Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Social Media.... the new Philanthropist

As a non- profit event manager, getting donations from the younger demographic is quite a challenge.  As a graduate student in the Northwestern medill IMC program, I have followed how non-for profits and have learned successful stargeies for engaging donors through social media.  

Photo credit to miles4kids.org
  Social media is already part of the daily lives of millions of people throughout the world. If done well, it can be a great platform to get your charity on their radar and get them dedicated to the cause. When first diving into social media it is important to keep in mind that you will get out of it what you put into it.  As this article from VerticalStudios.com reminds us that fundraising should be fun and creative, and this can all be achieved through social media.   You need to be fully engaged in your social media not only posting but listening and responding. In order to get the social media to turn into funds raised you need to give each person that personal connection to the cause to really personalize the message and make them feel like they can make a difference.  Gail Perry points out that engagement is important and fundraisers can't be boring to their donors.

Gameification is a great way to engage your audience and keep them coming back since they will be actively involved.  This group in Washington was able to raise over $2 million in one day using gameification fundraising.  Your social media strategy might include people getting a discount to your fundraising event if they like your Facebook page or maybe they could check in on FourSquare to advertise your event.  You can update your Twitter account with the latest statistics and personal stories to really drive your point home.   Be specific to really build that connection.  Social media is all about connecting people with other people so be sure to use it to tell how your cause impacts individual people.  This will create that bonds make people be advocates for your organization to spread your message and reach new donors.
Experts in the non-profit social marketing cite three things you should start doing immediatly.
1.)    Set up Accounts: To begin you need to set up accounts for your organization.  Make sure this has relevant and up to date information about your organization, as well as links to make a donation.  You need to make this as easy as possible for the donor to get involved.
2.)    Recruit followers.  The organizations that have the most success fundraising online have over 100,000 followers.   Don’t be discouraged, they all had to start out small and worked their way through their social network.   Connect with board members, employees, people who benefit from your cause, donors, donor prospects, people in your target market.   Start small and keep thinking of new target markets that you can reach with your message.
3.)    Post! You need to stay active and keep posting to keep people engaged.   Tell them about the progress of your fundraising or the latest story of someone who was helped by a donation.   You might want to highlight an underfunded area and show them how their small donation can make a big impact. 
Getting involved in social media is the important first step to help your organization expand its reach and raise funds through these new donors.   This can be an impactful tool but takes both time and effort to get the groundwork laid so you can be successful with this new social media campaign.  Remember to stay involved and keep engaging your audience to keep your cause front and center in their minds.

Beth Rottman has been a fundraiser for over five years at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  She specializes in fundraising events, leading her team to raise over $3.5 million in events alone each year. She is a part time student at Northwestern Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications Program.  Follow her on Twitter (@RottmanIMC)

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