If Donald Trump were asked about online social peer-to-peer fundraising he would probably say:
“It’s H U G E!!!”
He’d also say:
You have to think anyway, so why not think big?
In both cases, he’d be correct. To be more specific, social fundraising has exploded in recent years, with donation volume just to nonprofits growing 70% in 2014 per Network for Good’s 2014 Digital Giving Index.
It began to gain real momentum with small start-ups and independent artists, but nonprofits have increasingly embraced crowd philanthropy. Last year, Forbes reported that 30% of the $5 billion crowdfunded went to social causes. Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum reports the top 30 peer-to-peer campaigns raised $1.62 billion, to be exact. That’s not even counting the $115 million raised by ALS with the Ice Bucket Challenge, or the untold millions raised by programs 31 and on.
If you need more data to persuade the “powers-that-be” this is important, check out this infographic put together by Craig Newmark (yes, the Craig’s List guy).
Dudes – go where the people are! They’re HUGELY online The money will follow! That’s thinking BIG.
Why Should You Care That Social Fundraising is Huge?
(1) Likelihood you’ll get a donation increases.
People are three times more likely to donate when asked by a friend or colleague than from someone they perceive as a stranger. They trust friends and colleagues more. And they want their peers to like them.
(2) The size of an average gift is increasing.
The average gift received through peer-driven social fundraising campaigns has increased 52% in the last year. It’s up to $88.22 – which is not bad, especially if it’s a first-time gift.
(3) It’s a killer way to rock your mid-level fundraising.
While I’m a huge proponent of major gift fundraising for charities of all sizes, I also recognize that it’s not all about major gifts for everyone. Even though many nonprofits survive by the grace of 3% of their donors providing 97% of their contributed income (or something closer to the 80/20 rule) there are indeed nonprofits that are exceptions to this rule (e.g., Heifer International raises about 80% of it’s funding from small donations; American Red Cross relies heavily on small donations during disasters). Wikimedia lives online and is a resource used extensively by the masses. So it makes sense to go to the masses online in order to fund their endeavor.
Did you know that the more frequently someone gives to you, the more likely they are to feel invested? In fact, many of the best legacy gifts come from annual supporters who made numerous small gifts during their lifetimes.
What Does this Mean Today?
It means that the easier you make it for folks to become fundraisers on your behalf, the more money you’ll raise.
Starting right now, before you fall even further behind.
Once more, this is not an outlier strategy or just “one more thing for you to do.” It also doesn’t mean you have to engage in extra campaigns that might cannibalize your other fundraising efforts. You can simply incorporate online social strategies into your core fundraising efforts.
To help you stop stressing about this, how about if we reframe it a bit?
Peer-to-Peer is Just another Way to Say Word of Mouth.
It really perplexes me that in 2016 so many nonprofits haven’t grasped the reality that today’s ‘water cooler’ is social media. And today’s ‘mailbox’ is an email inbox. People do the majority of their sharing online. For nonprofits to be successful today they simply must get “social.”
Online social fundraising shouldn’t be thought of as an “add-on” or as something ancillary to your core fundraising strategies. It’s just business as usual – using today’s technology.
Imagine thinking that mail campaigns were optional once the printing press was invented! There’s always been more than one way to spread the word. Now, there’s even more. C’est la vie.
When I began in fundraising I didn’t even have a computer. But I always asked my board members, volunteers, and loyal donors to share our appeals with their friends. Sometimes they talked to them. Sometimes they wrote notes to them. Sometimes I ran “Let Your Friends Be Ours” campaigns and they gave me contact information; then added notes to already printed appeal letters.
In today’s digitally revolutionized society, mastering online social fundraising is essential to your nonprofit’s success. It’s traditional relationship-building, but on steroids.
There are Numerous Ways to Run Online Social Campaigns.
Remember, people trust their peers more than they trust you. A Nielsen “Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages” revealed a whopping 92% of respondents said they trusted earned media (such as recommendations from friends and family) more than any other type of advertising.
It makes a lot of sense to put in place a strategy to set about earning your own influencers.
There are three pretty easy places to find them:
(1) Your current donors and volunteers.
Enlisting these folks is obvious (you know they love you!), and you can get some ideas of how to do so below when I discuss peer-to-peer fundraising.
