My goal with this article is to convince you that there is a right and a wrong way to fundraise on Facebook. Will you believe me? Probably not, but let’s try anyway.
You probably use Facebook every day like everybody else. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer to use it in your next campaign, right? This article is to share with you what I’ve learned about how to actually raise money using Facebook.
I do want to warn you. I’m not writing as an authoritative expert on this subject. I’m writing based on what’s worked for me, and what’s worked for the Catholic causes that I’ve helped. I’m still learning how to use this massive social media platform because it is so influential. With so many Catholics using it every day, you’ve got to consider it a part of your fundraising.
To be seen by Catholics, you need to share your mission and tell them what you are doing. But traveling from one parish and another is not enough. You must spread your reach by using digital platforms, and I can convince you for one simple reason: you will find the majority of your donors here.
When I started fundraising, every single prospect and current donor that I met was asking me to connect with them through the internet. I quickly discovered that my initial approach to go from parish to parish was the least efficient use of my time. That’s not to say you should never get out and meet people, but I had to maximize my full potential of telling my charity’s story and finding donors.
I desperatedly needed to find a better approach because our costs were mounting and more donations had to come, soon.
That’s when I turned more of my attention to the internet. But I didn’t just put a donate button on my homepage. That would not be enough. Instead, I had a genius moment. I understood that everyone I was asking to be a donor was connected daily to the internet, had two to three email addresses, and was frequently checking their multiple social profiles. In fact, most everyone I knew was always online, especially with the prevalent smartphone. The big question I was now asking myself was, “How do I share my charity’s story online with people and ask for donations?”
I discovered that building a digital presence rests on four key propositions. Here are the pillars that will build a clear picture for any Catholic agency.
1. Start with a positive view of having an online presence
To get more donors and donations, and without me running around, I had to ask the right question about building my online presence. I used to ask myself the question, “Should I be on all these digital platforms?” I quickly changed my thinking and asked myself a much more helpful question, “Which platforms should I spend use to connect with the right people who will support my mission?”
This was the turning point for me. I went from being overwhelmed with all the options to being more focused on what mattered most: sharing my story and capturing enough attention from people to ask for donations.
You more than likely have a few doubts and worries about the internet. Yes, there are some issues, especially when it comes to distracting us from our lives and responsibilities; however, we must remember that past generations also worried about the television and radio. Both definitely offer a lot of negatives but also positives. Look at how EWTN, Catholic Answers, and Ascension Presents, to name just a few Catholic agencies, have used these technologies to spread the faith to millions of people.
You can too by being having a positive perspective. Your online platform will help you stay focused on your mission and, by managing it correctly, not overwhelm your time and energy in front of a screen.
2 – Select only what you can handle
As I mentioned, the focus must be on identifying which digital platforms are best suited for telling the story of your mission. We must remember that Catholics only donate after you’ve gotten their attention and trust. To get them as passionate about your mission as you are, I recommend maximizing your time rather than trying to maximize the number of social profiles you have.
The goal is not to spend hours on social media. Let’s face it; you have better things to do: saving lives and souls.
Therefore, my suggestion is to select three digital spaces that maximize the spreading of your mission and the sharing of your story. You might be able to only handle one at the moment. That’s perfectly fine. The important step is to start with one and to do it well. What do I mean by that? It means engaging with people through your online presence. If you are on Facebook, you can’t just post a picture every other week and hope people like it. The objective is not to get 5, 10, or even 100 likes. It’s about connecting with people through the story of your mission. To do so, I recommend taking the time to learn and develop how you do this better each week.
Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace.
3 – Use the online platforms that fit your mission
Next, I suggest you select three to four platforms and spend your time and energy working with them. To get you started, I have three recommendations which will move you quickly forward. Two in my view are mandatory, and the third depends on the nature of your mission.
Your Website – You must have a website because you own your website. Every social media platform can disappear tomorrow. The internet and website, however, will not. You want to safeguard your digital presence on the internet, along with your content. A website keeps you secure and directs people to a place they can always find you. I talk extensively how to build a fantastic Catholic website in this article which you can read by clicking here.
