8 Facebook Contests to Build Your Fan Base, Support Nonprofits

8 types of facebook contests

Pouring ice water on your head isn't the only way to raise money with Facebook. Here are eight more ways!

The Ice Bucket Challenge proved that social awareness and fundraising need one social network to succeed: Facebook. As the challenge grew, millions of people rushed to Facebook to share their videos and to challenge others to post their videos. While not one dollar was raised for ALS on Facebook, tens of millions of dollars were raised because of Facebook.

I've asked my friends at CafeGive, a company that specializes in social media apps that help businesses, nonprofits and marketing agencies get more from social media, to show my readers other ways they can use Facebook to build awareness and raise money for good causes.

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Who doesn’t love a contest?

Ever since Don Draper invented marketing in 1953, brands have used contests to build buzz and influence consumer purchases. These days, contests are critical to any successful social media marketing strategy, and there’s no better way to drive Likes, followers, and fan engagement than through a Facebook contest.

But contests can do so much more. Beyond quick publicity, Facebook contests are powerful tools to stimulate interest in a cause, contribute to charitable organizations, cultivate a caring community of supporters, and foster lasting social and environmental change.

Contests are all about Gamification: a marketing term you will hear a whole lot more of over the coming years. The word simply means turning your marketing and promotional efforts (or really anything) into a game, with rules, prizes, and, of course, recognition. In fact, over 70% of big businesses will use gamification in their strategies by the end of this year.

Contests are the perfect type of gamification because they’re simple, easy-to-understand, and at least 7 in 10 people have already entered a contest on social media at some point in their lives. With over 1.23 billion monthly active users, Facebook is still the biggest fish in the social media pond and the best platform on which to run and experiment with different types of contests.

With so many contest options and themes to choose from, which type of contest is best for your cause and brand?

Here are eight ideas to get you started:

Giveaways/Enter to Win

Giveaways and sweepstakes are contests in their simplest form. All fans have to do to enter is share a link, use a certain hashtag, or submit an email address. Winners are selected randomly, and receive prizes and/or donations made in their names.

A quick head’s up: as of November 5, 2014, Facebook is banning “Like Gates” on contests and apps. This means that you can no longer require people to “Like” your page in order for them to enter a contest or sweepstakes, but you can still request email addresses and engage with fans through things like hashtags and shares. Chances are, if they like the contest then participants will “Like” your page any way.

Photo Contests

Promote your cause and generate fan-made visual content at the same time. Photo contests are an effective way to involve fans in events and inspire real-world connection with a cause. Let fans vote on pre-selected photos, or open the contest to user submissions. Winners can be chosen at random, or by fan or judge vote.

Photo contests are also a great time to leverage your business and community partnerships. With 3rd party Facebook Apps like CafeGive Social’s, you can run your contest on multiple brand pages - increasing your reach and impact (which is great for your brand as well as for the cause you support).

Regence BlueCross BlueShield and Pro Photo Supply, for example, co-sponsored the Hearts In Nature photo contest, which included a prize and also helped raise money grieving children and their families. All three organizations -- Regence, Pro Photo Supply, and The Dougy Center (the nonprofit supported)-- ran the campaign on their Facebook pages; effectively tripling their reach and driving traffic to each others’ pages.

You can read their full story here.

Video Contests

Whether documenting, remixing, or creating a film from scratch, videos give fans a chance to show off their creativity and share their stories—perfect for grassroots awareness or public action campaigns. Ask entrants to upload their videos to YouTube in order to extend your contest’s reach and tally views.

Tip: Use multiple platforms to connect with fans. Between Vine and Instagram videos, your fans, customers, and followers have a lot of options when it comes to video sharing. You can amplify your reach (and the chances of your contest’s success) by giving contestants multiple ways to enter and share. Use a contest-specific hashtag to pull videos from all social networks, and use Facebook as a centralized social “hub” for videos and voting.

Voting Contests


Find out what your community cares about, and empower fans to choose the causes that mean the most to them with a voting contest. Votes let supporters have a say in your next cause initiative, or direct funds to the organizations of their choice.

Photo and voting contests are also great ways to grow your contacts and member lists organically. Adirondack Trust Company Community Fund, for example, asked people to submit their email addresses after entering a contest using a built-in email gate. People had the option to opt-in to news and offers from ATCCF, and opened the door to building a long-term relationship with the Fund.

Fundraising Contests

Need to raise a large sum of money quickly? Turn it into a contest. Fans and organizations can make an impact together with matched donations with Make the Match campaigns, in which companies add an equivalent dollar figure to every donation made, up to a maximum amount. Progress bars and thermometers help prompt interest and drive action. Time-limit the contest to generate even more activity in a short time period.

Tip: Create some fun graphics, images, or badges to go along with the contest. Or combine donations with a sweepstakes prize. Take a page out of Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union’s playbook with a virtual donor pin-up wall, or try United Way of the Columbia-Willamette’s approach. During it’s 24-hour More Than 24 (>24) event, donors who gave more than $24 to the campaign was automatically entered into an hourly prize drawing, with the winners announced by United Way through social media.

Group Competitions

Foster some friendly competition by pitting groups against each other to see who can raise the most money or volunteers. This is a great option for schools, community groups, or regional corporate teams. Friends, family, and co-workers can cheer their teams on via social media sharing.

Facebook contests don’t have to be consumer-facing. They can be a powerful --not to mention fun-- addition to your employee retention and loyalty programs. Studies show that supporting causes already helps brands to attract top talent, so adding a community giving or social good element to your employee engagement activities can also help strengthen those relationships. If you have multiple offices or stores, consider a Facebook challenge that pits them against each other, such as raising the most money for a common cause, and sweeten the deal by offering a prize to the winning team.

DIY Contests

Celebrate your supporters by drawing attention to their talents and skills. Do-it-yourself (DIY) contests can involve recipes, costumes, engineering challenges, or any other creative project you can think of. Let fans pick their favorites, or choose the entries that best represent your brand or cause to win.

Post-It’s Dreams For Good campaign shows that you don’t have to ask contestants to create anything too fancy to get them engaged. Post-It simply asks fans to use colorful Post-Its to tell them how they would make the world a better place, and be entered for a chance to win a $5,000 Dreams For Good grant.

Whatever type of contest you run, the key is to find a theme that resonates with your fans, customers, and community. If they can get excited about your concept and cause, they’ll rise to the challenge and turn your contest into a vehicle for change as well as for your brand.

For more contest ideas, check out Joe Waters’ #FWB40 - Facebook Contest Fundraiser Pinterest board, sponsored by CafeGive Social.