COVID-19 Amplifies the Need for Social Fundraising
There are many things in life we had to do when we didn't want to. Maybe it was that time you had to learn how to upload a video on YouTube or figure out how to use a new phone someone bought you for your birthday. Most of the time, once you learn how to do something new, it is less daunting and becomes more regular and straightforward.
A year ago, I didn't know what TikTok was. Sure, I'd heard of it, but I didn’t understand it and didn’t think it was my thing. To better understand my market, I decided to download it and learn more about it. Now I watch it every day, and it's kind of addictive.
Ultimately, if charities are going to connect with current and future donors, organizations need to start meeting them where they are. Sure, donors might visit your website and your fundraising page, but if Facebook has taught us anything this past year, it's that donors and fundraisers are excited about having more convenient ways of digitally donating and fundraising for their chosen charities.
If we are to believe the recent reports, gathering in large groups may not be something society is comfortable with for another 18 months. That means vast gatherings, like endurance events and concerts, may be over a year away from returning to normal.
But there is a silver lining here: It's time to make an upgrade that was always coming. It's time to go from VHS to DVD, or Mixtapes to MP3s.
Some facts: In 2005, 5% of the population was using social media — now that's almost 80%. A lot has changed in the past 10 to 15 years, like increasing bandwidth from 3G to 5G on our smartphones that 81% of us now use. The most popular platform used to be MySpace, topping out at 100 million users at its peak. Now we have Facebook and YouTube with over 2 billion users per platform, and new sites like TikTok with 500 million, Discord with 250 million, Twitch getting 15 million daily visitors and more.
The fact is that the majority of the world, including the U.S., gathers on social platforms, but most charities still use elementary fundraising pages with a simple donate button, some text and an image. These pages typically have no interaction with the real world. It's an old-fashioned mailbox in a world of text messages.
Reluctance Toward Influencers
This lack of technological growth was already going to be an issue, but now is an opportunity to adapt. Facebook Fundraisers has already raised over $2 billion. This showed that donors and fundraisers are appreciating the convenience of tailoring the experience to where they are. The scary part to some is that fundraisers are now in control. Instead of being scared of it, it's time to embrace their originality and creativity that has consumed society.
For example, creators on Twitch have raised over $115 million for various charities. Charities, however, continue to be somewhat reluctant and concerned about content creators and influencers fundraising on their behalf. The concern has been with what content they may show or what they might do — as if they are some weird sect of society. The fact is, this is the world now, and this is what people do.
These virtual tools can help your organization in massive ways, and your organization should jump on the opportunity now. Virtual communities are growing strong every day. People connect with those whom they follow online and heed their advice. The same goes for charities, too.
Since 2014, Tiltify has seen Twitch as the reinvention of the telethon, and something that even took us somewhere we did not expect. Creative content creators have come up with ideas that have raised millions of dollars — something we didn't imagine, nor did the charities they fundraised for. These are people who are passionate and excited about your cause. They know how to spread the word across their social channels, and you can learn from them.
The No. 2 search engine in the world is YouTube. But many charities don't keep up their Youtube presence or use Youtube as a storage receptacle for their videos. We need to think about the 50 million people who have created content on Youtube and its two billion registered users. It's more important than ever to know that possible fundraisers and donors will research your charity to learn more from your organization’s Youtube videos. Think of this as an opportunity to show off what you do in an exciting short video.
I was recently on TikTok and came across Best Friends Animal Society's page. I, like many, love looking at animal videos. I have spent hours looking through their videos. It's a brilliant way to connect with people in the most popular areas. You have a chance to go live on Twitch and show your constituents what you do, where you work and what you have accomplished, and answer questions in real-time. This type of connection is invaluable. Donors want authenticity, and you can give them that by letting them in through these social channels.
Livestream and Social Fundraising
Large gatherings are going to be postponed for a while, but there is a fantastic opportunity for growth through live and social fundraising. Millions of people are at home and are looking for exciting ways to engage. Charities can give that to them. Allow supporters to unleash their creativity, whether it's through music, art, games, food, fitness, fashion or anything else that inspires them. I've watched a streamer on Twitch with an average of 20 viewers, turn his dislike for pickles into a fundraising event that brought in about $50,000 to Doctors without Borders over a few years. The number of funds that can be raised through live interaction and creativity can be staggering. The average livestream personal fundraising event is hours, not months, and can raise in a few hours what your average individual fundraiser raises in a month or two. That is because of the engagement with their audience.
This medium allows you to change the value proposition with donors. Instead of merely dropping money off at a mailbox, they are exchanging money for entertainment and recognition. If your friend asked you to donate to their run and linked you to a basic page, maybe you would drop $20. If that same friend said they are going to be live for an hour, and they will eat a hot wing for every $20 you donated, you might just jump on that right away and donate $100 for the entertainment.
Looking at it another way: If there was a virtual group gathering that wanted to raise $10,000 to build a well in an area that desperately needed water, it’s quite possible that well could be funded in hours. I know because I have seen it happen. I have seen a group raise the amount it costs to run St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for a day, which is about $2.7 million, in a week. Maybe that is an extreme example, but what if a celebrity who had a substantial social following connected with fans online to have some fun, unique engagement, play some music and let the crowd interact with them, instead of coming to your organization’s gala. Perhaps people donate to choose songs or the celebrity gives away signed merchandise. You could see the possibility for fast fundraising.
Whether you are the "average" person who can raise $50,000 who doesn't like pickles, or a major influencer who can raise millions because you have a following, connecting live and through social platforms is going to be not only the new normal, but an essential addition to the series of events for all charities as they navigate the space.
We should all stay safe and healthy during this time, but it wouldn't be so bad if the only thing that doesn’t make it through is the out-of-date, personal fundraising page.
To help those who have been directly impacted by COVID-19, here is a list of organizations you can donate to.
Michael Wasserman is CEO and co-founder of Tiltify, the most popular fundraising platform for content creators and livestream fundraising. With more than 10 years of experience in charitable fundraising, Michael has helped raise over a $100 million through innovative strategies for major charities as a consultant and executive prior to starting Tiltify in 2014. Since then Tiltify has re-invented the telethon with interactive technology that has shown to raise funds up to 37x faster than offline fundraising. Tiltify currently works with over 1000 charities around the world including St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Save the Children, HSUS, American Red Cross, Make-A-Wish America, United Way Worldwide and many more.