Your Email List – You must remember that every donation comes from the hands of someone. And for someone to donate to you, you must get their attention and build their trust. Email is a fantastic medium for doing this because it’s personal and private. Plus, it’s the most cost-effective way of communicating with flocks of people because everyone checks their email. While email looks old-fashioned, it’s still the best way to engage in a one on one conversation with someone. Email isn’t going anywhere. It’s as prevalent as letters. I offer a practical approach on how to use email to better communicate with your donors and prospects in an article which you can read by clicking here.
4. Have your followers and donors do the work for you
Finally, I don’t recommend you be on every social platform. By doing so, you spread yourself thin and lose steam. Your mission and fundraising will suffer when this happens.
I want to reiterate that you have to focus on sharing your mission, every day, every week, every month, every year. To do so, you must spread your story in the best way possible over the long run, not short. It’s more important to share stories with those who enjoy hearing from you, rather than trying to be seen everywhere by everyone.
This means it is more important to go deep into the relationships you develop online. Rather than trying to rack up as many likes, followers, and subscribers as possible, engage with their comments, thank them for their shares and likes, and respond to their emails. Numbers don’t matter.
If you do a great job with the people who are connected with you, I guarantee more will people come. God is continually placing people in your life. Focus on the few and allow God to multiply them.
‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ – Matthew 25:21
Question: Which digital platforms will you be using to spread the message of your work and attract donors? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Two weeks ago, I wrote an article on why most Catholic websites should not have a donate button, especially on their homepage. You can read that article by clicking here.
I received several comments about the validity of my viewpoint. Yes, my approach is not mainstream. In fact, it is contrarian. But why be mainstream if it is not working?
Why not ask the question, “what is the best way to get people to donate online?”
It’s a fact that most people who visit your website are either new visitors or looking to connect with you. When arriving at your homepage, people want to know what you do, where you are, and how they can interact with you.
Any request for a donation is usually overlooked.
Hope fundraising vs. Catholic fundraising
Most of the comments I received went like this, “If we remove the donate button, we are sure to lose everyone. It’s better just to keep it in case someone does want to give.”
This is what I call hope fundraising. Sure, if what you are looking for is anything you can get, go right ahead. Keep the button and see what happens.
In my experience, people donate after they have a relationship with you. They don’t give because you asked or had a donate button. Therefore, my approach always focuses on engaging with people and building their trust.
Let’s do the math: donate button vs. no donate button
Okay, let’s do a simple test to find which approach actually works better. Let’s estimate that you meet 1,000 people, or you have 1,000 people visit your website.
With the donate approach, you immediately ask for a donation, and with my approach, you only ask them to stay connected. The table below outlines what happens based on industry standards.
% who respond to request
Number of people who respond
Amount raised (average donation $50)
% who respond when asked for a donation
Number of people who respond
Amount raised (average donation $100)
“Stay in Touch”
The approach which asks people to donate via a button raises $750. My approach, which asks people to first stay in touch, raises $3,750. I recommend you watch my YouTube video which goes into more detail about these figures.
You raise 500% more with my approach!
This is a massive difference, especially if even more people visit your website. The major factor is the initial response rate. When you ask people to donate before building a relationship, the response rate is only 1%. However, if you wait and focus on connecting first, the rate jumps to 15%. When you include the increase in donation amounts, $50 to $100, your fundraising moves forward much quicker.
Great charities understand this. They focus on how to get as many people engaged in their work. They do this by serving them first, not by asking them for money.
In a previous article (7 Ways to Give to Others), I walk you through the seven ways you can serve the people. Then, inspired by what you do, many will financially support you.
How to get people to donate online
How then should you ask for online donations if a prominent donate button isn’t the option?
My suggestion is as follows.
1. Have a donate page rather than a donate button.
2. Rather than inviting strangers (website visitors) to donate, only ask people you know.
3. Find the most personal approach to directing them to the donate page.
5. Thank those people who donate in the most personal way possible. (a card, a phone call, an event, or even lunch)
For those who do not donate, thank them for considering your request, and ask them to consider a donation the next time you ask.
It’s important to remember that God places people in your life for a reason. If you follow hope fundraising, whereby you place a donate button and hope somebody clicks it, then you may get something. But will that support your dreams, passion, mission, and cause?
Is that going to help you help those around you?
