Friday, March 7, 2014

Donor cultivation and stewardship through social media

I can not tell you how many times I have consulted with nonprofit organizations and heard staff say, "online fundraising isn't really effective." True. Unless you are Barack Obama in 2007 or the Red Cross during Katrina, chances are your online fundraiser flopped. That's why this week I'm going to offer up some tips and ideas about online fundraising and donor stewardship.

Firstly, when people talk about "online fundraising" mostly they are not talking about doing the actual raising of dollars through social media platforms. Most donors are not going to arbitrarily give to an organization which they have zero attachment to, with the exception of being faced with major disasters like Katrina or one of the tsunami disasters. Donors give to organizations and causes because they have some sort of emotional attachment to the cause. That's why online fundraising is more about donor prospecting, cultivation, and stewardship.

Simply being online and paying attention to blogs, newsfeeds, groups, Facebook pages, or other social media  platforms where people who care about your organization's cause spend time, one can easily identify and interact with potential future donors. Simply by interacting with supporters online you are establishing a relationship so when your next event, fundraiser, or newsletter comes out they will be more likely to share content or even donate.

For example: there is a farm sanctuary back in Ohio where I am from. I have never been tot he actual sanctuary, nor do I have a personal relationship with any of the staff or owners. I follow them RELIGIOUSLY. I think they create great content and do a great job of interacting with fans online. They don't even know it, but I am already a future donor. Plus one of their cows and I share a birthday.

Anyway, there are some people who are way smarter than I (Barry F., et al. 2010) and created a whole book on this topic already. I will give you some of the main tips and tricks for online donor stewardship.
  •  Having a social media strategy is not enough. Rather, social media strategies should support your existing fundraising plans and objectives.
  • Create great content and "boost" it on Digg, StumbleUpon, Redditt, or Buzzfeed. This will help drive traffic back to your website and potentially back to your development office.
  • The whole point of social media interaction for nonprofit organizations is to raise awareness and drive traffic back to your website. Cross post your content on your social media channels in ways which are most appropriate for each.
  • Be transparent and genuine. People know if you are trying to hustle them and if they don't they will sure be pissed when they finally figure it out. If something goes wrong or there is some hot drama surrounding your organization, don't hide from it.
  • Have a social media policy. All sorts of bad shit could happen and you could find yourself in the middle of a whirling disaster. If you already have a policy in place of how to handle situations like this then you will be prepared when it happens.
  • Just like with other "traditional" forms of fundraising you need to personalize your acknowledgement as much as possible.  
These are just a few key points to get the novice organization started with engagement on social media platforms. I hate to say that this week I don't have any exciting stories to share. It is week ten and I am barely keeping up. In a couple of weeks I will have fun new photos of the wife and I on our trip to Seattle! I promise something great then.

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