(2) Your current natural influencers – of whom you may currently be unaware.
These are folks with interests and businesses closely related to what you do. In other words, if they knew about you they’d be likely to care. In fact, some of them already probably do.
ACTION TIP: One way to find your current influencers is by using Google Analytics [Free version]. Find what websites are sending traffic to you. Then reach out to these folks to see if they’re willing to become even more proactive on your behalf. There are many other ways as well – check out 12 Relationship-Building Tactics that will Make Influencers Pay Attention.
ACTION TIP: How to Find and Recruit Natural Influencers.
When I worked at the San Francisco Food Bank, (1) we noticed using Google Analytics that we were getting a lot of referrals from food bloggers and Mommy bloggers. (2) We reached out to them in real time – even meeting some face-to-face. It turned out that the former cared about food and nutrition; the latter cared about kids and their healthy development. So when we posted online about our after-school snack program or the healthy veggies we were receiving from our farm-to-pantry program, they took notice. (3) We asked them if they would send out tweets and posts on our behalf from time to time, and they were more than happy to comply (especially when we got challenges from big companies like Oscar Mayer indicating they’d donate a package of hot dogs for every person who retweeted our tweet).
(3) Your current employees.
Another way to tap into a potential source of influencers is to enroll your employees as advocates.
ACTION TIP: How to Build Employee Advocates – Although not targeted for nonprofits per se, Neal Schaffer of Maximize Social Business and PeopleLinx published a complete guide that explains how to build an effective ambassador program on LinkedIn and Twitter: Social Marketing – How To Build an Employee Advocacy Program. Hopefully your employees are some of your strongest advocates already, and many of them have large personal networks. Why not encourage and support them to share the love?
(4) Your current users (e.g., clients/patrons/subscribers/students/patients). Sometimes folks who’ve benefited from your mission would like to help you, but they can’t afford to give right now. Students are a perfect example.
ACTION TIP: How to Build User Relationships — Think about how you can develop lifelong relationships with those who use your services now and may eventually turn into donors as they enter (or re-enter) the workforce. One way is to show that you care about them by recruiting them to a team of online ambassadors and giving them a special role for which they’re ready now (see below).
All these folks can help establish the essential pre-conditions for fundraising by introducing folks to your organization in a positive light. Ultimately they can become fundraisers on your behalf as well!
This is simply asking people to both give to you and ask their friends and colleagues to join them. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this in 2016 is online, using email and social media.
In my opinion, the best way to go about this is to create a team of volunteers who agree to be social fundraisers on your behalf. Give them whatever name works for you (e.g., “Social Ambassadors,” “Fundraising Friends,” “Peer-to-Peer Peeps,” or whatever you think will float their boat – see more ideas below). But do offer:
(1) A job description (see the Food Bank example, below),
(2) Ongoing cheerleading and support and
The latter is important. A new study by Turnkey found that those who seek and earn recognition raise more money and are more likely to return to raise money in the future than those who earn but do not seek recognition. This parallels my personal experience in the trenches, even before online social fundraising was a gleam in its Daddy’s eye.
I used to pit teams of board members against each other to see which could raise the most money. Those who did were promised a range of prizes. They didn’t even know what they were going to get, but I promised and promised them it would be worth their efforts! Those who got excited about what they might win ended up working the hardest and raising the most. They also had the most fun, and often volunteered to lead the teams the following year (and they honestly didn’t care what the prize was in the end – it was the honor and glory and recognition by their peers that really did the trick)!
ACTION TIP: How to Build a Useful “Social Ambassadors” Team.
One strategy I like is to simply ask your current constituents if they would like to become social media ambassadors on your behalf. The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina has an ambassadors program they promote right on their website!
They tell folks exactly what is required and include lots of constituent-centric incentives for joining too.
Consider these steps when building your team:
(1) Begin to think through a social media lens! You can decide whether to run this more as a traditional Social Media Committee or a more virtual ambassadors program (as the Food Bank did, above). Either way, you’ll want:
- Set up some Social Media Policies, and
- Assure that a lot of your communications with your team are online – because that’s the medium you want them to learn to use.
(2) Make your ambassadors program attractive. Come up with a fun name like “Cure Cancer Emissaries” or “Champions of Art-for-all Ambassadors.”
