Tips for Using Social Media to Build Awareness and Enable Participant Fundraising
The old way individuals thought about community — who they are and how they connect to likeminded people — was geographic. The neighborhood was the community, and people built community to physically be together, whether in their workplaces or churches. But today, people are centered more around electronic communities of interest. Things like online book clubs, professional networks like LinkedIn, and social networks are new ways to get a sense of self and community.
In his session "Making Social Media Work for Fundraising" at the first International Fundraising eConference in May, Michael Johnston, president of nonprofit technology consultancy HJC, analyzed how trends point to social-network fundraising now and in the future, recommended steps to empowering participant fundraisers, and shared tips for social-media success.
"Traditionally, to get an idea of who was like you, you would look down the church pews or in your community and see them," Johnston said. "Now we look to social media — a way for people to find like-minded individuals, to find people with a shared sense of values and purpose and community online."
Johnston said it's essential for organizations to find the right mission-related activity that stimulates people to use personal pages and other technology to reach out and raise money. Social-network fundraising works around the world.
"The trend is for donors to use online tools to do their own fundraising for a brand they believe in — in any country," Johnston said.
How do you find out if a social-network campaign will work for you? Johnston recommended research. Poll people online, in the mail and on the phone. Ask them what they would do with social-network tools to raise money. Give them a few ideas, e.g., walk-a-thon, skate-a-thon, football-a-thon, etc. Ask donors and citizens, "Would you do this" and, "What would you do?"
Before getting started, he advised knowing your demographic, e.g., who is participating in your activity. Get to know who's doing your current events and know who you're trying to reach. Do you want a particular gender group doing it, a particular age demographic? Are you trying to replace older donors?
Johnston said there are some pretty tried-and-true assumptions organizations can make about the Google-age participant, some of which are the same for older donors, but some that are different. They include:
- they have family and friends;
- they have a workplace and colleagues;
- they are consumers;
- they are busy;
- they have an electronic sense of self and community;
- they give impulsively;
- they will use multiple mediums to make a gift; and
- they like to be challenged (stretched).
The present and future fundraising participant is interested in hyper-adventure giving, doing things where they feel young and are having fun while giving. For the 78 million baby boomers poised to retire, giving must be fun and it must be done on their terms, as their giving is a symbol of their own brand.