taken to the organization’s own donation page.

Shattuck writes, “So should you set up the button? Probably. There’s really no downside per se and the whole process takes less than a minute.”

While there might not be a downside to the “Donate Now” button on Facebook, is there an upside as some have suggested or is Shattuck right to think the button is “dumb”?

Last summer, for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Tom Held wrote a terrific analysis of how charities are using Facebook. His report included insights from Facebook’s initial experiment with a donation button. Facebook partnered with 19 organizations. Unlike the current “Donate Now” call-to-action, the experimental button allowed users to donate to a charity directly at the Facebook site.

While Facebook and many of the participating charities have not released the results of the experiment, one nonprofit did. “The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society reported raising $3,500 through Facebook in the wake of the experiment. But that’s barely a sliver of the $98.5 million the charity raised through all online sources last year,” says Held.

On the other hand, “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,” reports Megan O’Neil in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

I agree with Shattuck’s suggestion that adding the button can’t hurt. Charities should always make it convenient for people to donate. However, most charities will likely see few, if any, donations through this mechanism. Nevertheless, some nonprofits, particularly those involved in emergency relief efforts, could benefit significantly from the button. Time and careful testing will tell.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me in the comments section below what you think of the Facebook “Donate Now” button. And answer the following poll question:

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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