Jewish Voice for Peace Shows the Way to Fundraising on Facebook

By Drew Bernard, CEO ActionSprout

While ActionSprout has had a donation tool for over a year now, we just weren’t seeing signs that Facebook users were ready to pull out their credit card while checking their newsfeed. And the fact that the vast majority of Facebook users are accessing the platform from their mobile devices has made donating on the social network even more of a hassle for most users. Have you ever tried filling out a mobile form on the L train? – yikes!

That’s not to say Facebook hasn’t been playing an important role in many NGO’s fundraising efforts, it has. NGOs have found Facebook to be a powerful channel for acquiring new email supporters. They have also found that those Facebook acquired supporters have a high propensity to donate via email which is why this has been our recommended strategy for quite some time.

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Email Marketing and Facebook: How To Combine Them and Why

Facebook is always changing and unveiling some new nifty way for nonprofits to reach, capture, and cultivate meaningful relationships with their supporters.

Today it’s easier than ever to combine email marketing (not the spammy kind) and Facebook outreach strategies.

And, the positive impact of a tight knit Facebook + Email community continues to grow as Facebook marches on to become a dominant marketing tool.

To be frank…Facebook is chocolate; email is peanut butter. Together they’re the most digitally delicious peanut butter cup ever!

Organizations that treat Facebook and email as entirely different channels for reaching and engaging supporters are missing out. Those that successfully merge their email and Facebook efforts find themselves with far more benefits than they at first know what to do with!

Why Facebook Increasingly Supports Email Outreach

It’s only natural to just about everyone at this point to merge aspects of social media with email.

Facebook is moving quickly to make it easier for companies to leverage the information and networks of its 1.2 billion users in ways that add REAL VALUE to all marketers: both nonprofits and for-profits.

Consider the important changes Facebook has made to its:

  • API’s
  • Open Graph
  • Search technology
  • Terms of Service
  • Advertising tools

And on and on. Like everything else intertwined with web culture…it’s adapting.

If you look closely at the procession of changes/updates, you quickly see the direction the company’s going.

Simply put, you can capture data and interact on Facebook today in ways almost no one saw coming 12 months ago, especially in the realm of integrated email marketing.

The 3 ‘Marketing Buckets’ of Facebook

That said, let’s dig in. Here’s the basics of Facebook outreach. See anything similar to email marketing?

  • Reaching your target audience through relevancy and authenticity.
  • Cultivating more productive relationships with supporters.
  • Capturing data to evolve these relationships on and off Facebook.

Simple enough. Now let’s go through each and along the way unearth ways you can combine the two.

Reaching Your (Flesh & Blood) Audience

Example: ActionSprout helped Sierra.Rise run an email campaign that drove supporters to a post on their Facebook page instead of a petition page on their website.

You catch that?

From email to public Facebook page instead of their website. For users this means we stay in our comfort zones – email to Facebook profile.

The post itself included a clear Call to Action (CTA) that went beyond mere clicks, Likes, Shares or Comments by asking people to sign a petition directly inside Facebook.


  • The post itself outperformed any other published on their Facebook page in months.
  • They grew their page (community) with high quality supporters.
  • They captured the names and Facebook User ID’s for every person that clicked Like or Commented on the post itself so they can track their engagement over time.
  • They captured the email address of every person that “signed” the petition.
  • They re-engaged existing supporters and captured data to help them better understand their interests.

How To Do This: Drive people to take action on your Facebook page instead of a petition form on your website. Sierra.Rise drove people to a post where they could like, comment and share before clicking through to complete the action on their ActionSprout tab. This created buzz around the cause, introducing it to folks that wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise.

Cultivation & Email Marketing

Stop being content with using Facebook pages as nothing but places to “build awareness” of important causes!

Listen, Facebook knows that its paying customers require real and measurable returns on their advertising dollars.

As a result, they’re making it easier to reach target audiences and engage them in ways that go beyond Like, Share and Comment by using the new Custom Actions Feature.

Hint: Most first experienced Facebook’s new custom actions when they started seeing stories in news feeds about friends listening to songs on Spotify.


By giving platforms like ActionSprout the ability to add new actions for people to take directly in News Feeds, Facebook opened up the ability to build deeper relationships with people right inside our comfort zones.

ActionSprout is among the first to leverage Facebook’s latest API’s, custom actions, and the open graph to support the unique engagement and email marketing needs of nonprofits.

