This three-part series of blog posts focuses on proven practices for social media fundraising, events and list building.
Facebook alone has more than 1 billion active users every month — smaller than only the populations of China and India. And it’s not just youth — 71% of Baby Boomers in America use Facebook. But few organizations are getting it right when it comes to meeting the potential for fundraising, events and list building. So why aren’t social media channels always the boon nonprofits supposed they could be?
When social media first took off, hopes were high for huge direct returns on calls to give, but the nonprofit sector was soon disappointed. While some sponsored or celebrity-driven campaigns did show large dollar sign potential, generally speaking most social channels have not (yet?) turned into the fundraising juggernauts that channels like direct mail, telemarketing and email can be.
So what are some ways leading organizations are using social networks and channels to increase fundraising outcomes?
• Tell your story. Imagine getting something in the mail from an organization that says simply, “give us money.” Most formats that work tell a story — of the campaign, of the organization, of those impacted — and then tell donors how they can help. Same goes for email.* While this point may seem obvious, storytelling on social media — with both photos and text — is the key to success. Is your organization working with your social media manager to plan the story you want told? To create an action path? To understand what aspects of “the story” may be most engaging to your social media supporters and measure what may lead to most actions?
• Empower your supporters to leverage their networks. Initially, most of us tried to raise money via social media by asking. “Hey, Twitterverse, we are raising $$ for the new well in Africa. Help us out!” Increasingly, organizations are realizing the power of letting networks do the legwork. With the rise in crowdfunding, the key for organizations is to make it easy for their supporters to raise money on their behalf. What does this mean? Make your content easily shareable, perhaps by providing social sharing widgets. Maybe you have someone who is a $50 donor to your organization but also happens to run a very popular blog about puppies with thousands of monthly visitors. An easily embeddable donation widget, like those offered by the Kimbia platform, utilized well on that site would let you reach further into their social network than you could ever hope to on your own.
• Provide social media incentives. We’ll talk about contests later in this series, but for now consider offering special incentives to your supporters for giving specifically with a social media prompt (even if you lead them to a regular donation form). Consider offering a special match for Twitter only: “A generous donor has offered a match if 40 folks give at least $20 via Twitter in the next 48 hours!” Think creatively about what might appeal to social media audiences. For example: “Watch this interview with our celebrity ambassador about supporting the Puppies For All Foundation. Give $25 for a link to a special video of him playing basketball with his pup.”
Each social media platform plays by its own rules. There are only so many characters you can tweet, Pinterest is all about photos, the Facebook algorithm will choose who sees your posts if you don’t promote them and YouTube requires investment in video. These can be challenges or opportunities to find creative ways to achieve your goals.
Twitter: Don’t let limited characters limit your imagination. Remember: You can always include a link to more robust information, as long as it’s relevant to what initially captured the supporter’s attention. Say you tweet about your Thanksgiving meals campaign — the linked page should reinforce the message and have a Twitter feed built in showing others engaging as well as a scoreboard showing how much has been raised.
Facebook: Adapt your best practices. The frequency with which Facebook changes not only its layout but the “rules of the game” frustrates some folks. So arm yourself with information about what’s working. What are your most liked posts? What time of day works best? Use that info to your advantage. When possible, embed a donation form or other engagement mechanism on your Facebook page directly and be strategic about pointing folks to it.
YouTube: Find ways to tap into emotion. There are some great guides out there on how to use YouTube annotations for fundraising. But what if you don’t have the resources to create videos? Look into crowd video creation sites like Videopixie.** Or ask your supporters/volunteers for help. Chances are, one of the thousands of amateur but professional-quality video makers/editors out there is on your file and would be happy to help. Nonprofessional video can be engaging, too; it’s all about tapping into emotion.
Pinterest: Keep your eyes open for opportunities. This medium is all about being visual. Do you have great campaign creative? Pin it! Does everyone on your file seem to react well to puppies? Pin a bunch of puppy photos and integrate the ask. Organizations are actively testing out what works on Pinterest.
Geolocation: Go where your donors are. Check-in networks life FourSquare can help leverage partnerships with sponsors. Check-in incentives abound, so talk to your sponsors about how this might work for you. For example, checking in and making a purchase over $50 could earn a discount coupon and a donation to your organization.
The social media universe is broad, and the ideas above are by no means comprehensive. The key to seeing real ROI is to plan, measure and evolve, while keeping in mind that as with other channels, the fundamental marketing truth is the same: relevant content is king. In the next post in this series, we’ll examine how content (and other proven practices) can be leveraged to list-build via social media.
*There are some cases where short and sweet does work in direct mail and online, such as follow up emails to an active campaign or simple direct mail packages to donors who already know you well. But these are based on the legwork organizations have already put in to establish the story and need.
**Thank you to the Social Media for Nonprofits conference for pointing us toward this resource.