Hello, I Love You; Won't You Tell Me Your Name
Last week, I gave in to peer pressure and signed up for a Google+ account. So, after I tweeted, posted on Facebook and read the contents of my four e-mail accounts, I had to update my Google+ account. Then I called my husband from my mobile phone, texted my daughter and e-mailed my sister.
We all have so many ways to connect — but sometimes it feels like that Doors song. Or in 21st century language, "Our nonprofit has 'likes' on Facebook, followers on Twitter, subscribers on YouTube — but our donor file isn't growing." They all love us, but do they really know us?
There are many ways to justify having a social presence as a nonprofit (and not too many good reasons not to have one by now). But how do you measure its value to your nonprofit?
I love the quote by UNICEF's internet chief from a few years back: "The currencies that we deal in are awareness and enlightenment and to have people be stakeholders in these ideas."
Unfortunately, most boards of directors are less lofty and prefer to deal in the currency of "return on investment."
Here are some tips for getting your fans, friends and followers to become your donors and volunteers, all from the world of rock 'n' roll.
I've removed myself from the e-mail files of more than one nonprofit because I felt like I was being stalked. Three or four e-mails a week is too many, no matter how exciting your news is. Back in the old days, we had two options for our postal mailing list — get all our mail, or get none of it. Then we got sophisticated (and also got computers), and we could offer quarterly mail, newsletters only, etc. Give your e-mail file options, too — before people decide the only option is to click the "remove" link on your e-mail. Asking how often they want to hear from you shows respect, and people who feel respected are more likely to become investors.
'I Heard It Through the Grapevine'
Are you giving your electronic followers news that is truly news? Posting "hot" updates on Facebook or sending a tweet to announce an expanded program makes your news more relevant — and more appreciated. This morning I had an e-mail from my favorite airline announcing a big purchase of aircraft it made. A few hours later, I heard it on the news. I felt like I was "in the know," because I had gotten the news first from the source. If you're posting content that matters to your followers (not just to your staff), you're building deeper relationships that can lead to donations.
'More Than a Feeling'
One nonprofit that does a particularly good job of cultivating donors online sends an annual certificate (via e-mail) to thank me for my support. It corresponds to the month of my first donation to the organization. It has my name on it, and it's colorful — something I'm sure many people print out. I don't think this organization appreciates my support … I know it! Fans and followers want to be appreciated, too. Invite them to vote on a new name for your newsletter, sign a petition, or watch an interesting and short video. Send an occasional e-mail or post a message just to say "thank you" for your interest in our nonprofit. Be creative about ways to make your online conversation about them (not just you).
'Reach Out, I'll Be There'
Once in a while, you just have to ask. Invite your fans and followers to invest in something you are doing that is clearly mission-focused. Keep your "cost of admission" low, and tie it to a specific deliverable. For example, "Help us give a child back-to-school supplies for $8." Some of your fans and friends are ready to become donors, so make that first ask something that would be hard to say "no" to. You can work on upgrading later, once you've gotten them to take the first step beyond liking you to supporting you.
With patience and creativity, you can build relationships that lead to deeper involvement (i.e., donations). There's no magical mystery; your fans really do want to be treated as people you actually care about. Give them that, and they might start caring about helping you beyond simply clicking a "like" button.
Pamela Barden is the creative juice and the copywriting machine behind PJBarden Inc., a consulting firm focused on helping small to midsized nonprofits see big results in fundraising. You can follow Pamela on Twitter @pjbarden.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.