Fundraising for Nonprofits: 6 Ways Social Media Can Help
Nonprofit organizations around the globe have a thorny dilemma: They exist to serve others, but to do so they need a steady influx of funds. For many nonprofits, a major stumbling block is identifying and engaging donors who support the mission and are willing to donate operating cash. In-person community fundraisers can be effective, but only as a short-term strategy. No matter how valuable the service, nonprofits in smaller markets run the risk of exhausting local funding with a locals-only fundraising strategy.
For a long-term, sustainable source of funds, nonprofits are increasingly turning to the 2.1 billion people with active social media accounts. Harnessing social media for fundraising efforts is a great way to expand the donor pool without overly taxing local resources. As with local fundraisers, social media fundraising for nonprofits comes with its own set of rules and etiquette. Here’s what you need to know.
Make it personal
There’s a lot of virtual noise out there. Activity on Twitter alone tops 500 million tweets per day. To cut through the clutter, make your online communication personal. Use analytics to refine your targeting, and capitalize on your followers’ own networks to amplify your message. Ask them to share your message, and add a personal note explaining what your cause means to them and how they’re connected. Make sure to answer the what (you do), the why (you do it), the who (you help), and the how (followers can get involved).
But don’t just “set it and forget it.” Although automatic posting apps like Hootsuite are a great tool to ensure regular posting, don’t forget to check your social media accounts daily to respond to comments and questions. Your engagement is what sets your social media strategy apart from everyone else’s.
Don’t stick your foot in your mouth
Once upon a time, if you offended someone at a party or made an off-color joke, you might be temporarily mortified. But unless your gaffe was especially egregious, the embarrassment would end when the party did. Today, such social blunders can quickly go viral — and they’re out there forever. A good example of that is when Jedidiah Jenkins of Invisible Children joked about keeping charity funds for himself.
Not all missteps are the result of misguided humor. Typos, factual inaccuracies, and employee errors (such as accidentally posting to the organization’s site, when they meant to post on their personal site) can detract from your organization’s credibility. Put guidelines and protocols in place to try to keep mistakes like these from happening. That’s a whole lot easier than having to clean up the mess afterward.
Allow users to feel involved and invested
The corporate world calls this “engagement,” and it involves cultivating an ongoing relationship between the brand and the customer. Use social media to get followers involved in your campaign. Social media provides a way to create fun fundraising events online and provides a place for followers to sign up for local, real-world events as well. A charity water campaign hosted a 24-hour “socialmediathon” to engage the community with thought leaders and entrepreneurs through 30-minute Google hangouts. They raised $10,000 in just 24 hours.
Another great example of how user-driven-content, easily created and posted to social media sites, can help drive traffic and donations is The Invisible Dog Campaign by the Best Friends Animal Society. The My Dog ID mobile app on their site uses facial recognition to pair you or your dog with a dog twin. It’s fun, and the results are easily posted to Facebook or Twitter. Nearly 1,800 people donated online to the charity during their online pledge campaign.
Get people interested in your cause by posting your success stories and content relating to the “why” of your organization, and then make sure to give interested followers a way to become involved.
Post, don’t spam
For for-profits and nonprofits alike, there’s a fine line between updating and spamming. Too few posts, and you don’t get the level of engagement you need. Too many, and people start hitting the “unlike” or “unfollow” buttons. Experts suggest posting only a few times a day on each network. Although there’s no magic number, here’s a nice little infographic by Buffer on ideal frequencies.
An easy guideline is to post only when you have something meaningful to add to the conversation. This can be as simple as asking your followers a question or posting a poll on your social networks. Not only does this prompt users to engage with your organization on social media, it also can help drive future content creation.
Share progress and goals
When nonprofits share their accomplishments, they foster positive name recognition. Social media gives nonprofits a great platform to share success stories in text, photos, and videos. The Big Brother Big Sisters of America’s Start Something campaign uses video to share the stories of several big/little matches. March of Dimes uses their Facebook page to give updates on children they have helped.
As social media fundraising has exploded, so has the number of scams. In addition, a lot of attention has been paid to legitimate organizations that have unreasonably high administrative costs, meaning only a small portion of funds raised actually go to the cause.
Consider the Think Before You Pink campaign and the bad rap breast cancer awareness has gotten in recent years. A poll found that 41 percent of people surveyed thought nonprofit leaders were paid too well, with more than half of respondents indicating that it was important for them to know how the charity spends its money. The majority of respondents also said that they choose nonprofits with low salaries, administration overhead, and fundraising cost.
The more transparent you are about what happens to the money you receive, people will feel more confident that your organization is trustworthy and will be more likely to make a donation.
These six guidelines can help your nonprofit more efficiently and effectively use social media for fundraising without compromising the integrity of your mission. Prose Media can help design an integrated social media strategy for nonprofits that includes education, outreach, and fundraising. Sign up today for free, no-obligation access to our platform. We would love to see what you have in mind.