So ... Is Social Media BS or Not?
Or, at least the fundraising industry's version of viral.
Sitting onstage in his wingback chair like a crusty old grandfather (or like the beguiling iconoclast he is), reading from an oversized fairy tale book to a room full of wide-eyed protégés and sharp-witted peers, he reinterpreted Snow White as a modern fundraising fable.
It was a tale of vanity, hubris, black knights, white knights, short-term thinking and good intentions gone wrong.
And there were valuable life lessons about mind-sets, metrics, methodology and the ephemeral nature of fundraising trends.
It was a heck of a performance. You can read it for yourself here, but it's one of those times when you really needed to be there.
The moment of highest drama was not part of the fairy tale, though. It was when Roger declared unequivocally that social media is (can I assume we're all adults here and skip the silly asterisks?) bullshit.
Not surprisingly, there was strong reaction from every corner of the hall. Some applauded the bold public acknowledgment of what they had long believed. Others scoffed at the idea as cynical, outmoded, dinosaur thinking.
In other words, most of us leapt immediately to the defense of our preconceived notions.
But nobody asked exactly what he meant.
The point I believe Roger was making was simply that we are fundraisers. And as such, we want to concentrate our efforts on bringing in the money organizations need to make a difference in the world.
Those channels that engage and advocate and empower brands and spread the gospel have tremendous value. But they also take time, i.e., money and manpower.
So maybe the question is not whether social media is bullshit, but whether it is fundraising.
Which boils down to two questions:
- Since direct mail continues to haul in 80 percent of the cash for so many organizations, and e-mail brings in most of the rest, what is the ROI on engagement?
- Should the funding of social-media efforts come from your fundraising budget or your marketing budget?
The answer may not be the same for everyone. But finding the answer for your organization might help everyone live a little more happily ever after.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.