Social media is ubiquitous. Try as you may, you can’t avoid it. Even now the social media giants are all trying to address privacy concerns. I was a long-time hold out from using Facebook, or any social media platform for that matter, for fundraising. And though privacy concerns exist, I have to say my view of social media as a fundraising tool radically changed this year.
For my birthday I wanted raise money for Coburn Place, an Indianapolis-based organization offering housing and support to domestic violence survivors. I kept my expectations very low, hoping to raise $250. Frankly, I didn’t want to be embarrassed. I had seen other fundraisers struggle to hit goal; I am a professional fundraiser and I didn’t want to suffer the same fate. (Who says there isn’t ego in fundraising?) Imagine my delight when in three days, I had raised over $1,800!
Here’s how it worked:
1. Start small, build up.
As I mentioned, I set an initial goal of $250 and promised to match dollar for dollar (more to come on that later). It took about 24 hours to reach that goal, so I thought I could push for more. In the next eight hours, I raised nearly $1,000. So again, I upped the goal to $1,500, which was surpassed the next day. This gave each donor a sense that they were really helping get to incremental goals, rather than their gift being a small drop in a big bucket.
2. Be specific.
Each goal was tied to a specific project or program. Coburn Place does a great job aligning outcomes with donation amounts on their website. At each step, I published what the goal amount would do. My goal had always been to sponsor an apartment, but I didn’t think it was possible. By building up momentum early on, I was finally able to set the goal of $1,500 to sponsor an apartment. All of my posts were then about my friends and family’s ability to provide a safe home for a DV survivor. For Coburn Place, it’s about the money, but for donors, it’s about helping a family.
3. Start with a match.
Matching gifts are not new, but they work because it builds on a donor’s psychological need to work together. This wasn’t something I was asking my family and friends to do for me (or for Coburn Place), it was something they were doing WITH me. Peer-to-peer fundraising (whether on line or in person) depends on the solicitor having made their gift first.
4. Spread the word.
Most of the Facebook fundraisers I’ve seen fail because the member just puts them out there, expecting people to stumble across the page and give. No matter the method, passive fundraising doesn’t work as well as active fundraising. I invited over 250 friends to the fundraiser, I started with close friends and those likely to give. Each time a friend gave, I tagged them in a post so it would appear in front of their friends. In total, 40 donors from 10 different states and Canada gave, but the total reach was several times that.
5. Show appreciation.
Again, regardless of the fundraising appeal, donors should receive some #donorlove. I thanked donors through a variety of means: an immediate social media thank you on Facebook and Twitter, progress updates in group posts tagging friends, and private messages. Facebook doesn’t share donor and address information to the receiving organization, so I private messaged all donors requesting their contact information so I could send a personal hand-written note, and the organization could properly acknowledge the gift. Finally, I have kept my family and friends informed through forwarding newsletters and inviting them to volunteer to furnish the apartment we sponsored.
These are the steps I found attributed to my fundraiser’s success. However, the fundraising hasn’t stopped. A couple of friends have since become Coburn Place monthly or in-kind donors, and our other friends are more aware of our participation so have asked how they can continue to help.
For their part, Coburn Place is incredible at stewardship! They sent individualized thank you letters to all my family and friends citing their participation in my birthday fundraiser as well as inviting their own further involvement.
Social media has many downsides, and I don’t believe that social media is the panacea to solve your fundraising needs. However, done well, your social media followers can become donors, advocates, and volunteers extending your message’s reach and helping you connect to new donors.