Mission Accomplished ... For Now
"It blew us away," Arbogast says.
While he says it's not raising any substantial money online, the constant Facebook interaction with supporters is useful in other ways. It encourages people to share information about the organization and allows them to feel intimately connected.
"The best we can do [as far as fundraising]," he says, "is set up personal fundraising pages for those people who are active on Facebook and obviously good with engaging and connecting."
But perhaps even more importantly, VVMF uses its social-networking contacts as sounding boards for which issues it will highlight in direct-mail campaigns.
"It's an invaluable resource to do message testing with," he says. "It helps keep your content current and fresh. It's not as much of a guessing game anymore. If you post something on Facebook and it gets 150 to 200 'likes,' it's probably a message you want to go out with more traditional direct mail."
VVMF was "late to the game" with Facebook, Arbogast says, but it already has 17,000 followers in the less than a year that it's had a presence there.
The time is now
As Vietnam vets pass away, Arbogast says, planned giving is playing a larger part in the organization's fundraising. That underscores the importance of creating the education center now.
"We don't want to get to the point of there being only one Vietnam vet left," he says, adding that the threat is twofold: The dwindling population of Vietnam vets means that the opportunity to collect firsthand stories and memorabilia from the war for inclusion in the memorial and education center is quickly drying up — along with the organization's prime donor base.
Despite some similarities, fundraising for the education center is different from that of the memorial itself. E-mail, Facebook, etc., weren't part of the original strategy 30 years ago. And this time around, the organization is preparing to be around for the long haul, far beyond construction of any one particular project.