Tonight, at midnight, facebook will finally be allowing a functionality that has long been offered by various blog sites, as well as other social networking sites like MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn. They will allow users to customize their profile’s url’s. (http://name.facebook.com or http://facebook.com/name). So, the question is, for all of the nonprofit and charitable organizations with pages on facebook, will this help? Will it make any difference, in terms of web traffic to the organizations page on facebook?
Over the past several weeks, there has been a great deal of speculation within both the nonprofit and technology sectors, regarding the Causes applications that exist on sites like facebook and MySpace. Many believe that while such applications may provide an increased awareness of a nonprofit or particular social cause, it does little in terms of increased fundraising. (It does stand to reason that the only real way of tracking that is based on the donations that are made via the Causes application on various social networking sites and does not take into account people who may donate to an organization via another avenue, after seeing the organizations page on facebook.) So, will having a customized url prove to be of much benefit to organizations, regarding their fundraising efforts?
Certainly, having the ability to customize an organizations facebook url, so that it provides the name, will facilitate ease in linking other sites, like a blog or organization website, to the facebook page. It may also prove to be an incentive to put the link in newsletters, thank you letters to donors, etc. Rather than just saying something like, “Become a fan on facebook”, an organization can provide a direct link. (They could do that now, too, but without the upcoming ability to customize the url, that is sometimes cumbersome.) And, potentially, it could increase web traffic to an organizations profile, via search engines, as the name of the organization will be provided in the url. But, will it really do much for direct fundraising?
Simply from the standpoint of keeping up with the herd, this is a functionality that facebook should have been offering quite awhile ago, given the number of other sites that allow for people/businesses/organizations to have customized url’s, and perhaps the increased noise that is being made surrounding the idea of whether or not having a facebook profile or Causes application does much for fundraising is part of the reason why they have finally decided to do so.
Regardless of whether or not the Causes application really does raise more money for nonprofits, regardless of whether or not having a facebook page is a good fundraising tool, regardless of whether or not having a customized url will assist your organization in it’s efforts, organizations cannot lose sight of the fact that it’s all only going to be able to potentially assist in an already-existing fundraising and/or marketing plan. Social networking sites are certainly valuable tools, not only for nonprofits, but for individuals and for profit ventures, as they can lead to connections and potentially open up doors, but as is currently the belief they may not be doing much for fundraising…at least not yet. Is there the possibility of that changing? Absolutely. With the right focus, applications, awareness, marketing, and functionalities, social networking sites and various online giving applications that are utilized by those sites, could very well prove to be quite valuable in regards to fundraising, education, advocacy and awareness. But, we don’t seem to be quite there yet. At this point, organizations can only incorporate those resources into the ones that are already place. (And, perhaps do what they can to ensure that they are as well educated as they can be regarding social networking for the nonprofit sector. One of my favorite site is, Beth’s Blog, as run by Beth Kantor, at http://beth.typepad.com/. )
Ultimately, though, it doesn’t cost anything to customize a url on facebook, come midnight tonight, so we all may as well give it a shot. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
What do you think? Do you think it will make much difference regarding fundraising or web traffic? Are you with a nonprofit that has found success in your fundraising and/or awareness efforts by using social networking sites like facebook and the Causes application?