Nonprofits and Social Media: Putting the Appeal Back in Annual Campaigns

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Annual appeals are a staple for nonprofit organizations. We count on them to beef up our bottom line come December and use them as an avenue to stay in touch with the donors we know we can count on year after year. Unfortunately, many NPOs have become too reliant on the low lying fruit of donors and are no longer producing an annual campaign that is appealing to anyone. NPOs need an annual appeal makeover and taking your campaign online is a great place to start.

Social media is one way to breathe some new life into annual campaigns. I’m certainly not suggesting you ditch the direct mail route, but every good tool needs a little innovation to keep it fresh. Using social media to revamp your annual appeal is as easy as three steps: Inform, Engage, Execute.

Inform. People can’t give you money if they don’t know you’re asking for it. One of the top reasons donors say they don’t give to a cause is because they weren’t asked. Social media is a great way to inform your donors. Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other online social media site you may already be using to inform people about your annual campaign. Tell your fans, readers, tweeps, etc. that your NPO is getting ready to launch its annual appeal and you need their help to reach your goal. Not only will you be informing your constituents, but by asking them to like your Facebook post or retweet your Twitter message you will inform many more people about your efforts. Join groups on LinkedIn and share your message there, too. The best part is that this is free advertising. A recent article “Social Media Ups the Ante in Five College Fundraising” by Matt Medieros in the Daily Hampshire Gazette takes a look at how some NPOs are using social media to fundraise and stay ahead of the rough economy.

Engage. This goes far beyond just using social media in your annual appeal. This is really about a makeover for your entire campaign. The standard, run of the mill annual appeal letter that tells readers what your mission is and that they should send $50 to save the whales, feed the hungry or fight malaria is not the way to engage people. You need to make your annual appeal personal. Put a face to your mission. Tell a story. Make people feel your needs – not just read them in black and white. Once you’ve done that share it online. Post pieces of your letter online and tell people to look for more information in the mail. Use the stories and the people in those stories as ambassadors and feature them online in blogs and posts as much as possible. Learn more about how to engage readers through your annual appeal letter in my post, “When life gives you lemons make lemonade” on Pamela Grow’s website Pamela’s Grantwriting Blog.

Execute. Now that you’ve informed people that you’re seeking donations and engaged them with your great, personal stories, you need to execute the ask and close the deal. This is where your direct mail and email campaign will be key. If you accept donations online, by all means, make sure you are including that link in all online communication – social media posts, blog entries, emails, etc. Many NPOs don’t have online giving, however, so the execution is arming readers with your information and your direct mail letter. When posting online be sure to make note that you are mailing a letter out and people should be on the lookout for it. Include a return envelope with your direct mail letter. Also make sure you give contact information for people to get in touch with you in case they aren’t on your mailing list. Include your address and how to make a donation offline, if that’s your only option. You need to make giving as easy as possible. The easier it is the more likely people are to give.

The annual campaign hasn’t lost its validity or necessity with nonprofits, it’s just outgrown the standard execution. Like all things, your appeal needs to be brought up to speed with the newest technology. Embrace social media and let it help pad your bottom line.

Amy Stephan
This monthly Social Media and Nonprofits column is contributed by Amy Stephan. Amy is a consultant and non-profit professional with more than 10 years of field experience working in fundraising and development. She provides nonprofits with help in fundraising and major gifts, capital campaigns, board and volunteer development and staff leadership, working with organizations of all sizes to plan, implement and assess social media strategies. While holding leadership positions with local branches of organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the American Diabetes Association, Amy developed a passion for all things related to fundraising and non-profits. In addition to her non-profit work, she is a freelance writer and blogger who has worked as a full-time writer and editor for daily newspapers and magazines. +Amy Stephan
Amy Stephan

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