Facebook Donate
The impact of new donation platforms such as Facebook Donate was the subject of much debate at EFA’s Skillshare in Berlin last month. Fundraising Europe asks whether charities are in danger of losing their identity to giant commercial entrants to the fundraising marketplace?


2017 has undoubtedly seen a leap forward in the availability of new giving platforms across Europe, including Facebook’s new fundraising features, which were rolled out across sixteen European countries this Autumn, and Amazon Smile (donating 0.5% of the net purchase price to a selection of good causes).


The key differentiator between the two is that people donating through Facebook are giving their own money and can choose the amount they give, while a donation through Amazon Smile is from Amazon itself and is a set sum; a fraction of the purchase price, but could add up to significant sums if many of Amazon's customers were to make the switch to Amazon Smile.


While there are others on the market, these two were the most talked about, particularly Facebook. Now operating a range of fundraising facilities, Facebook provides a Donate button that charities can add to their Facebook page, to individual posts as well as to Facebook Live to create video fundraising campaigns, and has launched the Facebook Fundraisers community.


A Fundraisers API also allows people to sync their off-Facebook fundraising to Facebook fundraisers and users can now send money to their friends and followers in France and the UK via Messenger.


Essentially, the donation facilities give users the opportunity to simultaneously promote the causes they care about directly to their network, while enabling followers to give there and then.


Post EFA Skillshare - and causing great excitement within the sector - Facebook has announced that it is waiving all fees on charitable donations (although fees still apply in some nations on donations via its ‘personal fundraiser’ pages).


Paul de Gregorio, Open’s director of digital engagement, comments: “The power of Facebook alone is phenomenal, particularly now Facebook Donate is available in Europe. Integrating Facebook Live and Donate means any charity has the ability to ‘go live’ whenever they have something to say – and provide a seamless way to give without users even leaving the platform.”


While fellow speakers cited the scale and potential of these new platforms for fundraisers, there was also some caution that charities may lose control of their identity to such large commercial organisations.


“Amazon Smile and Facebook Donate certainly offer new opportunities for charity fundraising, but we are also concerned about the loss of control,” said Arne Peper, chief executive of the German Fundraising Association (DFRV).


“Charities may not have a say about how they are listed on these sites and often can’t access information about who is supporting them. This means that charities are in danger of losing their identities to these large commercial players. We are concerned about how these companies might actually go on to use this data, distancing charities further from the process and their supporters.”


Facebook and Amazon alone have massive user populations. In Europe, Facebook is known to have more than 340 million users and, in Germany alone, half of the population (40 million people) are Amazon customers. Commercial players of this size and scale may well have the potential to create and manage the world’s biggest donor databases.


Facebook’s fundraising tools were rolled out in Europe this Autumn. They are now available in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Finland and Luxembourg.


Joachim Sina, head of fundraising at GRÜN Software, said: “The world’s largest taxi companies own no taxis (Uber), the largest accommodation provider has no real estate (Airbnb) and the most popular media provider doesn’t create its content (Facebook). Is it so hard to imagine that Europe’s top fundraising platform might be delivered by the likes of Google, Amazon or Facebook?”


Sina continued: “We have already given away digital sovereignty in many areas, but not yet in giving. Charities must keep it in their hands, reinventing themselves.


“It’s big data and collaboration that will put charities back in the game. We need to use technology to engage and really get to know donors, innovating at every level. We have to think about how we can use blockchain technology and perhaps even to launch our own European fundraising platform?”


Of course, there needs to be strategy and some element of spend behind any successful digital fundraising campaign, whether charities are utilising external platforms or their own. Facebook has certainly made it easy for many charities to benefit, but the question remains; are charities at risk of losing their identities in the process?


Few would argue with the immense opportunities of sourcing additional funding through such sizable donation platforms as Facebook Donate. However, the fundraising community is all too aware of the heavy commercial might, budget and reach of the likes of Facebook and the data it holds.


Read more:

See Paul de Gregorio’s tips for mobilising support through digital channels.

See highlights from EFA’s Skillshare.