Will this approach move forward with what God is asking you to do?
One of the great qualities of the Catholic Church is that we recognize the uniqueness of everyone’s path, and we take the time to use this as a starting point.
That’s why the sacramental life is so profound. We have seven unique sacraments for seven unique moments of life.
Let’s remember the uniqueness of each person and replicate this in our fundraising. Instead of just hoping people will donate, let’s reach out and look for ways to connect with them.
Question: What do you think is the best approach to getting people to click the donate button? (please leave your comment below)
NOT SUBSCRIBED TO RECEIVE THE WEEKLY CONTENT? FIX THAT! IT’S COMPLETELY FREE.
Why should your website not have a donate button? I maintain the parish website (Our Lady of St John Wood) of a priest who is a good friend of mine. Fr Jeff recognized that more and more people discover his church, his choir, and liturgical celebrations through the parish website, YouTube channel, and social profiles.
In the past two years, his Sunday Mass attendance increases month after month. The numbers at his feast and solemnity celebrations also continue to rise, as well as the number of people who attend events throughout the week.
To keep the momentum, Fr Jeff is improving his website because he wants to attract even more Catholics and visitors to his church.
It’s a fact that more people check their email and the internet than they do the mail, newspaper, or television. To sum it up, the internet is where it’s all happening. Pope Benedict called it the digital continent, and you have to be both present and visible.
The majority of people in your area surf the web each day, and many of the searches are for religious activities in their area. Catholics search for a Sunday Mass to attend during their vacations. Lapsed Catholics browse for events that might be interesting in their area. Or maybe they are looking for someone to speak to during a difficult moment. In most cases, they are looking to connect with you in person.
Therefore, your website should direct them to take actions that lead to person to person engagement. This means switching the donate button (which likely takes the most prominent spot on your site and yet is never clicked) for something the visitor actually wants to click and act upon.
Your Catholic website should provide the information that directly matches what people are searching for when browsing the web. This includes parishes, abbeys, cathedrals, charities, schools, universities, retreat center, mission, or any other Catholic cause.
It’s no longer enough just to have a website. You have to provide the information that matches what people search. Fortunately, it’s not a mystery what people want to find. Below I list the four essential pieces of information you should have immediately visible and accessible.
The four essential pieces of information your Catholic website should make visible and easy to access.
Mass times are the number one piece of information that people search for on the internet. Therefore, put this information front and center on your website. If you are a charity, make sure that you clearly display your upcoming events.
Upload your sermon/blog
Allow your parishioners to review your sermon by uploading it as a blog post. Your collection of sermons then makes an excellent reference library for people to learn what the Catholic Church teaches in a format that’s easy to read. If you don’t have sermons, post a weekly blog which explains a topic people are interested in reading.
Include a prayer button (rather than donate)
The majority of people who search for Catholic related topics are looking for support and community. Rather than asking for a donation, I recommend you take the more Catholic approach and reach out your hand by replacing the donate button with a prayer or Mass intention button. Remember, people will donate to you when they know who you are and trust you. They don’t give because you asked.
Make clear where you are by including your city, country, and address. Too often when searching for a parish in London England, I find a parish in London, Canada, but it’s not clear where the church is because the contact details just mention London.
Provide a Google map window so people can verify your location, and include the name of your priest, parish secretary, contact phone numbers, and emails. This approach is better than offering a person to complete form because people want to connect with a person, not fill in a form as if they are in a doctor’s waiting room.
When you take this approach with your website, you will find more people engaging with you on your website and in person. This is where the magic happens. When people engage with you more, they are more likely to donate. So focus on giving them what they want first, rather than what you want.
Discussion question – What do you think makes a parish website the most useful? (Please leave your comment below.)
NOT SUBSCRIBED TO RECEIVE THE WEEKLY CONTENT? FIX THAT! IT’S COMPLETELY FREE.
Catholic Crowdfunding is a hot topic at the moment. When someone tells you, “Why don’t you crowdfund?” What image pops into your head? Close your eyes for ten seconds, and just watch where your thoughts take you.
What did you think about? Likely, you imagined the many donors, maybe thousands, you could attract with your campaign and the thousands of dollars you could raise.
