17 December 2013

Facebook: Good or Evil?

Because part of what I do with my life has to do with not-for-profit organizations and raising money, and because I am as bemused by Facebook as everyone else, I found it interesting that Facebook has decided to help out non-profits by adding a "donate" button to a non-profits Facebook page. Good or bad?

Well, driving donations is good, and Facebook is even picking up the vig - meaning that 100% of the donation is going to the charity. [When you give by credit card, the charity normally pays about 3% to the credit card processor, so your $100 gift is really only $97 to the charity.] On the other hand, Facebook isn't telling the charity anything about you - so from the charity's point of view, not so good - if they don't know who you are, they can't ever solicit you again. Granted, maybe that's what you want, as an individual.

Just to test it out, someone in my office made a little donation to the World Wildlife Fund, through that organization's Facebook page.

Here's the email receipt that she got from Facebook:

From: "Facebook"
Date: December 17, 2013
To: [redacted]
Subject: Facebook Payment Receipt #[redacted]

Donation Date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 12:50pm, Receipt Number: [redacted]
Hi [redacted],
Thank you for your $10.00 donation to World Wildlife Fund. On behalf of World Wildlife Fund at 1250 24th Street, NW, Washington, 20090, we thank you for your generous support. You may print this receipt for your records. This receipt confirms that you have made this donation as a charitable contribution and you are not receiving any goods or services in return. As the tax laws vary by state and by country, please consult a tax professional regarding the deductibility of this donation.
The Facebook Payments Inc. Team

The thank you from Facebook - not from the WWF - is awfully sterile, and it seems to be the end of the interaction. Also, at no point in the transaction did she get notice that the WWF wouldn't know that the gift is from her. Also, even odder, she had no option to "share" the donation event with her Facebook friends - and since Facebook is always all about the share and the self-glorification, that's a little peculiar. The Facebook help page for Charity Donations says that there's a "share" option, so maybe she missed it, or it was a glitch.

From the point of view of a non-profit administrator, I want to know who my donors are. I want to be able to thank them, personally, in our own idiosyncratic style. I want to be able to invite them to things - paid things like performances, but also unpaid things like open class day. I want them to know about us. Yes, some of that can go on our website, or our Facebook page, but special invitations to donors only? That needs to be more controlled than Facebook allows.

I don't think this is going to be a great tool for the non-profit world. But I'm curious - how do you, as individuals, feel about it? Do you like the "make a gift without leaving Facebook" friction-less-ness of the transaction? Do you like the anonymity of it? I'm genuinely interested in your thoughts, so leave a comment, pretty please?


Unknown said...

I've seen a lot of people writing about this today and I think the stance that many are taking is really harsh. The truth of the matter is that its not a perfect system - as its only launched yesterday. There are LOTS of optimizations that need to happen, but does that make it evil????

Facebook has always operated under a "launch, learn, optimize" mentality. Their features almost always elicit backlash, but then they fix the errors as they learn how people are interacting with their product.

I have no doubt in my mind that someday soon nonprofits will have advanced donation analytics from facebook - just because its not there now doesn't mean facebook isn't intending to work on it. I also have no doubt that once they optimize their product they will open it up to a larger quantity of verified nonprofit accounts.

The term evil is just crazy. They built a platform for their 1.2 billion users to give frictionlessly to a good cause, and they are one of the ONLY companies in the world that isn't charging a fee! How could that be evil!??!??!?!

Swistle said...

I might want to be able to donate in a way that meant the charity didn't know who I was: I get tired of seeing a charity spend my entire single-donation of $20 on mailing me letters every month for years to try to get me to donate again. But I don't think I'd want to donate through Facebook, because I feel funny about that, and also because it makes me feel the same as when I donate to a charity through a department store or restaurant: I feel like the store or restaurant is getting the credit, not me.

Kizz said...

I think I would always be concerned about whether or not my money was going all the way to the charity and not being waylaid in whole or in part by Facebook.

Catherine said...

As a board member of a nonprofit, I like the idea of having one more option for donors (can't hurt, might help). But I agree with you that it's better if we know who gives to us; and a customizable thank-you response plus a Share function (optional, of course!) would be awfully nice.

susan said...

I don't know that it seems evil, but if I'm going to donate I think I want the charity to know who I am and thank me (although I get not wanting to have tons of mail in response to my $10 donation).

MARY G said...

What Swistle said is really relevant. I get furious when I get lots of junk - cards, calendars, stickers, etc. - after I have made a donation. And the tax receipt form is very poorly done.
But I am with you on the personal thanks bit.
I guess I like the idea of an anonymous donation when it is a one time thing ... donation for specific purpose. But for things I support regularly I want contact, reports on how the money is spent, all of that. But not 'gifts' to encourage donation.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Hmmmm. I don't know that it matters that much to me, but not having a share button seems quite odd.