Social Networks: How to Make Them Work for Your Nonprofit
I hope you enjoyed last month’s column, “The Tools Every Charity Should Have in Its Online Fundraising Toolbox.” For those of you who missed it, let me provide this disclaimer: I lead an online fundraising company, so my perspective is very pro-digital … but it’s also informed by 10 years of Internet fundraising experience, so I hope it will be of some value to you.
Now, to this month’s topic. When I saw the sign “Facebook 101 in the Library” posted at our local public school, I knew a shift was occurring. Parents eager to learn about the Web site their children are spending so much time on had organized a self-help session to share what little they knew about it!
And Facebook isn’t the only site leading the social-media revolution. You’ve probably heard some of the amazing growth statistics and the buzz around other brands like YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.
The question many nonprofit leaders ask is, “How much time should I be spending on social media?” The answer depends on your goals, so let’s take a closer look.
Is your goal friendraising?
More and more people are spending time on sites like Facebook, so if you want to meet new people, it’s much easier to go where they already congregate rather than try to drag them to your Web site.
Misty Meeks, online communications manager for the World Society for the Protection of Animals Canada, is in charge of WSPA’s global fan page on Facebook.
“We have [more than] 70,000 fans worldwide on Facebook” she says. “Most of our fans speak English, and come from the U.S., Denmark, Australia, the U.K. and Canada. What I find noticeable is the gender split. Approximately 75 percent are females, and over 85 percent of our interactions come from females.
“It’s a great communications resource for us at WSPA,” she continues. “We can push out stories, like our recent one about the world’s first release of bonobos, and we receive immediate feedback from our fans. Some want to comment, others just give us the ‘thumbs up’ that they like this.”
Shannon Raybold, Internet director for the United Nations Foundation, organizes “Facebook blitzes” with the help of interns.
“We create talking points and approved messages, and then send our interns looking for groups on Facebook who share a similar pro-peace perspective to ours,” she explains. “A lot of smaller groups on these social networks are looking for actions they can take. I used to be surprised when a group organizer would say, ‘Yes, I’ll forward your message to my group!,’ but I’m not anymore. We can also help them grow by linking to their group or fan page from our Web site.”
Is your goal fundraising?
The results from using social media to fundraise have been mixed so far. Though we’ve seen a few flashes of success in campaigns such as Twestival ($250,000) on Twitter, most of the social-network campaigns don’t generate much cash. There is wide adoption of Facebook’s Causes application, but the fundraising volume is still limited. According to a recent report in The Washington Post, out of the 235,000 nonprofits using the Causes application, three had raised more than $100,000 and 88 had raised $10,000. For instance, if you look at the American Red Cross Causes page on Facebook, you’ll see that it has collected $7,295 … clearly it’s not the No. 1 place to donate to such a big brand.
There is no doubt these fundraising statistics will grow over the next few years. At Artez we’ve found that one of the best ways to use social networks for fundraising is to view them as an alternative to e-mail. Nonprofits can run walkathons and create personal fundraising pages. We (along with other tool providers in this area such as Convio and Blackbaud) are seeing more and more traffic to our donation servers arriving from Facebook and Twitter.
Let’s say I’m trying to raise $1,000 through my personal fundraising page. In the past, my primary method for doing this was to send out lots of e-mails. Now, increasingly, I’m updating my status on Facebook and posting information on the wall that will direct my generous friends to donate through my fundraising page … and they never have to be ‘spammed’ with e-mail from me!
Please keep your eye out for next month’s column: "Trends in Online Giving: Making Your Fundraising Recession-Proof." If you’re enjoying this content I invite you to search for my “Digital Fundraising Podcast” on iTunes and listen to interviews with rock stars in the world of digital fundraising.
Philip King is president and CEO of Artez Interactive. If you have any thoughts or comments, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org