This is most people’s perceptions of how crowdfunding works: enormous opportunities in a short time frame with a little bit of work.
Well, I am sorry to say this, but this is not how crowdfunding works. It’s not a Hail Mary to buckets of money at the click of a button.
Before I get into the specifics, I must warn you. I have never done a crowdfunding campaign. (Nor will I likely ever. You will learn why later.) However, I’ve listened to enough people who have crowdfunded and read enough articles on the subject to have a clear idea on the steps.
Reality check – it’s a lot of work
Everyone who has run a successful crowdfunding campaign (at least 6-figures) has told me that it’s a lot of work. Crowdfunding requires preparation work, constant momentum, and a huge amount of follow-up. So, it’s not a one-time, click-of-the-button campaign.
Here are the six fundamental steps for running a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Step 1: Shot a 2-3 minute video about your Catholic crowdfunding campaign
A successful crowdfunding campaign starts by telling your story with a high-quality video. You don’t have to spend lots of money to do this. With the right knowledge and expertise, an iPhone can do the trick.
If you know someone who has experience filming high-quality videos, I recommend asking for their help. The video doesn’t have to be in the style of a movie trailer with beautiful scenary every 5 seconds. It just has to present your story clearly.
I provide additional help on how to tell your story in this post: https://catholicfundraiser.net/increase-donors/
Step 2: Use high-quality photos to present key ideas
To attract people’s attention even further, use quality images to go even further in telling your story. I recommend you have an experienced photographer take these for you. Place these photos on your crowdfunding site and in your video to show people exactly what you want to achieve.
Again, you don’t have to spend large sums of money. I’m sure someone in your network is an amateur photographer who can help.
Step 3: Explain your plans and outcomes after the crowdfunding campaign is successful
You must explain to people what will happen after the campaign is complete. You do this by presenting your step by step plan for moving forward and what outcomes donors can expect to see in the coming months.
The more precise your plan, the better because it clarifies your focus and objectives to make things happens. You and your team will then know what you are all aiming to achieve.
Catholic Crowdfunding campaigns offer something in return for each level of contribution. This is important for two reasons.
The first is because it’s always better to give than to receive. So giving back to your donors balances your relationship with them.
The second is to demonstrate appreciation for people’s generosity and faith in your project – even when you have nothing but an idea to show them.
Therefore, make sure the rewards are attractive and connected to your cause. If you are starting a charity that teaches teenagers the value of marriage, make sure the rewards relates to this theme. You could offer resources which donors can use in their parishes and schools.
It’s important to remember that people give to people, not to organizations. Therefore, provide detailed and personal information about each team member and what inspired them to be part of the project.
You don’t have to go into too much detail but remember that telling a story with a human angle is much better than just offering facts and bullet points.
Also, make sure each team member has a professional headshot. Each person should look at the camera and smile. It’s not a passport photo, so we should get a sense of their personality.
Step 6: Overcome the three biggest obstacles to a Catholic crowdfunding campaign
You must overcome three obstacles when Catholic crowdfunding.
Obstacle 1 – The first is you may annoy people with the constant pushing.
Crowdfunding works best with a high level of visibility in a short amount of time because you have to race forward to your goal in a short timeframe. To do this, you have to continually remind people to donate and update them on your progress.
Obstacle 2 – You cannot keep up the pace necessary to reach your goal.
Crowdfunding is a sprint. If your campaign starts slowing down, or you aren’t pushing enough, you will lose valuable momentum. Also, if you’re thinking of setting the timescale to one year, you are no longer crowdfunding. You are just fundraising, and fundraising has better results using other methods than crowdfunding.
Obstacle 3 – You gain one-off donations instead of building a network of lifelong supporters.
Crowdfunding gives you one-off donations with limited contact information on each person. Great fundraising happens when you inspire people to commit to you for the long haul. If you don’t convert these one-off donors into recurring ones, you will have to find more donors late on to support your ongoing efforts.
A final word of advice on Catholic crowdfunding
One of the best ways to get your campaign off the ground is to have a committed community of supporters before your launch because they can help you have that essential quick start.
If you already have a large community around you, crowdfunding could be an option.
If you are just starting out, I recommend postponing and instead focus on gaining people’s attention and trust.