Intentional engagement is what makes social media for nonprofits worth the effort.
In the very first article I wrote for this space (4+ years ago) I argued there was no point in your nonprofit being on social media unless you intended to engage (Why Nonprofit Social Media is a Waste of Time). Your pathway towards building and sustaining relationships with constituents that ultimately redound to your/their benefit, creating a true win/win, is through intentional engagement.
That hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s truer than ever.
Let me explain.
I recently happened upon a downright fascinating piece from Carl Henderson on the Salesforce blog that’s intended for commercial businesses but, in my opinion, applies in spades to “selling” your mission to prospective donors in a digital world: Social Sells – The Mini-Guide to Social Selling.
He begins with the premise that buying and selling have always been social activities. And make no mistake: Nonprofits are “selling” the opportunity to make a positive impact, while philanthropists are “buying” this opportunity to be the heroes they long to be.
There’s a potential value-for-value exchange at stake here.
How do you facilitate it? Through social contact, of course.
Before the digital revolution, there was still word of mouth. People gossiped… recommended… critiqued… complained to the Better Business Bureau… and so forth.
Today, people review everything online. They share online. They communicate online.
So online is where you nonprofit must be.
As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says:
“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
If you’re not there actively, you’re still there passively. People will “google” you. So it behooves you to be in control of the conversation. Today’s prospective nonprofit consumer/supporter is already far down the road towards knowing a lot about you before you’re even aware they exist.
“There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.”
– The Cluetrain Manifesto
Why You Must Take Charge
Your job in the digitally revolutionized world is to take charge of the customer experience.
To do this today means you must own your social media strategy. This holds true for prospective supporters and ongoing donors. To retain loyalty you must be agile, supporting constituent needs and expectations across every channel.
Today’s nonprofits are expected to create meaningful, engaging customer experiences, and those who do not will fall behind. In fact, customer experience today is the key brand differentiator in the commercial world, having overtaken both price and product. When customers perceive indifference on the part of for-profit businesses, they bolt. Per Bloomberg, perceived indifference accounts for around 68% of lost customers.
In the nonprofit world, the standard is even higher. Per Abila, nearly 75% of donors say failure of meaningful communication is the principle reason donors leave charities, noting they might stop giving to an organization based on poor content, including vague content, dull content, irrelevant content, and inconvenient formatting. Donors also complain that charities ignore their preferences, causing them to disengage.
Which brings us back to the need to be social when connecting with customers you hope to acquire and/or retain, whether they be paying customers or philanthropic investors. This article is concerned with fundraising and donors.
So let’s review:
- What is online social fundraising
- Why we’re in the age of online social fundraising
- Why social media must be integrated into your fundraising
- People buy more when it’s easy
- How to discover fundraising opportunities using social media
What is Online Social Fundraising?
Online social fundraising is a lead-generation and relationship building technique grounded in social media.
It allows fundraisers to directly interact with their prospects on various social media platforms. Simply put, it’s using social tools and networks to create meaningful relationships between fundraisers and prospective donors.
By expanding the notion of how and where fundraising happens, nonprofit marketers and fundraisers can use digital tools to reach out to prospects through their preferred social platforms.
Successful online social fundraising creates a welcome relationship on the prospect’s side, so they receive real value out of the social relationship. This process relies upon the goodwill of the community network and the trust that is associated with community word of mouth.
Why We’re in the Age of Online Social Fundraising
People want to give; they need you to get in front of them and show them how they can become heroes.
In other words, your job is to persuade people that responding to your call to action is an excellent expression of who they are.
Most people genuinely want to make an impact. They are desperate to make a difference. But they aren’t sure how to accomplish this.
In the past, it’s been quite a challenge to figure out how to reach folks. It was especially difficult to target your most likely supporters, because everything was very broad brush. Today, in our online socially connected world, this has become simpler than ever.
