University of Leeds’ Adrian Salmon Explains Why Facebook Ad Grants Won’t Happen (Or Help)

Adrian Salmon is a direct marketing fundraiser at the University of Leeds and has worked in fundraising since 1997. I got the chance to ask him about his impassioned counterargument to his fellow fundraisers’ insistence for Facebook Ad Grants.


Q: Why do you disagree with the idea of Facebook Ad Grants?

A: I can see why NFPs would be after ad grants, but I do think it is the wrong thing to ask for first!

Firstly, Facebook is a business, and a potential channel for NFPs, in just the same way that newspapers, direct mail, etc. are as well. The cost of reaching an audience on Facebook is simply the cost of doing business on that channel, and NFPs should be attempting to measure ROI from their Facebook activity in just the same way they do for other channels.

If the ROI makes sense, at the current cost of doing business on Facebook, they should carry on and invest; if not, they should lessen or remove their investment in Facebook, and concentrate on stuff with a better ROI – whether that’s an ROI based on fundraising, campaigning, advocacy, audience engagement, etc. It’s very simple.

It’s nice of Google to have made grants available to nonprofits for advertising, but there’s absolutely no reason why Facebook should follow suit. The only reason Facebook is really likely to alter its pricing model is if not enough brands (and NFPs may not be very important to Facebook here) find the ROI of doing business on Facebook stacks up at what they’re currently being charged.

Secondly, asking for a grants program to ‘reach’ more people, without having a systematic way to acquire those people’s personal details for other more targeted and personalized contact, is just short-sighted. Some organizations may have developed ways of acquiring those details via Facebook, and others not—but a tool within Facebook to deliver that information to verified and accredited organizations would be much more of a gold mine than an Ad Grants program. Google cannot deliver that kind of data, but Facebook absolutely can. So that’s why I think organizations should be pushing Facebook to do something different—and in fact, something it does best:  leveraging its data skills to help deliver opted-in personal data of supporters to organizations that might not have found those people via any other platform.


Q: What about the new Facebook Donate button? Do you think it will help schools?

A: It remains to be seen! Click-through rates on Facebook to external websites are not amazingly high; I believe they’ve jumped to 0.2% from around 0.05% most recently.

That means that currently, without the donate button, only schools with a very large Facebook presence would benefit from a campaign promoting a donation page external to Facebook. You’d need to ‘reach’ at least 10,000 people to get 20 donations.

Will a Facebook Donate button generate better click-through rates than that? Instinct says it should, as the response mechanism is all within Facebook rather than being external, but we’ll need to see how the first 19 or so big charities do with it first. (Learn more about the Facebook Donate button and how it can help your school here).

The problem with the donation button as it’s currently formulated is that all any charity will receive is a notification of the amount and the money. They won’t know who any of these Facebook-generated donations are from.


Q: You believe that opted-in donor data “the big prize at stake”—why?

A: Opted-in donor data is where the donor gives Facebook permission to tell the charity they’re donating to who they are and, hopefully, also contact details (at least an email address) so that the charity can make a follow-up contact to thank the donor and keep them informed about how their gift is helping. Without this basic follow-up, very few of these donors are likely to give again.

Without this, charities will have no way to:

a)     Steward and develop these donors, ensuring as many as possible continue to give after their first donation.

b)    Figure out if these are completely new donors they are acquiring via Facebook, compared to other channels.

c)     Based on doing a) and b), properly evaluate whether Facebook is a truly cost-effective channel for donor recruitment for them.


Q: How should schools push for this donor data?

A: Make contact with the first 19 charities to implement the Donate button. See if they will spearhead the campaign for Facebook to do this! They have the contact in place, after all.


Looking for a way to get that donor data now? Check out the tool we’ve created to help you do just that.

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