Capturing Supporters & Igniting Action

ActionSprout provides ways to capture data, including email addresses, from people that take meaningful action for a cause or candidate on Facebook.

Most organizations have been investing in building Facebook communities for years.

They’re sitting on tremendous amounts of pent-up (and growing) value locked away inside Facebook in the form of fans and communities.

A study done by NTEN and M+R in 2012 showed Facebook fan growth of 46% –far outpacing email marketing or list growth.

However, to capture email addresses of people on Facebook you NO LONGER have to drive them off to a website or app where they fill out a form and hit submit.

Driving people to take action on or off Facebook, by filling out a form has always fallen flat for two primary reasons:

  1. The completion rates on these forms are very low whether they reside on the organization’s website or are hosted on an app on their Facebook page.
  2. These forms are almost always a viral dead end, which defeats the entire point of Facebook.

This means, if you’re lucky enough to have a post on your Facebook page that does drive people to take action from it, it will simply fail to be shared and spread. In other words, the more successful organizations are at creating posts that drive people to take the action, the less viral it is!

Facebook Offers a Cost-Effective Email Marketing Strategy

Their API’s give people meaningful actions to take directly from their newsfeed!

We can then capture data without forgoing the viral impact of people engaging and sharing content directly on Facebook.

In the past, few organizations looked to Facebook for list growth. This isn’t because they haven’t wanted to grow lists using Facebook –it’s because there were no good ways to do it!

Times have changed.

Nonprofits that use ActionSprout can now log into their ActionSprout account, or connected CRM, and quickly find their most active Facebook supporters.

  • On average, each post that includes an ActionSprout powered call to action converts 5-20% of the total number of people that engage with the post.
  • So, if an organization’s post has 100 people Like, Share or Comment, they’ll receive 5-20 new email addresses from people that were ready to engage even more.

How Email Marketing Adds Value to Facebook Outreach

When an organization posts something to their wall, Facebook only delivers it to 6.5% of their audience.

That’s like having an email list with a 93.5% bounce rate.

Sure, you can pay to get that message seen by more fans, but the fact that individuals are bombarded with an average of about 1500 pieces of content each time they log into Facebook, means “viewer-blindness” kicks in.

  • Email is and will be the most direct and controllable means of reaching supporters electronically for quite some time.
  • The amount of money currently being raised on social sites like Facebook is minuscule compared with the ever-growing amount of money being raised via email.
  • Direct mail still dominates fundraising but email is growing in importance. The good news is that by using Facebook hand in hand with email, organizations enjoy the best of both worlds.

Benefits of Multi-Channel Reach and Engagement

Although email-open rates have remained steady at 15%, click-through rates have dropped to 7%.

Facebook is working furiously to give marketers new ways to target existing email supporters on Facebook at the same time that those marketers are working to reach them via their email inbox.

  • A study done around #GivingTuesday last year showed organizations that used social channels along with email produced 10X the donations on that day.
  • Other studies put the value of a Facebook fan at $161.30 over a 12 month period.
  • Those 5 to 20 new email addresses you gain for every 100 people clicking Like, Share or Comment adds up to an impressive increase in revenue very quickly.

At ActionSprout, we help people leverage Facebook’s ever-changing advertising potential, but, one thing is clear: one of the most powerful ways to target users on Facebook is to target those individuals that already have relationships with an organization.

Each month (and often each week) Facebook releases some new feature or permission that open up new possibilities.

It can be a bit daunting to think about what the future holds for organizations that depend on electronic communications to engage supporters.

But, we can honestly say, the future is bright.

How to grow your supporter list through Facebook Advertising

At over 120 years old, the Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have to work hard on Facebook advertising and marketing!

It wasn’t easy for them to reach the point where they can post content on their Facebook page and instantly see thousands of people engage, like, share, and join the conversation.

Over time, however, what they discovered is that…

Facebook is better for reaching new supports rather than soliciting for donations.

Wow! What a revelation! With nearly 300K fans when they contacted ActionSprout, it was obvious that they’d tried a gauntlet of strategies to convert Facebook fans into fundraisers.

The List-Cleaning Mission

Over the past year on the side, the club worked hard to clean out and refresh their email lists; reactivating or sun-setting hundreds of thousands of inactive contacts and replacing them with fresh newly engaged supporters.

Here’s what Benjamin McHugh, Director of Online Fundraising, told us about these efforts:

“These were some of the lowest costs we’ve seen for acquiring new prospective donators and fundraisers in a long time and we were surprised that the quality was actually on par or better than other paid list acquisition methods we use.”

