On the Unreasonable Effectiveness of Facebook Fundraisers

If you’re still on Facebook, you’ve probably seen those birthday fundraiser requests: “For my birthday this year, I’m raising money for [your cause here] …”

Maybe you’re sick of them.

I think they’re Facebook’s best feature.

During the pandemic, I started looking for ways to increase my charitable giving. Facebook donations are my favorite way to give for a few reasons:

Trustworthy [1]

Birthday fundraisers are double-vetted. In order to even be eligible, an organization has to be a registered 501(c)3 charity. Then they have to apply and be approved by Facebook. Then, they have to be selected and vouched for by a friend. [2] 


I see the request, I hit Donate, type my pin, type the amount, Confirm, and … done. No fumbling with envelopes or stamps, writing out my credit card number longhand and hoping it’s legible, remembering to drop the think off at the mailbox.

I know I sound like before-guy in an infomercial right now—“those messy stamps”—but shaving a few steps off the process makes a huge difference in tipping a “maybe” to a “yes.”


My friend can see I donated, but the organization does not. This is a huge plus.

Recently, a friend of mine joined the board of an arts organization and asked for a donation, which I was happy to do. The org then started spamming me with email, snailmail and text messages. Blocked, blocked, blocked. Sorry, board friend, your org will never see another dime from me.

If I don’t have a preexisting relationship with an organization, I don’t want to get sucked into one just because I donated. Take my money and leave me alone.


A perennial question with charitable giving is should you focus on one or two organizations or spread it around? Facebook donations let me easily follow a T-shaped strategy where 80% of my giving goes to three organizations (each of which I have a significant relationship with) and the remaining 20% is spread across another 50 orgs that I have little or no connection with.

It’s a good mix. My friends pick some great causes that wouldn’t otherwise be on my radar: Shakespeare festivals around the country, cat shelters, food kitchens, wildlife foundations, suicide prevention, disease research and education and so on.


Facebook is a terrible place to have a conversation, but it’s a great place to show your friends you appreciate them. And one way to show your appreciation is to support a cause they’re passionate about.

Here’s a tip, if you’re planning on running a fundraiser yourself: change the default text! If I donate to your fundraiser, it’s to support you more than whatever cause you’re advocating for. So help me out by letting me know why it’s important to you.


I ran a birthday fundraiser myself last year [3], and I was stunned by how well it performed. I initially set a target of $500, but my friends blew through that in the first 24 hours, so I upped the target to $2,500, and we hit that before the fundraiser ended. Wow. Thanks friends!


1. I appreciate the irony of labeling anything Facebook-related as “trustworthy,” 

2. Friend can be a pretty loose concept on Facebook, but I still feel more comfortable donating to an organization that a friend is passionate about than a random GoFundMe or snailmail solicitation.

3. For the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival. Thanks to everyone who donated!

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