Facebook Contest Lessons from Two Winners

No type of charity fundraiser has risen faster than Facebook contests. Five years ago they didn’t exist. Today, they’re one of the most common vehicles for nonprofit fundraising.

I had my first experience with charity contests way back in 2009 when Virgin America challenged Boston nonprofits to a voting contest. The charity that got the most “votes” in emails entered into a special contest web page won. We competed against 400 Boston nonprofits and finished second – and lost the $25,000 grand prize.

The nonprofit that won was a small Jewish chabad that had already mastered the skills and assets smart nonprofits are still using to win charity contests: a strong community of supporters and social media prowess.

With the help of this post you may hear the word I never heard in the same sentence with “contest”: Winner.

Being a charity contest loser, I needed to find a winner. Instead, I found two: Sandra Morris and John Haydon.

Sandra Morris is co-founder and CEO of Café Give, a company that specializes in social apps for cause marketing, particularly Facebook apps for nonprofits contests.

John Haydon is a social media expert for nonprofits and author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies. The fourth edition launched just this month. Pin it to win it!

“The number one question nonprofits have about charity contests is how to get started,” said John. “You should use a third-party app. Once people see your app (after liking a page), they can then enter the contest via the app.”

John recommends a contest app available at Shortstack. He also suggests that you ask for an email from Facebook users to participate in a contest.

“Email is the bridge that takes people from engaging with you on Facebook to donating to your organization,” said John.

Sandra’s company, Café Give, offers more consultative solutions for organizations that want to ensure their contest is a winner.

Regardless of which company or service you choose, building a Facebook contest app doesn’t have to be expensive.

“There’s an account fee and a monthly fee. But most charity contests only run for a couple months,” said Sandra. “It’s well within the reach of even the smallest organizations.”

As an example, Sandra points to Portland Nursery, which worked with Café Give on a photo contest to support their annual apple tasting event.

The winning photographers received $100 from Portland Nursery and got to choose a local charity to receive a $600 donation from a corporate sponsor. While the Nursery suggested charities, the winning photographers could choose one of their own.

Over 100 photographers signed up for the contest and submitted their photos for five different categories. A small committee of judges selected the fifteen photos, three in each category, to compete in the online contest. The contest was launched as a Facebook tab on the Portland Nursery Facebook page.

To drive voting, they promoted the campaign via email and social media.

After liking the page, visitors could vote in each category, see a summary of results for each photo and share the contest with friends.

Portland Nursery increased their fan base by 500 from the local community to their contest page in less than 15 days, representing over a 30% increase. Five local photographers won $100 and directed their sponsored awards to the local charities: Portland Youth Builders, Village Gardens, and the Oregon Humane Society.

Portland Nursery has made the photo contest an annual event!