Great, so with these two things in mind, Benjamin McHugh, or BJ, worked with the ActionSprout Team to use targeted Facebook advertising coupled with specialized social actions to cost-effectively reach and convert new Facebook fans into email contacts! Here’s the initial goal and what happened over a two month period.

Initial Client Facebook Advertising Goals

Acquire new ‘emailable’ prospective supporters and keep costs per new person under $2.

Results Delivered

  • 43,690 people engaged with action posts.
  • 15,264 people took action.
  • 6,972 new contacts added to Sierra Club lists.
  • 5% completed actions emailed to them in 30 days.

Acquisition Costs

  • $0.22 per person engaged.
  • $0.66 per action taker.
  • $1.43 per new unique email address.

What was really interesting is that roughly 5% of their new contacts took additional direct actions from email appeals and gladly moved further down the path to becoming full-fledged donators!

Making Life Easier for the Sierra Club

Like most nonprofits, the Sierra Club team has little time to spare. In turn, BJ needed a way to execute his Facebook acquisition aspirations in a way that wouldn’t put additional strain on the already overworked social media staff.

The ActionSprout team augmented the existing efforts of the social media teams — allowing for this list building to happen with no additional time required by Sierra Club staff. In fact, the ActionSprout team provided a few more high-quality posts each week, increasing productivity!

The Art & Science of Compelling Actions

With access to large amounts of data, we were able to quickly swoop in and efficiently create action recommendations that were highly relevant to the audience Sierra Club wanted to reach. The only work for Sierra Club staff was to simply approve the content and schedule it for posting to their Facebook pages. ActionSprout did everything else!

Ad Management & Posting Optimization

One of the challenges with Facebook advertising is predicting and controlling conversion costs. For the Sierra Club audience, our ad services focused on driving action takers at a fixed and predictable $1 or less cost.

The ActionSprout team uses an array of highly targeted ads and advanced custom audiences to ensure the content was reaching people that are most likely to support the Sierra Club and complete the actions.

Because all the actions were run inside the Sierra Club’s ActionSprout account, BJ enjoyed ready access anytime to monitor performance and sync the new activity and contact records into his CRM system.

Can nonprofits make a difference on Facebook?

As we were saying goodbye to 2014 and ushering in 2015, three organizations— NARAL Pro-Choice America, CREDO and UltraViolet —were hard at work fighting to protect our right to an abortion in the United States.

On January 6th, Mitch McConnell would be sworn in as the Senate majority leader, and they knew what would be on his agenda: a 20-week abortion ban.

This proposed ban threatened to undermine one of the most important Supreme Court cases, Roe v. Wade. This ruling affirms abortion as a constitutionally protected right.

The U.S. House of Representatives had passed a 20-week abortion ban in the past, so it was likely the Senate could pass one now, that it was under anti-choice control.

No one wanted to wait around and watch that happen. There was work to be done!

On the same day that Mitch McConnell was sworn in, NARAL was ready for action. They launched a petition to their supporters on Facebook, asking them to oppose McConnell’s plan to pass the ban through the Senate.

UltraViolet launched a petition of their own, as did CREDO, asking folks to stop Mitch McConnell’s attack on reproductive freedom.

And the wave of signatures came in!

By January 21st, just 16 days later, over 140,000 signatures had been collected! Now it was time to deliver them to Mitch McConnell himself.

The NARAL team marched down to Mitch McConnell’s office door with 140,000 signatures in hand.

Hours before the vote was set to take place on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the anti-choice House Republicans were forced to abandon their abortion ban bill.

This won’t be the last time anti-choice Republican leaders try to stop women from making their own decisions about their health and lives; but, together, we helped put conservatives on the defensive.

The moral of the story?

Real change is possible through social media and online petitions.For more information on creating effective calls-to-action, please see our guide.

4 Ways to Make Your Facebook Fans Look Amazing!

Each month thousands of nonprofit organizations use ActionSprout to improve their Facebook Page performance and to engage fans beyond likes, shares and comments.

My team works directly with a few dozen of these nonprofits to help strategize and improve the overall performance of their Facebook outreach efforts.

Over the past several months, we’ve started to see clear patterns among the most successful pages. One of the clearest patterns relates to which content does well on Facebook (organic/paid) and which content fails.

In a recent article, I explained that in order for content to succeed on Facebook, it must drive people to engage. It’s not enough to post high-quality content that informs your target audience. Nor is it enough to post content that your fans enjoy consuming.

