How Tweet It Is! Mastering Social Media for Fundraising Success
Continuing our coverage of the Association of Fundraising Professionals 47th International Conference held in Baltimore earlier this month, CFRE Nicci Noble and Sean Sullivan, director of development at the Center for Environmental Health, share takeaways from their presentation, "How Tweet It Is! Mastering Social Media for Fundraising Success."
Social media, online fundraising, going to the dentist — these are all things that tend to scare traditional fundraisers, regardless of age. It’s often believed that older professionals are reluctant to embrace new technology.
But that shouldn’t be the case. This new medium is cost-effective and environmentally responsible. It gives nonprofits nontraditional ways to acquire, profile, and cultivate donors and new constituents. When a fan/user/friend retweets you, promotes or fundraises for your cause, your organization has the access to his or her personal information, given the user's privacy settings allow for it. Social media helps you learn more than you currently know or have on your housefile from traditional direct-mail or special-event donors.
Conversations = cultivation
Gaining permission to access people’s social networks allows nonprofits the ability to reach a wider audience with little to no expense. You can “gaze” into their lives and find ways to link into their interests and ability to support your organization financially and socially/virally.
Recent research demonstrates that those using social media platforms — particularly the two most popular, Facebook and Twitter — are diversifying in age. The fastest-growing demographic on both the Internet and Facebook is 55-plus.
What you need to know for true fundraising success is that you need to focus on cultivating relationships year-round. Consistent, thoughtful cultivation is something that most development professionals already focus on in the annual campaigns, and it must be applied online as well.
Social media is and will continue to be one of the many hats development professionals wear. The challenge is you will have to wear the social media “hat” more often, and it might seem like it will take a long time before that has an effect on the organization's bottom line. But you must do it. Online engagement through social media is becoming expected of nonprofit institutions just as a website is expected.
But that means more than just having an account. You must be active and engaging. During our presentation, the majority of the attendees in the room raised their hands in response to the question, “Is your organization on Facebook?” Many also had Twitter accounts. Though when we asked, "Do you update it regularly," more than half of them admitted they do not.
It was disappointing but not surprising. However, to be truly effective, you must keep up with it. Social media is like a garden: If you tend it, it will flourish; if you don't … the weeds will take it over.
Same rules apply to online fundraising
One of the principles of fundraising established by Hank Rosso, a founder of the Center on Philanthropy and founding director of The Fund Raising School, is that “people give to people.” Affirmation of a charity’s good work is perceived to be more authentic and genuine if it is from one of our friends or colleagues. This qualified peer referent validation is one of the key factors in attracting people to your organization’s work and educating them about your organization’s cause. The same holds true on the Web: People give to people, even online!
Social-networking platforms help get your organization’s posts, tweets, blogs or other welcomed information to others effectively from the best source, people they know. Organizations worldwide are finding out that their websites often are perceived as institutional; something more sophisticated than brochure-ware is needed to keep their constituents’ appetite for engagement sated.
A decade ago we were enamored by the huge cost savings by processing and receipting gifts online. Web-based donation forms were easier to maintain, customize and manage. Online gifts could be made at any time of the day or night, on weekends and holidays. Confirmations, thank-you e-mails and receipts could be sent at the click of a button or configuration of a system.