How Social Media and Fundraising Fit Together

Social Media FundraisingYou’ve probably been cautioned to avoid using social media as a fundraising tool and to focus instead on donor “engagement” – which will someday lead to fundraising opportunities. But when? What about all of those nonprofits using social media to raise money right now? Can you create a social media strategy that does both?

I think you can, and that’s what I’ll be talking about when I present a workshop called Social Media: Your On-Ramp to Future Fundraising at the annual conference for the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits on September 14.

Here are six different ways that I see social media and fundraising fitting together. You don’t have to do all of these, but picking one or two approaches and integrating them into your fundraising and social media strategies would be a good thing.

1. Project-specific, short-term campaigns that raise money now

By setting a specific goal (e.g. we need to raise $1500 to buy XYZ), and actively encouraging and empowering your biggest supporters to make it happen by a set deadline, you can raise money via social media using any of the ton of applications available to help you do this. You can also use this approach with “emergency” or “breaking news” fundraising — “this bad thing just happened, and here’s how you can help.”

2. Encouraging donations for celebrations (e.g. birthdays) to raise money in the future 

Actively encourage your supporters to think about donating their birthdays or other celebrations where guests expect to give gifts. Causes Wish is set up exactly for this purpose. Charity: Water runs a wildly successful birthdays campaign. You can’t really predict when this will happen unless people commit to it well in advance, which is why you might want to think of it as “surprise” money.

3. Adding social to your in-person events to raise money now

If you are already doing event fundraising, you can add fundraising through social media to the event. If event participants get sponsors (e.g. the classic 5K or -thon model), you can make it easier for them to raise that money with social media — and it can make a huge difference in how much they raise. Blackbaud and Event360 have tons of great resources for you.  Even if participants don’t get friends to sponsor them, you can still use social media as part of an auction or to collect donations from people who can’t attend.

4. Supplementing direct mail and email appeals as part of an integrated campaign to raise money now

Use the same messaging in social media that you are using when you are asking for donations in direct mail and email. You can also use social media to add a “soft” ask — like signing a petition or a card, or sharing a photo or story — to the “hard” ask for a donation, where supporters follow through on the soft ask via social media. That gives you another opportunity to request a gift.

5. Major donor engagement to increase donor retention

You can use social media to stay in touch with the donors you are already have, in a conversational, friendly way. Social media allows you to provide more frequent updates than your newsletter allows. You can also publicly thank them for their support and report back on results their generosity helped produce. You can also use social media to connect donors with other supporters, e.g. creating a Facebook Group for your legacy society. Kristen Schultz, Holly Ross, and Carolyn Appleton presented last year on using social media in major and planned giving programs.

6. Major donor acquisition to raise money in the future

You can also use social media to find and start conversations with people who may someday become major donors. Just like any other kind prospecting, it takes research time and a personal touch to make these connections. Jay Frost has written about using social media for fundraising research. Bill Connors, writing at NetWitsThinkTank, says major donor fundraising with social media is really just using an online tool to help with an offline process.  Geri Stengel guest posted on Beth’s Blog about using social media to reel in big fish donors.

How do you see social media and fundraising fitting together? I’d love for you to add to this list, or to share your experiences, by leaving a comment on this blog post.



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  • Hi Kivi.  I really enjoyed your post and think you’re spot on that social media can certainly play a role in fundraising.  I think it can become problematic (and a bit shortsighted) when a nonprofit looks to social media purely in terms of bolstering fundraising.  As you point out, social media can help with short-term and long-term fundraising in a variety of ways, but it isn’t purely a pipeline for boosting fundraising efforts.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Great ideas, Kivi. 

    Donors are first and foremost people. Social media allows us to be social with them at any point in their journey with us. 

    Social media isn’t a “cash making machine” for nonprofits (or anyone), but it’s definitely an important tool. And it honors the way donors and advocates want to interact with our cause.

  • Hi Kivi! Great article and it’s definitely relavent especially when you consider the millennial generation!

  • Tynisha Nolan

    Great post! Fundraising seem to be one of the easiest things to indulge in, but the hardest to maintain for people without an ambition to be successful. With social media being the new trend in terms of advertising, you have to get to a point of just “doing.” Actions does speak louder than words. And if we fail to go out and market and fundraiser, we obtain a dead facility. Small efforts go a long way, but it takes determination and consistency as well.

  • Heather Stewart

    Hi Kivi, great ideas here.  Social media works particularly well for timebound appeals – like disasters, birthdays or events – but, as you point out, it can be used to work for a number of different audiences.  It can boost donations from events by by sharing photos or videos thereby encouraging donations from non-attenders – Facebook and YouTube are great for this.  And I’ve used LinkedIn to research potential donors and also asked Board members to reach out to their own LinkedIn networks.  Thanks for the post!

  • Sherry Truhlar

    Hm … sounds like I need to be in NC on September 14! I know it will be a good talk … have fun, Kivi.

  • samwcook

    I am often wondering if online giving is not only the next frontier in donations, but also the next challenge for NPOs.—-

  • Those are some really good points you make and #1 points to a really helpful list. It’s great that non-project specific funding models are available to non-profits since Kickstarter doesn’t work for a lot of people.

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