Oh no! Does that mean you might actually have to take it seriously?
You’ve no doubt heard that social media sucks for fundraising. And that may have made you relax, since you now thought it wasn’t something you’d really have to add to your portfolio. Well… yes and no.
It all depends on your plan, and how you work it. And if you learn to work it right, it’s going to help you raise money. Big time.
Sorry. Don’t shoot the messenger.
Of course, if you think you’re going to send out a tweet asking for a $10,000 gift and it will come in out of the blue, you’re going to likely be disappointed (unless you’re doing disaster fundraising, in which case you’ve got a ghost of a chance).
However, you can send out a provocative tweet that will begin to establish the very important pre-conditions for fundraising. And you can do the same thing by pinning compelling images on Pinterest, sharing useful blog posts and updating your Facebook page with relevant information.
Did you notice the adjectives I just used? I said “provocative,” “compelling,” and “useful.”
Here’s the deal: social media is an awesome relationship-building tool. And all fundraising, ultimately, is about engaging and building relationships. But… good relationships – the ones that are sustained over time — are based on give and take. On quid pro quo. If you want to get gifts, you’ve got to give them.
So… this above all on social media:
Be useful. Be relevant. Be interesting. Be responsive. Don’t be all about you. Don’t be boring. Don’t be absent. Don’t be inconsistent. Don’t just nonchalantly splatter stuff out there!
That’s not a plan. And without a plan, you’re not going to generate donor-investments. Here’s what you must do:
11 Warning Signs Your Social Media Might Raise Money
1. You have a written content marketing and fundraising communications plan.
Within this integrated social communications plan you have been crystal clear about what you want to accomplish with your social media strategies. If, for example, it’s growing your email list, then your plan includes a way to easily capture contact information (name and email) when folks click on a link and are transported to your website. If it’s increasing your authority and credibility around your cause, then your plan includes a way to create powerful content that will accomplish this objective. Plus you’ve identified platforms where the folks you want to impress hang out (e.g., LinkedIn or Google+ or Facebook or Instagram). Your plan includes: goals (why you want to do this); objectives (how you’ll do this, with measurable outcomes); strategies (what you’ll do, who will be responsible, and when you’ll target getting it done) and tactics (tools and platforms you’ll use and promotion strategy).
2. You’ve incorporated powerful storytelling into your plan.
Stories are what work in fundraising appeals. They’re what work in annual reports and newsletters. And they’re also what work in social media. You understand this, so your social media always tells your overarching story. It describes why you exist It narrates the central challenge you seek to overcome. It explains your protagonists (usually the people you serve, or the animals you help, or the environment you’re trying to rescue). You tell personal stories within your overarching story. You put your prospective donors into the stories and show them how they can provide the happy ending.
3. You’ve identified the right constituencies.
You know better than to overlook this all important step. You’ve figured out who your personas are and are communicating authentically with them. You know who cares about the values you enact in the community… who might carry your message… who might become an advocate or influencer on your behalf. When I worked at the San Francisco Food Bank, we found that one of our target constituencies was ‘Mommy Bloggers’ because they cared about children’s health and nutrition. They cared enough to share our tweets and Facebook posts. “Foodies” did the same, because they were thinking and sharing about food all the time. You get it! You know that if fundraising is your ultimate goal then you’ve got to build relationships. You know that not everyone in the universe is going to be your friend. People who are gluten intolerant are not going to buy your baking powder biscuits, no matter how delicious they are. So you’ve figured out your niches. That’s who you are trying to win over with your social media strategy, not the entire universe.
4. You’re being useful.
This is your mantra as you develop your plan. You put the needs of your community first. You figure out their needs and desires. You solve their problems for them. You know that the best way to get folks, ultimately, to donate to you is to put stuff of value out there. You know that’s what will get their attention. That’s what will get them to engage. That’s what will get them hooked. You know that if you can become valuable to them, they’re likely to stick around. That’s what you want. Just like you don’t just go for the short-term transaction (the one-time gift) with donors, you also don’t go just for the “buzz” (the one-time thumbs up, ‘like’ or ‘follow’) on social media. To create a sustainable network of advocates – folks who will become your brand loyalists and will walk your talk with their friends – you put in the effort to be of service.
