Blasting Off With Social Media
In these columns I address real-life obstacles and challenges that nonprofits face in creating sustainable funding to deliver their missions and achieve their goals. Readers write via email to receive a quick consultation and perhaps have their particular problems addressed in these columns.
As a thank-you to my readers, from now through the end of the year, I am sending a complimentary copy of my book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising," to the reader whose situation is used in each week's article.
For this week's challenge, I'm highlighting the case of the development director who emailed me last week. Although certainly competent and worthy of the title "professional," this fundraiser brings with her the No. 1 disadvantage we all bring to the table. She brings the limits defined by her own particular perspective.
The senior development officer is in a small shop of three — herself, a junior staffer charged with communications and events, and a clerical. The budget is fairly ample. Organization financials are relatively stable.
So, you say, where's the problem? I know many an organization that would like to be where these folks are. Ah — the myopia of our own perspective strikes again.
The particular reason Sarah (not her real name) reached out was to get some practical advice regarding the effective use of social media. I can almost hear the chirps, moans and yawns now. Depending on who you are, you may either believe that social media is the latest solution to our fundraising woes, a confusing labyrinth of technology or just another fad. Actually, it's none of these.
Social media is transforming the way we communicate and will fundamentally alter the manner in which we engage our constituencies. Like it or not, it's going to impact your life as a nonprofit staffer, board member or volunteer.
Sarah, being middle-aged-ish (like me!) is just a bit bewildered about it all. She has heard so many conflicting ideas and opinions. She knows it needs to be a part of the program; she just doesn't know how.
I feel her pain. While serving as chief advancement officer of a residential liberal arts college in the '90s, I distinctly remember a senior staff meeting, with the president and the other VPs, where the subject was whether and how to put resources to strengthening the college's Web presence.
My boss, the most senior both in position and age, made a comment that was essentially, "I can't see the need to pour precious resources into this 'Web thing.' We're not Amazon." There was an awkward pause, after which a colleague spoke up to state, "I really don't think that a group of five men, all over the age of 50, have any real conception of what an 18-year-old thinks is important."
There it was. Truth placed into the middle of the room like a large and heavy box being set onto the conference table.
Just as the situation with my colleagues and me, it is very difficult — some would say nigh impossible — for us to understand the perspective of someone who by age or background is significantly different from us.
This is the challenge of social media. These tools are not just a reinvented party line. The millennials who are the drivers in the social-media world think and act differently than us oldsters. They just do.
I responded to Sarah that making social media work for her organization's fundraising program was both a necessity and a challenge. I gave her a few pointers on where to begin:
- First, know who your constituents are. Determine what portion(s) of that group is the demographic that has embraced the social tools.
- Second, find out which platforms your donors and potential donors use. Yes, each platform (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) has a typical audience to which it appeals. The various networks are not equal or identical.
- Once your know to whom you're reaching out, then decide how you will integrate this engagement tool with your total program. What are the short-term operational goals?
- Lastly, once your know how you will fold social media into your larger program, what metrics will you use? What goals — revenue and otherwise — will you set?
Change is coming to philanthropy. Big change. Hoping it will "blow over" is not a workable response. Doing what you've always done is a prescription for extinction.
But neither is simply taking action based upon our own perspectives and experience.
It's always been true that donors respond best when you reach out to them on the basis of their needs and aspirations. With the advent of social media and the millennial generation, that immutable truth has just become a whole lot truer!
Thanks to Sarah for reaching out. I've placed a copy of my book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising," into the mail as my thanks.
Please let me hear from you concerning your particular situation and the difficulties you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me (info@TheEightPrinciples.com), and I’ll give you a quick response. I’ll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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