(3) Promote your program online. Send an email inviting your entire mailing list to join this select group. You can also share a link to your website promo (like the one the Food Bank created, above) on social media.
(4) Develop a job description that explains the impact members will have by sharing your appeals (i.e., $$ raised = more people served).
(5) Be specific with requests made of team members. The more specific you can be with your requests, the more likely you are to get the actions you seek. Don’t just send a generic message (“Help us promote this on Facebook!”) making your ambassadors do the work. Some organizations send out weekly emails during their year-end fundraising campaigns that assign targeted tasks (e.g. sending out a pre-written tweet, sharing one of your page’s Facebook posts, or sharing or commenting on blog posts). The tasks you assign should be something folks can easily do while waiting to pick up their kids at school or watching TV at night.
(6) Arm your team members with ammo. You can arm your ambassadors with unique graphics and eye-catching photos that include a link back to your website or blog. Ambassadors can then easily cut, paste and share, or adapt the language to their own style to make it more personal to their networks.
(7) Offer incentives and recognition. People often work harder when they can visualize the rewards. You can offer incentives for the most shares, the most money raised, etc. (e.g., raffle prizes, logo swag, discounts from sponsors, their name on your website).
EXAMPLE: One of the organizations that’s most effective with ongoing peer-to-peer fundraising is Charity: Water. Check out their birthday campaign strategy, where folks simply ask their family and friends to donate in their honor rather than giving them a gift. It’s brilliant and they make it really simple for folks to get involved.
Crowdfunding means the act of accruing micro-donations from a large group of people to reach a project-based fundraising goal. It’s not new. It’s just getting a new lease on life using digital technology. The forerunner of today’s online crowdfunding campaigns was the telethon. Then there were walks and races and other special events.The web simply democratized crowdfunding, making it available to everyone.
With the mainstream shift into digital communication, and the advance of technology through online donation and peer-to-peer fundraising platforms, crowdfunding is something I believe you should seriously consider if you’re not already getting your “crowd” on.
Especially if you have…
- A big campaign going on.
- Or a specific project that lends itself well to the telling of a compelling story.
- Or you need to raise a lot of funds in a relatively short time period.
- Or there’s a strong tie to some big event – anniversary; holiday; news story.
- Or your current constituents are more inclined towards being ambassadors than asking or giving.
- Or you’re having a hard time breaking out of the “box” of folks you think might be interested in your cause, and are looking to build your audience in new ways.
For nonprofits, online crowdfunding is still a harder nut to crack than influencer marketing or peer-to-peer fundraising. It helps to have certain pre-conditions in place to ensure your likelihood of success. Specifically, you need these five things:
- An obtainable goal. Most of the folks you’ll reach, especially as you get started, will be in your current networks. If you don’t have big online lists, don’t set an unrealistic goal.
- A succinct fundraising video. It’s the most shared content there is online, so it’s the best way to draw a crowd. Crowdfunding with a video raises twice as much (per Razoo).
- Secured early advocates. People like to join winners. Just as you might “seed” your auction with a few big bidders before going live, so should you prepare some of your closest donors to get on board right away to create momentum and assure success. Get your their first donation within the first three days and you’re more likely to hit your goal (per Razoo).
- A multi-channel campaign plan. You can’t wing this stuff. Plan ahead so you’ve got all your tweets, Facebook posts, online discussions, thank you emails, update messages and so forth ready to go.
- A follow-up and gratitude plan. You can’t just put a video online and expect your campaign to run itself. There’s a lot of back and forth with supporters, including reminding them, thanking them and reporting back to them.
For more details on the above five steps to take to increase your likelihood of crowdfunding success, check out How to Successfully Crowdfund for Your Nonprofit by Ben Lamson.
ACTION TIP: Working with an outside vendor, and purchasing software that helps to automate some of this work can be super helpful. There are plenty of options available today. Check here, here and here. What you’ll get is a campaign hub (this will usually be your website) amplified by some tools to help you seamlessly administer your campaign. Plus you’ll usually get some experience-based advice as to what works; what doesn’t.
And remember: It costs money to make money. Don’t rule out online social fundraising because you don’t yet have the staff and/or resources on hand to make it happen. There’s a potential pot of gold awaiting you if you do it right. So don’t be pennywise and pound foolish.