5. You’re generous and you listen.
You pay attention to folks. If they comment, you respond. If they share, you thank them. If they sign a petition, you make sure you show gratitude and remind them of the impact of their action.. And you’re pro-active too. You comment on their sites and endorse them on LinkedIn or G+. You offer them games to play and ways to express themselves (one of my clients, One-Justice, asked folks to submit their favorite justice movie, song and quotes via their blog and Pinterest board). You give them rewards. Timex sports watches recently revealed an advocacy program which will reward members with points for every story, news item, image or post they share. One-Justice raffled off a logo water bottle to anyone who submitted a contest entry. You even make the effort to actually ‘meet’ and get to know folks on social networks; then connect with them in the ‘real world.’
6. You keep it personal and you act as yourself.
As important as it is to discover your constituents’ personas you know it’s equally important to discover your own. Otherwise, how can folks build a relationship with you? You’re clear that people relate to people; not to organizations. So you’re careful to humanize yourself. You’ve done an internal exercise with your staff and volunteers to determine your organization’s persona. You keep working to find your true voice(s). Then, you endeavor to show it off! You use emotional triggers too. Some of the things you may be doing include: (1) introducing your team; (2) making short behind-the-scenes videos; (3) creating a team board on Pinterest, and having each staff member and/or board member share several things about themselves; (4) sending tweets from the field (I used to tweet photos of fresh loads of vegetables arriving on the floor at the Food Bank); (5) sharingevent photos on Instagram, and (6) showcasing the people behind your mission (your staff and board) on your website too. Sometimes you event get a little corny. It’s all about being human and interesting and engaging.
7. You monitor what you’re doing, and what works; what doesn’t.
If you have Google Analytics installed on your website, you use it. It helps you find out what social media platforms and websites are bringing traffic to your website. Plus, you can see what types of content people open up and click through to. So you can now modify your strategy and put your resources where you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. You also use tools like Hootsuite and Twitter analytics and HubSpot’s new Social Inbox (which can automate posts but still personalize your message). You don’t monitor everything, just because the bells and whistles are there. You do measure what is meaningful to you, and what you’ll learn from and use.
8. You split test your fundraising calls to action.
You test variations of content for your subject lines, headlines, images, button location, button text, colors and other copy. You do this for your e-appeals, e-newsletter and website home page and donation pages. You collect data about open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates. You use this a baseline to target improvement. (Here’s an example of an A/B test of a call to action by the Marine Mammal Center. Also see how split-testing raised over $100,000 for World Wide Fund.)
9. You make it easy for folks to take the next step.
If they make a donation, you send them to a thank you page that facilitates sharing your campaign with others. Ditto if they sign a petition. In case they open your email on a cell phone, you make sure you’re optimized for mobile so it’s easy for them to click through. If they join your email list, you send an immediate thank you with a link to something else you’d like them to see (maybe a free download of a Tip Sheet or Volunteer Opportunities or Recommended Reading List). You always keep in mind that you’re building a path… from awareness, to interest, to involvement to… ultimately… investment!
10. You created a blog and made it the hub of your content strategy.
In this manner, you created a discipline that assures you are consistent about developing fresh content and communicating on a regular basis with your constituents. Plus, you leverage content from your blog (in tweaked formats) everywhere else – you use it in tweets, Facebook posts, Pinterest pins, e-newsletter links, email appeals, case statements and even grant proposals and annual reports. You make it a practice to collect compelling stories which, once you have them, you can use over and over to inspire folks to become more engaged and invested with you.
11. You are patient.
Facebook marketing guru John Haden says growing a community is like growing a garden. It’s not just about the money. It’s about the love. It takes time to fall in love. You get this. You know you’re building relationships that are the pre-conditions to fundraising. You give your constituents time to get up to speed. When they’re ready to invest, you’ll ask them.
There’s absolutely no reason that social channels cannot become part of the pathway to greater donor investment. In 2012, the nonprofit charity: water raised $8 million through their online fundraising platform. Yes, they’re big. But change in the social benefit sector often begins there. No one used to believe folks would give online either. But they are, more and more. Just like people are making purchases online, and banking online, in ways no one would have foreseen.