In April 2009, the Washington Post riled up the nonprofit blogosphere by stating that Facebook Causes was ineffective for fundraising.
At the time,the Nature Conservancy was one of 3 organizations that had raised over $100,000 on their Cause page. At that time, there were roughly 80,000 'people' on The Nature Conservancy Cause page. That's an average of $2.40 generated for the nonprofit per member. That's not so great and it's understandable why the Washington Post came to the conclusion that it did.
Today, nearly a year and a half later, I found myself talking to a client who wanted to know how much of their resources they should invest in Facebook Causes. My gut feeling was to say, 'none at all' because there's no data showing that a Cause page actually helps your organization in any way. But I held back, because I didn't want to seem like an old-world curmudgeon.
So, I went back to the Nature Conservancy Cause page. Today, they have 286,000 members and have raised nearly $388,000! Sounds great, right? That's about a $1.36 per member. Thats pretty awful. That's DOWN over 40% since the Washington Post article in August 2009.
At Blue Sky we've seen small groups of 80 or so people generate over $388,000 over the course of a few months for very small nonprofits. That fact that a behemoth like The Nature Conservancy shows such poor results on their Cause page leaves very little hope for the small to mid-size organization on Causes. You can bet that The Nature Conservancy is dumping millions of dollars in resources to their Cause page annually. To what end? I'm not sure, but its not for revenue.
I know that the marketing folks won't like my stance. They will tell me about all the abstract value that Causes has but I'm a numbers and data guy. And if the time and money invested into a Cause page can not be converted into real revenue or savings then what's the point?
If I were a nonprofit manager, I would think twice before investing more time and money into Causes.