Yet you’ve got to do it the right way. You can’t just put yourself out there by broadcasting on Facebook and Twitter, endeavoring to “create awareness.” That’s a trap. Fans and followers won’t “buy” unless you ask them to. But you can’t ask until you’ve given them a few gifts and built a trusting relationship. Trust is what triggers folks to take actions.
Why Social Media Must Be Integrated Into Your Fundraising
It’s just common sense to place your pitch where folks are must likely to see it.
Today’s consumers, of every generation, are online. It’s called “Generation C” – with the “C” standing for “connected” – and it knows no demographic boundaries.
I’m not suggesting you stop sending mail and email appeals. I’m simply suggesting an omni-channel strategy, with each message reinforcing the next. Fundraising success is all about being in the right place at the right time. Today, you simply have more opportunities to maximize your chances!
It’s time to take a page from our for-profit brethren. In 2015, there were reports that only 1 in 4 sales reps knew how to integrate social media into their sales process. Yet, 61% of organizations engaged in social selling reported a positive impact on revenue growth.
Here are some inspiring social selling stats:
- 6% of salespeople who use social media to sell out-perform those who don’t (Forbes)
- 98% of reps with 5,000+ LinkedIn contacts reach or surpass their sales quotas vs. just 52% of those with fewer than 250 (The Sales Benchmark Index)
- A lead developed via social media is 7x more likely to close (IBM)
- Organizations using social selling have seen a 10-20% increase in win rate, 20-30% acceleration in cycle time, and 10-15% increase in revenue (KISSMetrics)
Don’t you think if you move towards a social fundraising model you’ll see similar impact on your success? I do!
And research bears this out. According to Waggener Edstrom survey, more than 55% of those who engage with a nonprofit via social media take an action. Of those who take actions, a whopping 59% donate money.
Let’s look at some additional reasons why this is the case.
People Buy More When it’s Easy!
When’s the last time you purchased something you didn’t really need, just because it jumped in front of you?
Perhaps because you saw it on a sidewalk stand as you were walking down the street. Perhaps you saw it at the check-out line. Perhaps it popped up as an ad or sidebar on your computer.
When you make it easy for folks to find you, they’re more likely to buy. What’s more, they buy again. CEB Research says that “94% of customers who have a low-effort service experience will buy from that same company again.”
If you put a link to your donate landing page in your social media posts, it makes it easy for folks to act on their desires to make the world a better place. They don’t have to wait until they get home to write a check. They don’t even have to wait until they’re in front of their computer. They can do it on their phone, before their ardor cools.
How to Discover Fundraising Opportunities with Social Media
Today potential supporters not just easier to find, they’re easier to know.
Remember we discussed how challenging it used to be just to find the folks who might be receptive to your cause? Today you can not only find them, you can actually learn a lot about them. And you can use this information to target your fundraising calls to action.
Where and how do you learn? Folks may well be discussing their interests and values online – replying to tweets, posting comments on forums, asking questions of their peeps in LinkedIn groups, and answering questions on Quora. Or they may simply be sending and sharing content they like or dislike. There is a ton of information to be gleaned.
But you must be listening.
Tools such as Tweetdeck and Google Alerts can offer insight into what your constituents are discussing online. In real time. Put them to good use, and you’ll be able to understand individual needs, and broader market trends – stepping in to offer targeted, perfectly-timed solutions to people’s problems. And one of those solutions is what they can do to enact their cherished values.
In today’s zeitgeist, social is the way we become aware. Social is the way we learn more. Social is the language we speak. Social is the ties that bind. Social is the way we get our needs met.
If your goal is securing more philanthropy to fulfill your mission:
- Make a social roadmap to get yourself there.
- Integrate your fundraising and marketing strategies across all channels.
- Don’t think of social as ‘social media;’ rather, consider your development/marketing communications strategy holistically.
Online social fundraising means developing a better understanding of what your typical donor’s journey may be in connecting and engaging with you, and how content influences the different stages of this journey. Both nonprofit marketers and fundraisers must come together in understanding the power of online social content and customer experience at each step of the donor journey.