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.
Now we have even more ways to engage, empower and educate our constituencies in this Web 2.0 world. Nonprofit professionals need to embrace the expectations of the individual and all of the powerful tools an individual has at his or her fingertips to share their organizations’ stories. The challenge is figuring out where your organization’s resources can be best leveraged.
It’s not just about the money; it’s about relationships in all fundraising disciplines. We know that when a board member accompanies a development officer to meet with a prospective or major donor, the odds of securing the gift are far greater than if the development officer went on the ask alone. What our parents and teachers have taught us throughout our lives about peer pressure is true. Fortunately, the peer pressure we are talking about here is moral, ethical and socially responsible. Doesn't this feel and sound familiar?
Online fundraising and social media require the same diligence your major-gifts fundraising campaigns require. The upside is that unlike traditional direct mail, your acquisition costs are relegated to the cost of an online account, maintenance of a smartphone contract and your time. Most traditional acquisition campaigns cost $5-$10 per constituent, and then there is the retention challenge. At the recent Nonprofit Technology Conference it was stated that a general rule of thumb is that each constituent acquired is equivalent to $1. Considering nonprofits pay five to 10 times that for acquisition, this is a return on investment that strategic nonprofits will leverage more widespread.
There are no direct fees for setting up Facebook and/or Twitter accounts. The maintenance of your nonprofit's social media presences is where your time and resource investments can pay off. It is up to you and your organization, but you can get help from your “raving fans” in your online community who are interested in your organization’s work. Convert them into — a new term I just heard for the first time at NTC 2010 in Atlanta — social evangelists. Maintaining your organization’s social media presence requires more resources than setting it up. Think of it in the same manner you would your organization’s website. You wouldn’t let the content go stale there; why would you on a social-networking site?
Evolution of the species of Facebook
Facebook always has focused on building ways for people to connect with each other and share information with their friends. This is important because people are shaping how information moves and is evaluated by their social networks. People increasingly are discovering information not just through links to Web pages, but also from the people and things they care about.
Over the past few years, Facebook’s products, or “species,” have evolved with their users. In the beginning there were Facebook Profiles, which have friends. A profile can only be used to represent an individual and must be held under an individual name. Then a need was identified by Facebook from observing user behavior that groups needed to be developed. Groups have members. Groups can be created by any user about any topic as a space for users to share their opinions and interest on that subject.
The next iteration of Facebook’s “species” was pages. Pages have fans. Pages are designed to allow page admins to maintain a personal/professional distinction on Facebook, while groups are a part of your personal Facebook experience. If you're a group admin, your name will appear on that group, while pages will never display their admins' names. Additionally, when you take actions on your group, such as posting on your group's wall, these actions will appear to come from you as an individual. However, if you post or take other actions on a page you own, it will appear to come from the page.
Like your personal profiles, pages can be enhanced with applications that help the organization communicate with and engage its fans, and capture new audiences virally through their fans' recommendations to their friends. More than 3 million users become fans of Facebook Pages every day. Pages should only be created to represent a real public figure, artist, brand or organization, and may only be created by an official representative of that entity. Pages can be customized with rich media and interactive applications to engage page visitors. Applications can't be added to groups.
Twitter provides your organization with an opportunity to communicate its mission and purpose, but to do so with the challenge of communicating your thoughtful, action-inspiring message in 140 characters or less.
This character restriction includes every letter, space and every !, @, ? and # contained in the Twitter field. This may be a challenge because 140 characters are shorter than a typical elevator speech you might give when presenting the organization on the fly. It is also shorter than most public testimonials you want to give. The upside, however, is you are able to communicate many different things about your group or cause, more often and to people who are naturally interested because they choose to follow/friend/like your organization. Constituents will find you on Twitter and follow you if they care about your cause or a cause similar to yours.
Your organization should create a name and page look that reinforce the brand of your organization. The colors, layout, style, messaging and feel of your organization should be congruous with all of your organization’s other branding on your Twitter page. If you are a national organization, you should communicate that to all your branches, divisions, sites, etc., that there is one standard look with the same slogans and mission identity you utilize in all your communications.
“Hashtags” are terms that allow you and your followers to find you and identify conversations that are relevant to you by putting a # or pound sign in front of keywords that identify what you are seeking. If I wanted to talk about a sorority, I might include #AKA and then anyone who is looking for AKA would search that and easily find it. This # symbol might also help eliminate irrelevant items.
For the small nonprofit or the group that wonders when it will have time, thankfully there are a number of Twitter supports such as TweetDeck, HootSuite and others that allow you to load up your tweets whenever you want, which is perfect because you can do this at home, on the plane (in airplane mode of course) or wherever you want. You can load your tweets and set the time they launch so that regardless of what is going on in your world, you have a scheduled stream of information that you control getting out to those most interested in your work.
Online fundraising is growing very quickly nationwide. It is critical to have a year-round relationship management approach to renew and grow donors acquired through Web-based giving programs and social media such as Facebook and Twitter to provide your organization with the tools to do just that.