The Dark Side of Fundraising on Facebook
This year’s #GivingTuesday was a roaring success. Nonprofits raised 17 percent more than they did last year, with more than 4 million individual donors contributing a staggering $380 million.
Concerns that grassroots donors would be exhausted by “rage giving” proved unfounded.
Facebook played a major role in #GivingTuesday 2018’s outcome. In conjunction with Paypal, the tech giant matched millions of dollars in donations made through its platform, increasing users’ impact to the benefit of participating nonprofits.
Part of Facebook’s growing role in #GivingTuesday stems from Facebook fundraisers, which have made raising money on the platform easier than ever, presenting fewer hurdles than popular crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indie Go Go. This innovative tool made headlines this year as individual activists used it to raise incredible sums of money for causes ranging from immigrant rights to equality for transgender people.
But unforeseen security risks often accompany new developments in technology. A report by digital security expert Louise Matsakis on WIRED shows that the emergence of Facebook as a fundraising platform is no different.
Matsakis details the experience of an animal welfare nonprofit on the east coast. The organization’s page was compromised by a hacker who posted a fraudulent fundraising campaign. As staff attempted to notify followers about the scam, the hacker threatened to erase the page. (Note: Matsakis withheld the name of the nonprofit for security and privacy reasons).
This would be devastating for any nonprofit, as followers and digital media assets are incredibly valuable. Building a social media presence from scratch would be expensive and time-consuming, essentially erasing any financial benefit that a nonprofit would have enjoyed from investing in social media in the first place.
While Facebook has presented incredible fundraising tools to nonprofits, there has not been a corresponding effort to build a robust security infrastructure to safeguard against scams. As these shortcomings persist, nonprofit professionals would be wise to learn from this cautionary tale and create an emergency response plan in the event that their social media outlets are compromised.
Nonprofits are obligated to protect themselves in the digital market place. Additionally, nonprofits owe their followers and supporters the peace of mind that their donations are benefiting an actual cause and not a scam artist.