Using Social Media in Year-End Campaigns

Notification You’ve certainly heard that nonprofits should be using social media in fundraising campaigns, but most nonprofits have not discovered the alchemy of converting “Likes” to “Donations” (with a few notable exceptions, such as the recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon). In fact, according to Blackbaud Analytics, new donors who arrive to an organization via social networks make lower-than-average gifts, and only about 15% renew their gift the next year–compared to a 50% renewal rate for new donors arriving via websites.

Not only have most groups experienced limited success in raising dollars via social media, the jury is still out on the efficacy of social platforms for communicating with constituents. In a 2013 study by the Case Foundation and Social Media for Nonprofits, 97% of nearly 500 groups surveyed are on Facebook, but 88% reported email and websites remain their most important communication tools.

So why are short-staffed, resource-stretched and time-pressured organizations constantly being urged to dedicate more effort to Social Media? Two reasons, Engagement and Potential.

First, a word on Engagement. According to a paper published by the Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University, Americans who use social media to support causes are more likely to volunteer and to ask others to show support for causes. This news may not blow the socks off a fundraiser, but if the goal of Social is to increase engagement, it’s a noteworthy statistic with potentially far-reaching, albeit difficult to measure, impacts on fundraising.

Engagement is as subtle as it is powerful. It’s the humming engine that drives the collaborative medium of the world wide web; a dynamic space for meeting and conversing, and it isn’t confined to the web. It also exists in the face-to-face world of human contact and communication. The axiom “increased engagement leads to increased giving” is illustrated by the echoing of the classic Gift Pyramid in the graphic Engagement Pyramid, developed by Gideon Rosenblatt, Former Groundwire Executive Director. Social Media casts a wide net, expanding the base of the pyramid, and is one of the tools, along with websites, emails, letters and face-to-face meetings, fundraisers use to qualify, cultivate, solicit, and steward donors.


Engagement Pyramid



Gift Pyramid






The second reason organizations should carve out time to integrate Social Media into fundraising strategies is the yet-unknown potential of the medium. Most of us can remember the trepidation and skepticism of our first online purchase, or the daring feat of creating our Facebook profile. The next new thing hasn’t emerged from the fog of technological innovation, but it’s a safe bet that the social platforms we are now exploring will soon be as common and universally used as, well, email and donate buttons.

The Big Three
More and more donor management products are building in two-way social media linking, allowing organization’s to interact directly with followers, posting on pages and tweeting directly.Here are the three platforms that most hosted donor databases are integrating with, and a few tips for initiates:

LinkedIn profiles are an excellent way to engage with professionals who are potential donors, employees and board members. Consider also creating a Group that targets a specific segment by demographic or interest (for example, “Sustainable Philadelphia” or “Women’s Heart Health”). Fundraisers can conduct outreach to their constituent base, including donors, alumni, board members and staff. Tip: In addition to staff time spent on outreach, budget staff resources for monitoring the group and posting relevant messages.

Facebook may be graying, but it’s still where the party is. In addition to creating a page, look for already existing affiliate pages (such as alumni of your organization, or interest-specific groups) and engage in the conversation. Use Facebook to direct viewers to your website then ask them to register for…. anything! Using social as a funnel for prospects is a specific fundraising-based metric that will help you learn more about your followers and your donors. There are also tools within Facebook you can use to learn about your followers, their ages, genders, where they live, and what their interests are.

You may wish to also register as a Cause, which has additional features for engaging supporters around a specific campaign or program initiative.

Not all posts will be supportive of your group, but the recommended practice is not to edit challenging comments, but rather to engage in dialogue as appropriate. Develop and post your Facebook policies in the About section of your page; be transparent and monitor actively.

Twitter has the highest volume of messages of The Big Three, making it the fastest option for broadcasting links to reports, webpages, digital media and content on other social platforms. It also communicates in real time which adds a vibrancy and urgency perfect for “live event” updates, donation acknowledgments, program or fundraising benchmarks, and other urgent, exciting news. Twitter is also a world of reciprocity, and offers rich opportunity for collaboration and consideration of partner groups and causes.

In addition to directly interacting on the three big social media platforms, think “social” in your all your communications:

  • Add social links to your company email signature and on your website so recipients can Like or Follow you easily.
  • Add “Share” buttons to your blog posts and other online content so viewers can share your links on Facebook, Twitter and the full suite of social platforms available.
  • Activate the “tell a friend” functionality in your web forms for event registrations, enewletters subscriptions, and on your giving forms.
  • Send a second email thank you for online gifts a few days after the first, urging each donor to ask a friend to join the cause. Make this email forwardable, or include a Facebook post or tweet they can easily share.

Social media is a relationship and a commitment. Your followers will expect regular attention, and will require frequent monitoring, so don’t bite off more than you can chew–but do come to the table. And come with fresh and delicious content that delights your followers and nourishes your relationships.

By far, the most engaging, compelling, memorable, versatile, share-able content on the internet right now is Video. Use it now, and use it everywhere!

The first place to use video is on your website. Video content increases time visitors spend on your website, and it lets you tell your story in a unique way. Video content and quality vary widely–and thus the impact–but antidotal evidence from the retail word finds that visitors stay longer on a site with a prominent video displayed, and landing pages with video have higher (sales) conversion rates.

Use videos in your Facebook posts. According to Simply Measured, pictures on Facebook are liked 200% more than text updates while videos are shared 1,200% more than links and text posts combined!

Videos in email have been shown to increase click-through rates by over 96% on the first introductory email (Implix Email Marketing Trends Survey). GetResponse reported similar numbers with its observation that emails with video have a 5.6% higher open rate and a 96.4% higher click-through rate. The effect video has on press releases is even more impressive: multimedia press releases with video are viewed 970% more than text-only (PR Newswire).

Everyday 1 in 5 Twitter users view videos tweeted links. What’s more, two-thirds of Twitter users feel it’s worth watching videos tweeted by brands. (source: Hubspot)

And, the chances of getting a “page one” listing on Google increase 53 times with video (source: Forrester Research).


More Great Resources:

Social Media Integration in GiftWorks

Socialbrite: telling stories with video and images 

Step by Step Fundraising: Tips for Fundraising with Social Media

Truist: Boost Fundraising with Social Media

Social Media Today

If your organization uses Peer-to-Peer fundraising, social media savvy is crucial. Although P2P fundraising is far more complex than online fundraising alone, and require real-time staffing and off-line activities, the surge in using this fundraising technique is directly tied to the popularity and wide-spread access to the personal social networks. For a good overview of Peer to Peer fundraising, check out this article featured in Nonprofit Fundraising.