Earlier this week I looked into how social media fundraising practices and conventional wisdom have evolved over time. For the past few years I’ve been seeking out anything having to do with the topic, but this was my first opportunity to step back and look at the forest instead of the trees. Some themes kept coming up over and over again:
1. Social media fundraising isn’t different from other kinds of fundraising.
If you don’t use 100+ years worth of wisdom from direct mail, phone, print, and email campaigns, you won’t get very far! Try to figure out how to apply what already works and apply it to the new medium, where messages spread faster and more easily, but the signal to noise ratio is higher.
2. Social media and social networks don’t raise money, people raise money.
Communities raise money. Relationships raise money. Not tools, websites, apps, widgets, or features.
3. Cause marketing is leading the way.
Most newsworthy, high dollar campaigns were driven by companies and brands. In most cases, they donated all (or most) of the funds. In some cases, they also provided the infrastructure and audience. Companies, brands, and celebrities have taken more risks, and those campaigns have seen more rewards.
The largest, most widespread, and most effective social network isn’t Facebook. It’s email by a landslide.
5. Content / Giving Feedback Loops
The basis of many successful campaigns is using potential donations to encourage certain kinds of social actions ($1 per like, $1 per retweet, $1 per follower…etc).
6. Everybody is online
Young, old, poor, rich – everybody. Don’t think it’s just young slacktivists. Your big donors and retired volunteers are probably on Facebook too.
7. Multiple Channels
Campaigns are more effective when using multiple channels. Adding social media improves offline campaigns. Campaigns generally perform better if you coordinate your blog, email, print, social media, and other messaging.
8. Friends asking Friends
“Friends asking Friends” tools (Causes, Crowdrise, CauseVox, FirstGiving, Greater Giving…) represent the most widespread model of fundraising which uses social media. Make sure, as you develop these communities, you can retain and grow a relationship with those donors outside of the particular tool they are using.
9. Long Term ROI
The ROI of social media should be measured as a long term investment with compounding growth, rather than a short term balance sheet. Think about your email list – it started with zero people, but you still spent time to grow it, nurture it, and for a long time it cost more (in terms of time and money) than you were able to produce in donations. If you weren’t able to fundraise with your email list today, where would you be?
10. Tactics vs. Strategy
Spend most of your time building a community, with a strategy, and know why you’re on social media in the first place. Organizations who have sound, sustained practices regarding direct mail and general online donations are most able to produce successful social media campaigns.
Which of these will we laugh at in 2021?