In order for content to be successful, your Facebook fans and their friends must want to be seen consuming and sharing it!

  • Clicking like, share, comment, or taking a deeper action like the ones ActionSprout powers, are all acts of self-expression on Facebook.
  • When we engage with a piece of content on Facebook, we do so because we want someone to see us do it.
  • Facebook users are keenly aware of the fact that by engaging with your content or taking any social actions, they’re communicating something to their friends.

As a page manager, your job is to create content that helps your target audience express themselves to their friends. In other words, when Facebook fans interact with your content, it becomes part of their image on Facebook; part of their personal narrative.

Before you post

Each time you sit down to create a post, I want you to ask yourself two questions:

  • Question #1: By taking this action, what will it say to my Facebook fans’ friends?
  • Question #2: Does it align with what I believe they want their friends to think of them?

People are far more likely to engage with content that expresses a positive image of themselves.

Just because someone appreciates or agrees with something you post doesn’t mean they’ll want that content to become an expression of themselves. Your job as a page manager is to make your supporters look good in the eyes of their friends.

Content that does well on Facebook not only helps your target audience tell their story through engagement, it also adds real value to their news feed and their friends’ news feeds.

Following are four strategies for creating content that people often want to engage with because it helps them paint a picture of who they want to be.

1. Post Smile-Worthy Content

Post things that make Facebook fans smile and helps them make their friends smile. We all love a good chuckle and want to make the people we care about smile.

Meanwhile, nonprofits often feel pressure stay serious . They fear making light of something will cheapen their brand. If you’re creating content for an organization with a serious mission, look for tasteful ways to inject humor and engagement will improve.

For example, who doesn’t smile when they see Calvin and Hobbes? This post performed nearly 3X as well as the average post on Fast Company’s page:


This post performed 3X better than the average ‘Super Serious’ post on Big Cat Rescue’s page. See? You can inject humor into almost anything without being distasteful.


2. Help Facebook Fans Inspire Their Friends

Who among us doesn’t want to be an inspiration to our friends?

As a Facebook page manager, look for content that inspires hope or other positive emotions among your fans. Inspiring content consistently does well on all kinds of pages because Facebook users want inspiring content to be part of their personal narrative.

One way to inspire people is to celebrate success!

The post below celebrated success and inspired hope. It provided fans with a way to inspire their own friends. It also provided supporters a way to complete an ActionSprout-powered action beyond Like, Share or Comment.

  • The post performed well organically, so the Sierra Club chose to spend some money to promote it resulting in a very high return on investment.
  • This post resulted in over 1600 people signing up for email communication from Sierra Club. Inspirational Content for Facebook Fans


This is another excellent example by the Michigan Humane Society celebrating success and spreading inspiration to their Facebook fans.


3. Help Facebook Fans Become Trusted Sources of Information

It’s long been known that one of the best ways to build a large and loyal network on Facebook is to be the trusted source of information on a topic which people care about.

On the surface, it might seem like this is because people want your news in their news feed…

Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll discover that the real magic is much more about your fans wanting to be the trusted source of information to their friends which leads them to share your content.

For example, this post, by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, outperformed average content on their page by nearly 200%! It also serves as an excellent example of content that helps the page’s fans show their friends they’re a trusted source of information about gun control issues.


4. Empower People to Make a Difference by Helping Them Empower Others!

At ActionSprout we’ve learned that roughly 10% of the people who engage with a meaningful Facebook post are willing to go beyond like, share or comment.

They’re willing to take an action that results in greater viral sharing and in the process sign-up for email communication!

  • If you manage a Facebook page for a nonprofit or a political campaign, your fans almost certainly view your organization or candidate as working to bring about change they want to see. – Posts that use ActionSprout to empower people not only helps them show others who they really are, it also deepens their relationship with your work and results in them opting for more.

Sierra Club recently ran a series of action related posts that gave people a way to “Tell the EPA to take action to protect bees.”

A high percentage of those that engaged posts by liking, sharing or commenting went on to complete the “tell” action. In doing so, they joined Sierra Club’s email list. This is an excellent example of empowering Facebook users and giving them a way to show their friends what they care about.


It’s all about empowering Facebook supporters

You’re number one goal on Facebook is to serve your supporters. What will they enjoy? Be inspired to share? Make them look amazing?

It’s worth noting, too, that the most effective campaigns are ones that make your fans feel like they are doing their friends a favor by inviting them to participate!