I recently helped create a community of practice at NTEN’s community site, focused on deeper discussions around social media fundraising. Today a few of us got on a webinar to try out the concept and dig in to a few nagging questions.
What do we call social media fundraising?
- Social network fundraising
- Social fundraising
- Facebook fundraising….
There seemed to be consensus that whatever the term, the definition had to be broad. Successful fundraising online isn’t just an app or a donation link, but an extension of the same culture of relationship building that is the bedrock of traditional fundraising methods. Social media fundraising includes friends asking friends programs, apps, donation tabs, using social media to support other fundraising campaigns, lead generation, supporter cultivation and stewardship, and using social media friendly materials (images and videos) in non-social media contexts. That’s a lot of stuff!
We also thought that social network fundraising was potentially confusing, as “social networks” refer to offline networks too: Gala events and mixers.
The cause marketing universe defines most of their programs as “action triggered donations” – when a company donates because an individual decides to Like, share, use a #hashtag, or participate in a context defined by the campaign. Almost always the company is providing the funds and the community “activates” the giving, but isn’t asked to donate themselves.
What about email?
We spent some time talking about the relationship between email and social media fundraising. Some bloggers are moving “back” into email lists, and others are focusing significantly on capturing emails from their readers. Email is a social network, after all, but one with different functionality and culture than most online social networks we’re familiar with.
It was noted that the experience of using email is becoming more social, with instant messaging and sharing built into the email program (like Gmail). Also, email is useful as a way to follow up when the supporter isn’t able or willing to donate via smartphone, tablet, or text, but is willing to receive a followup donation link.
There was some concern about lumping email fundraising and social media fundraising together, as success in one area does not necessarily imply success in another. Many organizations don’t recognize that the proportional size of communities (100 Likes on Facebook, 1,000 people on your email list, and 10,000 direct mail addresses) can have a huge effect on overall fundraising.
Culture and Geography
If you’re reading this in a big city, remember that large areas of the country are just now receiving dialup or broadband internet access. It’s not ubiquitous in rural Maine, Tennessee, and so on. Some regional communities won’t use Twitter but will spend time commenting on news articles on their local paper’s website.
How do we measure social media fundraising?
At HelpAttack!, we pay lots of attention to conversion rates, dollars raised per unique visitor, and dollars raised per hour of staff time spent on a campaign. Forward thinking nonprofits are setting up standards for tracking activity from different departments and different channels, so apples can indeed be compared with oranges. For example, organization-wide guidelines for campaign, referral, and keyword codes encoded in URLs. It’s important for organizations to track where a supporter originated (how they found you), and what ask tipped them over the edge to take action. Donors don’t care which department a particular message came from, so your overall approach should be consistent & coordinated.