Meet Our Advisors: Clint O’Brien
How do you see social networking working for nonprofit organizations and their fundraising efforts?: “Put me down as a skeptic, albeit a hopeful one. So far, online social networks such as Facebook and MySpace that eschew e-mail and rely instead on internal messaging, ‘friending’ and profile pages have proven to be a disappointing platform for nonprofit fundraising. The notable exception is in those rare cases when benefactors — especially the Case Foundation’s very generous Giving Challenge and a modest prior effort by actor Kevin Bacon — artificially stimulate the platform by offering huge cash incentives.
“At Care2 we have our own social-networking area — which we launched six years ago and have continued to build out — so we’ve known for a long time that if your goal is online fundraising, the social networking stuff is not terribly effective. Certainly good, old e-mail campaigns, augmented with landing pages, tell-a-friend tools and (increasingly) video, have proven to be about 100 times more effective than the social-networking features. These tried-and-true methods are how Care2 produces a major impact for our nonprofit partners, who have recruited millions of individual donors from among our membership in recent years.
“So our advice to nonprofits is, by all means, go ahead and establish a presence on Facebook and the other major social networks to build and (to some extent) control your brand and message. But don’t over-invest your time or resources, because the benefits you will receive are limited to branding and buzz-building, which won’t move the needle for your organization, financially speaking. Better to keep your resources focused, for now at least, on the many tried-and-true online fundraising methods that continue to produce great results for most nonprofits.
“Meantime, we are all scouring the case studies for models that might some day turn these social networks into viable fundraising platforms, and when these models are discovered, there will be plenty of opportunities for nonprofits to jump on that bandwagon.”