Donations Through Facebook? I'd Think Twice About That

Big news yesterday: Facebook announced their new Donate feature. You know, because Facebook cares tons about nonprofits, right?

Historically, Facebook hasn't given a crap about nonprofits. I've been managing Facebook pages for associations and nonprofits for over five years now and I can tell you that Facebook could not care less about helping nonprofits. Are you a nonprofit who wants a custom name for your Facebook name that has fewer than five characters? Forget it, even though Facebook will work with big brands to grant them this exception, no such luck if you're a nonprofit--and I've tried, multiple times. Have questions about anything, from issues with your org's Facebook page to ads? Forget it, you won't be able to get a response unless you happen to get a hook-up from someone at an agency who has a dedicated rep...and even then, you won't be able to get a response 99% of the time. And remember Facebook's old mechanism for helping nonprofits solicit donations, Causes? What ever happened to that? All I know is I used to manage one for a foundation and it was so complicated and unusable and never raised one cent for that cause.

Facebook cares about one thing: their bottom line. I sincerely doubt they will be going out of their way to make life easier for small nonprofits who could really use the help. I also sincerely doubt that this isn't one of two things: either a PR stunt or a way of trying to mine more user data.

Facebook says 100% of donations made through Facebook will go to your nonprofit. That's great...but Facebook says a lot of things and I don't trust them futher than I can throw them. While Google gives nonprofits $10,000 a month in in-kind AdWords, Facebook has never even hinted at doing anything similar. Google also makes very clear the specifications of its Grants program, including who's eligible, what you need to do to stay eligible, and the details of the program. Facebook is like "we picked these huge nonprofits to partner with" and "fill out this form if your nonprofit would like to be able to accept donations through Facebook and we'll consider it. You probably won't hear back from us." Their actual wording from their interest form:

You understand and agree we are under no obligation to engage or otherwise contact you. Additionally, you agree that none of the information or materials you submit through this form shall be considered confidential or proprietary, and you hereby represent and warrant that any information or materials you provide through this form will not contain any confidential or proprietary information of yours or any third party. If you do not agree to the foregoing, please do not submit this form.

Here's the thing: nonprofits have to be accountable to the public and their donors. They can't afford to operate behind a curtain of secrecy and their donors and/or the public don't take kindly to being told "we are under no obligation to engage or otherwise contact you." So having Facebook be the middleman between donors and a nonprofit doesn't seem like a great idea to me if Facebook plans to just continue being it's mighty, mysterious, answer-to-nobody self...which it of course does. Then throw Facebook's privacy issues into the mix and I'm not sure I, a nonprofit staff person, would want to potenitally alienate donors if Facebook happens to do one of their notorious "oops" things with donor information or credit cards. 

What do you think? Have you had a different experience managing a Facebook page and/or ads for a nonprofit?