5 Ways to Use Social Media to Build Donor Relationships
To survive and thrive in the current zeitgeist, all nonprofits must master online social fundraising.
Why? Because almost everyone—including my 97-year-old father-in-law—is online. If you’re not meeting people where they are, you’re going to miss meeting them at all. Or, if you do happen to luck out and meet them once, you’re not likely to sustain the relationship.
Despite all the hand-wringing over how to engage with Millennials versus Baby Boomers versus Gen Xers, there’s something fundamental all generations have in common.
We’re all a part of Generation Connected (Gen C).
This is not an elephant in the room. It is the room.
And as “Project Runway” fans know: “When you’re not in, you’re out!”
Why You Must Cater to Generation Connected
Every one of the five distinct generations of donors nonprofits work with falls into Gen C. All of them use social media. Some a lot more than you might think.
In fact, 65 percent of adults now use social networking sites—a nearly tenfold jump in the past decade.
Over the last decade, the amount of time people spend on the internet has quadrupled. The average person worldwide has five social media accounts and spends an average of 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day.
I could go on and on with data like this, but the point is that the web-enabled media train has left the station.
Development (by which I mean integrated fundraising and marketing) must get on board now—or be left behind.
This means understanding the nature of new opportunities and acquiring the requisite expertise to make it happen. As explained in this post, "How Social Media and Empathy Can Combine to Change the World: A Darwinian Tale," to survive, you must adapt.
Why Getting in the Online Social Fundraising Room Is Essential
Today I want to focus on using social media strategies to build dynamic donor relationships.
The chief reason this is so critical is that nonprofits are hemorrhaging donors—losing, on average, more than half of their supporters every year.
Whatever nonprofits are doing right now to sustain and grow donor relationships, it’s not working especially well. So, adding an additional relatively inexpensive donor-retention strategy into your existing donor development plan makes sense.
Here are five strategies you can use to build donor relationships online:
1. Take folks behind the scenes. One of the best ways to make donors feel special and more connected to your organization is to give them an insider view. How about making a behind-the-scenes video of your work in action, then uploading it to Vimeo or YouTube to share as a link via social media? Or, conduct an intimate interview with your executive director, a doctor, a scientist, a principal ballerina or program director, then share via a link.
2. Acknowledge, thank and delight. Always think of new ways you can give donors, sponsors and supporters an unexpected thumbs up or pat on the back. How about shooting a short thank-you video on your smartphone, and then using Vine or Instagram to share it with your donors? Or what about sending a brief video of your staff saying “Thanks Susie Supporter!” as a Twitter link? How about using Canva or PicMonkey to create a cute, funny or inspiring graphic to surprise your donors with how much they’re appreciated?
3. Publicly recognize and honor. Praise grows in a group setting. Most folks love it when their friends get to see a compliment made about them. How about endorsing your donors on LinkedIn? Retweet some of their tweets. Share some of their Facebook posts. Comment on articles they post. Create a Pinterest board to which you can “pin” your “Star Supporters,” “Razoo Raisers” and “Legacy Leaders.” Or, simply pin photos you’ve taken of volunteers volunteering (see Habitat for Humanity), gala-goers partying (see San Francisco Symphony) or walkathon participants walking (see Avon Breast Cancer Walk).
4. Share your stories at the online water cooler. Social media provides an amazing way to communicate with donors in real time. Just go where your donors are hanging out online and begin to share what’s up at your nonprofit. Make your donors smile when they see the results their gifts help achieve. Consider live tweeting from your events. Share images in your Twitter feed. (Check out the Charity: Water Twitter feed—replete with pinnable photos). Tell short stories on Facebook. (See the Make-A-Wish Foundation Facebook page—filled with videos, pictures and emotional stories of children who’ve been touched by the foundation's efforts.) Supporters are often moved to comment, like and share these posts. Upload your story to video, then share as a link. (See “The Faces of Opportunity” video by Opportunity Fund). Get into the habit of social storytelling—always making your donor the hero.
5. Host an exclusive social media event. Getting donors involved in “insider” events builds loyalty and drives positive engagement. Consider a Google Hangout, an invitation-only Facebook group or a public event, such as a tweetchat. Feature a conversation with your executive director or offer folks an opportunity to ask an expert. Online events do a great job of making donors feel like they belong to your tribe, and have the benefit of providing them with an opportunity to learn more about areas of particular interest, offer opinions and advice, and get their questions answered.
Why You Shouldn’t Freak Out About Changing Technology
If there’s one thing I find comforting, it’s that regardless of platform—in person or online—it’s still just people. Truly transformational, sustainable fundraising has always been, and will always be, about engaging in, building and nurturing vital human connections.
Don’t get shaken or rattled by the emergence of newer technological tools. They’re tools. Humankind has advanced greatly since the invention of tools. Your job is simply to use them to innovate to your advantage.
Don’t, however, use people as an excuse to avoid technology.
If you’ve recently spoken with a 6-year-old, you’ll know that trying to separate people from technology is a false dichotomy in today’s world. Kids breathe it. As noted before, just about every demographic is embracing technology—and social giving—at a rate unimaginable just a few years ago. One study of nonprofit social media trends found that organizations that learned to take advantage of online tools and effectively mobilize social networks were much more successful in ramping up their fundraising efforts.
At the end of the day, people give to what they value.
That’s the essence of philanthropy. People value relationships. People value someone—you!—telling them specifically how they can be the change they want to see in the world. People value being able to accomplish their goals as easily as possible. It’s the same principle that drives so many people to pay their bills online. It gets the job done effectively.
Your job is to help people be philanthropists. Today, that means embracing online social fundraising.
What ideas do you have for using social media to strengthen relationships with donors?
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.