To survive and thrive in the current zeitgeist, all nonprofits must master online social fundraising.
Why? Because almost everyone – including my 97-year-old father-in-law — is online. And not just for the purpose of trolling the internet or using email. No! People are online to be social. To build and sustain relationships. Per Pew Research, 65% of Americans use social media – up from just 7% in 2005.
If you’re not meeting people where they are, you’re going to miss meeting them at all.
Or, if you do happen to luck out and meet them once, you’re not likely to sustain the relationship.
Traditional Media No Longer Work Well
Consider this stunning data about traditional media reach:
- The average time spent reading newspapers fell by 25% from 2010-2014.
- 47% of households no longer have a landline, making telephone outreach increasingly ineffective.
- Younger viewers watch about 30% percent less television than they did a decade ago; 16 and 15% of Americans have given up cable or satellite television entirely since 2010.
Despite all the hand-wringing about how to engage with millennials vs. boomers vs. GenX, there’s something fundamental all the generations have in common.
We’re all a part of “Generation Connected” (GenC).
This is not an elephant in the room. It is the room.
And as “Project Runway” fans know: “When you’re not in, you’re out!”
Today You Must Cater to Generation Connected
“Americans spend more time on social media than any other major Internet activity, including email.”
The average person worldwide has five social media accounts and spends an average of 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day.
Media to Consider
I could go on and on with data like this, but the point is that the web-enabled social media train has left the station.
Development (by which I mean integrated fundraising and marketing) must get on board now – or be left behind.
This means understanding the nature of new opportunities and acquiring the requisite expertise to make it happen. As explained in How Social Media and Empathy Can Combine to Change the World: A Darwinian Tale, to survive you must adapt. The key is to adopt the channels that work best for you and to begin slowly.
Relationships Happen in the Online Social Fundraising ‘Room’
Today I’m focusing on using social media strategies to build dynamic donor relationships.
The chief reason this is so critical is that nonprofits are hemorrhaging donors –losing, on average, over half of their supporters every year.
Whatever nonprofits are doing right now to sustain and grow donor relationships, it’s not working especially well.
It’s time to tinker with the system. And adding an additional relatively inexpensive donor retention strategy into your existing donor development plan makes sense.
Here are five strategies you can use to build donor relationships online:
1. Make Supporters Feel Like Insiders
A great way to make donors feel special, and more connected to your organization, is to take them behind the scenes. Give them an “insider” view. How about making a behind-the-scenes video of your work in action; then uploading it to Vimeo or YouTube to share as a link via social media? Or conduct an intimate interview with someone interesting on your staff; then share their insights via a link.
2. Shower Supporters with Gratitude
Saying ‘thank you’ will take you far. Always be brainstorming new ways to give donors, sponsors and supporters an unexpected thumbs up or pat on the back. How about shooting a short thank you video on your smartphone, and then using a Twitter link or Instagram to share with your donors? Or what about sending a brief video of your staff saying “Thanks, Susie Supporter!” as a Twitter link? How about using Canva or PicMonkey to create a cute, funny or inspiring graphic to surprise your donors with how much they’re appreciated?
3. Publicly Recognize Supporters
Flattery will get you everywhere. Most folks love it when their friends get to see a compliment that was made about them. How about endorsing your donors on LinkedIn? Retweet some of their tweets. Share some of their Facebook posts. Comment on articles they post. Create a Pinterest board to which you can “pin” your “Star Supporters,” “Razoo Raisers,” and “Awesome Advocates.” Or simply pin photos you’ve taken of volunteers volunteering (see Habitat for Humanity), Gala goers partying (see San Francisco Symphony) or walkathon participants walking (see Avon Breast Cancer Walk). You can also set things up so that you automatically share messages sent by key supporters, thereby showing your ongoing support. Make a list of your top 5 online influencers and top 10 supporters and target them for extra online TLC.
4. Share Your Stories at the Online Water Cooler
Go where your donors hang out online and share what’s up at your nonprofit. Social media provides an amazing way to communicate with donors in real time. Use teaser headlines and links leading to articles, photos and videos that demonstrate your work in action. Make your donors smile when they see the results their gift helped achieve.
- Consider live tweeting from your events.
- Share images in your Twitter feed (Check out the Charity: Water twitter feed — replete with pinnable photos).
- Tell short stories on Facebook (See the Make A Wish Foundation Facebook page – filled with videos, pictures, and emotionally heartrending stories of children who’ve been touched by the foundation’s efforts. Supporters are often moved to comment, like and share these posts.
- Upload your story to video; then share as a link (see “The Faces of Opportunity” video by Opportunity Fund).
Get into the habit of social storytelling – always making your donor the hero.
5. Host Exclusive Social Media Events for Supporters
Online events do a great job of making donors feel like they belong to your tribe. They also provide opportunities for supporters to learn more about areas of particular interest, offer opinions and advice, and get their questions answered. All of this builds loyalty and drives positive engagement. Consider:
- A Google Hangout
- An invitation-only Facebook group
- A public event such as a Tweetchat
Feature a conversation with your Executive Director or offer folks an opportunity to “Ask the Expert.”
6. Incorporate Elements of Gamification
Gamification is the process of adding games or quizzes to tap into people’s natural desire for competition and achievement. It’s a great way to encourage engagement. When I worked as Director of Development for the San Francisco Food Bank, we used this to great effect to build our email list. Several times a year we built a fun multiple choice quiz where folks could determine how they scored on local food lore. The winning answer was always tied back to our mission (e.g., a local ice creamery sold “government cheese” scoops; a local restaurant gave 10% of proceeds to us as a donation, etc.). Lack the skills on your staff? Consider hiring an outside digital media specialist.
Why You Shouldn’t Freak Out About Changing Technology
If there’s one thing I find comforting, it’s that it’s still people inside the room.
Truly transformational, sustainable fundraising has always been, and will always be, about engaging in, building and nurturing vital human connections. Your goal is to build an audience you love — that loves you back.
Don’t get shaken or rattled by the emergence of newer technological tools. They’re tools. Humankind has advanced greatly since the invention of tools. Your job is simply to use them to innovate to your advantage.
Don’t, however, use ‘people’ as an excuse to avoid ‘technology.’
If you’ve recently spoken with a six-year-old you’ll know that trying to separate people from technology is a false dichotomy in today’s world. Kids breathe it. As noted before, just about every demographic is embracing technology – and social giving — at a rate unimaginable just a few years ago. One study of the social media trends of nonprofits found that those organizations who learned to take advantage of online tools and effectively mobilize social networks were much more successful in ramping up their fundraising efforts. It doesn’t have to overwhelm your resources if you plan intelligently, prioritize and focus.
At the end of the day, people give to what they value.
That’s the essence of philanthropy. People value relationships. People value someone – YOU – telling them specifically how they can be the change they want to see in the world. People value being able to accomplish their goals as easily as possible. It’s the same principle that drives so many people to pay their bills online. It gets the job done effectively.
Your job is to help people be philanthropists. Today that means embracing online social fundraising. A fundamental of successful fundraising, just like successful sales, is relationship-building. Fundraising has always been about building relationships with people who are, or will be, ready, willing and able to give.
What ideas do you have for using social media to strengthen relationships with donors?
Infographic images via The Stelter Company Social Media Whitepaper.