8 Tips for Tapping Social Capital
A few weeks ago, I came across a post on a blog I recently subscribed to called IMPACTMAX, the sounding board for Gayle Thorsen, a nonprofit communications consultant based in Minneapolis. The post shared some tips on engaging supporters in ways that don't involve money.
It's hard not to focus on the bottom line, especially when times are tough. But during what likely won't be a banner year for raising funds, fundraisers can turn some attention to the many other ways supporters can help. Thorsen shared the following tips for ways you can empower constituents to support you in non-monetary ways.
Do you need help building a Web site or creating a blog, free graphic design services, printing services or a free event venue? Comb your donor list to find individuals who might be able to contribute such in-kind gifts. Add a wish list of services you need to your Web site, on social-media pages and in your newsletter to get the word out.
Thorsen advises attaching each need to a tangible project with an end goal, and giving those who help you credit when the project's complete.
Gather positive statements from constituents about why they think your organization and the work you do is so great, and put them on your Web site, social-network pages and other communications.
Do you need volunteers to canvass your community or help out during a special event? If so, let constituents know what you need help with and reward them with a thank-you or other payback.
4. Equipment and supplies
If you need a better digital or video camera, a printer, or office furniture and supplies, let constituents know. There's a good chance they've recently upgraded their technology but their old equipment still works and is just collecting dust. Add equipment and supplies you need to your wish list.
But, Thorsen notes, "make it clear you're only interested in like-new or slightly used equipment that functions perfectly." The last thing you need are repair expenses.
While some supporters might be too strapped for cash right now to donate to your organization, they might be able to help you fundraise by reaching out to their friends and family members on your behalf. Thorsen suggests asking each donor to refer 10 new potential supporters. Offer them an easy-to-download fundraising widget that they can put on their social-network profiles or blogs.
Most of all, Thorsen says, try not to control the message.
"Let them talk about your organization and its importance in their own way and words," she writes. "That's what's so powerful about this kind of personal fundraising."
Enlist supporters to spread the word about a special event you're having or a new program you're trying to promote. Constituents can post news or invitations on their blogs and social-network profiles, and include links to your Web site.
Instead of asking donors for money, take this opportunity to learn more about their needs, opinions and preferences by asking them to take a short survey.
8. Communications content
Organize a contest where supporters and prospects can send in digital photos and brief write-ups about the work you're doing. Before setting the contest up, be sure you know, strategically, what kind of information you're hoping to get.
"For instance," Thorsen shares, "one [anti-hunger organization] launching a major contribution campaign wanted donors to feel part of something much larger. So, they asked contributors to e-mail them a photo of themselves and the food they were about to donate."
The key, Thorsen writes, "is to try to match your needs with supporters' interests. Create opportunities for them to have some fun, get excited, and feel they're furthering the cause they're passionate about."
Click here to read the entire blog post "In Bad Economy, Nonprofits Can Tap Social Capital."