The Art of the (Social Media) Ask
At Turnkey, we’re often asked about how to use social media to drive peer-to-peer fundraising. For help, predictably, I turn to someone younger than me. (It is sad when you commit ageism on yourself.) To Julian May, Turnkey’s ace copywriter and social media guru, I go. He also happens to wear untucked plaid shirts and has fast hair. So, he has got to be good (and, he is). Said Julien:
Social media is one of the powerful tools that fundraisers have sitting in their back pockets. At no cost to the nonprofit or to the participant, powerful fundraising messages can be communicated to the participant’s personal network. This includes many potential supporters that the fundraiser may not have been comfortable contacting directly. Additionally, this is an effective method for increasing the visibility of both the nonprofit and the participant’s upcoming event, potentially creating new registrants. So, how can we make an effective social media ask in our messaging materials that harnesses this power?
The art of the social media ask can be broken down into three simple components:
- Emphasize the direct benefit of the action to the participant
- Minimize the participant’s action in terms of effort
- Forecast success
The first step is the easiest. Some participants don’t realize that their existing social presence offers them a network of potential supporters just waiting to be tapped. For participants, social media is one of the easiest places to find early and quick success in their fundraising. So you can share with them how easy it will be to reach their first fundraising goal with just one quick post. By both encouraging them to action and illustrating the direct benefit of that action, you are able to reframe the ask as a hot fundraising tip rather than a cold call to action.
Minimizing the action we are requesting of the participant is a concept that has been around for a long time in the marketing world: "It’s so easy, just pick up the phone and call today!” Social media lends a whole new meaning to the concept of a easy action: Just point and click. By providing participants with a link to a post they can share on Facebook, we make our ask a two-click process and relieve them of having to draft their own messages. Social integration in many fundraising platforms also makes this ask even easier to make. Participants will find greater success as we provide them with effective content.
Last but never least is forecasting success. Whenever we make an ask of our participants, it’s important to communicate—this works! Yes, they will raise funds for the organization; we want to offer the participant a path to fundraising success. When we make social asks in the messaging we develop for nonprofits, we use definitive language that assures the desired outcome rather than framing it as a possibility. This kind of language is actually pretty simple: “If you post about your fundraising goals, then your social connections will support you and help you reach them.”
By employing this three-tier strategy, we are speaking with authority to an audience that wants to be successful. In doing so, we not only increase the visibility and presence of the nonprofit across social media, but also help participants achieve their full potential in their fundraising efforts.
(It is good to hire well.)
Otis Fulton, Ph.D., spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising” and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.
Otis is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.
Katrina VanHuss has helped national nonprofits raise funds and friends since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Her client’s successes and her dedication to research have made her a sought-after speaker, presenting at national conferences for Blackbaud, Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Nonprofit PRO, The Need Help Foundation and her clients’ national meetings. The firm’s work is underpinned by the study and application of behavioral economics and social psychology. Turnkey provides project engagements, coaching, counsel and staffing to nonprofits seeking to improve revenue or create new revenue. Her work extends into organizational alignment efforts and executive coaching.
Katrina also regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” When not writing or researching, Katrina likes to make things — furniture from reclaimed wood, new gardens, food with no recipe. Katrina’s favorite Saturday is spent cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass, making something new, all while listening to loud music by now-deceased black women, throwing in a few sets on the weight bench off and on, then collapsing on the couch with her husband Otis to gang-watch new Netflix series whilst drinking sauvignon blanc.
Katrina grew up on a Virginia beef cattle and tobacco farm with her three brothers. She is accordingly skilled in hand to hand combat and witty repartee — skills gained at the expense of her brothers. Katrina’s claim to fame is having made it to the “American Gladiator” Richmond competition as a finalist in her late 20s, progressing in the competition until a strangely large blonde woman knocked her off a pedestal with an oversized pain-inducing Q-tip. Katrina’s mantra for life is “Be nice. Do good. Embrace embarrassment.” Clearly she’s got No. 3 down.