A Social Fundraising Evolution: Content Creators Influence Giving Behaviors
Social fundraising is a powerful tool for helping nonprofits meet their awareness and fundraising goals. To date, the relationship between the nonprofit and the supporter has traditionally been one-directional, that is, nonprofits spend advertising dollars to engage people online, namely through SEO and digital ads, with the goal of directing them to a donation page to make a gift.
There is a way to engage supporters in two-way conversations using Facebook and Instagram messenger, where supporters never leave the platform, maximizing the effectiveness of social media fundraising. Applying traditional cultivation and coaching methods via in-channel conversations, nonprofits are raising significant revenue, driving repeat action and nurturing deeper relationships with millions of new supporters in-channel.
These models, which I’ll call nonprofit to supporter (N2S), have been — and continue to be — a thriving success. For example, Facebook refers almost 30% of traffic to donation pages on Giving Tuesday, and it’s estimated that more than $6 billion has been raised on Facebook and Instagram.
At the same time, how people donate is evolving, and there’s a new breed of social media offering real-time forms of entertainment, making it highly unlikely that individuals will leave the platform to support a nonprofit or make a donation. Examples include live streaming on Twitch, or real-time gaming on Discord. If your target audience is hanging out on these websites and you don’t go after them, you’re potentially missing a vital assemblage that has embraced philanthropy as part of their identity.
For these social media users, giving — and any effort made to engage, cultivate and grow them as a donor base — has to be frictionless, happening seamlessly in the channel where they choose to spend their time and without ever forcing them to move to another platform. This represents a significant shift for nonprofits, with social media platforms now providing direct giving tools and two-way communications where users spend their time.This is changing the game for nonprofits, while also improving the donor experience and providing new communications channels in which to engage and grow lifetime value.
Several of these newer social media formats differ from sites like Facebook and Instagram in another key way, in that, content creators are predominant (think Twitch, TikTok and YouTube) and play a big role in influencing others’ behavior. In the social fundraising landscape, there is a huge potential place for these content creators as intermediaries and ambassadors for your brand. Content creators are becoming advocates for nonprofits and asking consumers to support nonprofits — just as team captains do in the peer-to-peer space — during their livestreams and never requiring consumers to leave the platform. This is an evolving model and what we mean when we say that N2S is, in some cases, morphing to (nonprofit to content creator to supporter (N2CS).
That’s not to say N2S is diminishing. It remains vital, as Facebook continues to be the most popular social network worldwide with 2.9 billion monthly active users. Currently, 34% of nonprofits worldwide report that they pay for social ads.
But acquisition continues to challenge nonprofits so pursuing a new breed of potential donors on sites dominated by real-time content and/or content creators is needed. But you’ll need some novel approaches.
1. Be Ready to Pivot
There’s a big culture change involved. Nonprofits have traditionally put a lot of emphasis on collecting emails. Content creators don’t want — or need — relationships with donors, and nonprofits need to get their brains around this. Remember, here it’s all about cultivating relationships in-channel and on-platform with potential donors. You need to engage in direct dialogue “with” potential donors versus talking “at” them. This is a formal shift to a two-directional form of communication. In this new world, “likes” and comments — and to a certain extent, emails as a form of communication — are old school.
Additionally, many content creators expect to be treated like celebrities. They can be in high demand and hard to reach. Fortunately, new platforms, like Tiltify, are emerging to enable connections.
2. Develop Infrastructure to Nurture and Accept Donations
Facebook Messenger and direct messaging on Twitter offer some good examples of the types of in-app communications technologies you’ll want to be able to exploit on these newer platforms. The engagement rate on Facebook Messenger, for example, is much higher than email, with research showing marketing messages sent via Facebook Messenger are opened at 95% compared to around 15% for email — a 70% increase. And, of course, you need to have the proper plumbing in place so you can accept donations in-platform.
3. Provide Content Creators Compelling Calls to Action
Research shows that when the nonprofit or charity is directly involved, it significantly increases the amount of donations a content creator is able to raise. How can you be more directly involved? One key way is to equip content creators with highly compelling content, like videos.
Remember that a great fundraising video is different from a great marketing video. While a great marketing video is designed to capture the eyeballs of strangers, pique their interest and entice them to learn more, an effective fundraising video makes viewers feel an emotion so strongly that they have an overwhelming desire to help and participate. Also, remember that content creators want to look official; it is therefore important to give them logos and other collateral.
N2S continues to be an important tool in the world of social fundraising. But it’s important to recognize the power of newer, emerging social media, and you’d be remiss to overlook the need for more real-time, direct engagement, as well as the influence of content creators. Being successful in an N2CS world will require engaging with content creators and ultimately their audiences in new ways which represents a different strategy from the traditional N2S model.
Maria Clark is GoodUnited's executive vice president of partnerships, and chief evangelist. Clark is a career nonprofit executive with 30-plus years of industry experience. She is a champion of innovation in the sector and has fearlessly led technology adoption and change management efforts throughout her career. Previously, Maria spent 33 years at the American Cancer Society, a top 20 U.S. nonprofit.