8 Creative Fundraising Ideas Using Social Media

by Shannon Aronin on September 4th, 2010

Originally published on July 7, 2009.

My expertise as a fundraiser is a foundation and an asset to me in developing creative ideas for nonprofits in the social media space. This new frontier is really not that new and simply requires us to adapt the skill set we’ve always used in nonprofit management and apply it to the use of new tools. We use these new tools because our donors and supporters are using these tools.

As a fundraiser I have had clients want to know about my grants funded rate, which was always something I saw as irrelevant to whether or not I could successfully raise money for their specific organization and program. A well written proposal is only the tipping point and most gifts have a lot more to do with who the funder is, who makes the ask and what are you seeking to fund. So the answer, ultimately, was always ‘it depends.’

Nothing has changed with the use of social networking. What tools should you start with? What should your organization blog about? Should you tweet? ‘It depends.’ Here is an article that does a great job discussing the kinds of questions you should be asking to determine the best strategy for your organization.

There is still much fear about these new methods because there aren’t tried and true best practices. But this is exciting. This is an opportunity for creativity to flourish. This is a time for true innovation and real ‘outside the box’ thinking. There are no guarantees, not in direct mail and not in social media. In defining goals your primary ROI cannot be about fundraising. Especially in the beginning phase of implementing these new marketing approaches, your first goal has to be about building a community around your cause; otherwise any kind of fundraising ask is premature. But what about when you have the community built? What then? How can you convert the good will and connections you have built into donations?

8 Ways to Use Social Media & Mobile Tools for Increasing Donations
1. Corporate Sponsorship: Instead of bringing your corporate partners the same old event sponsorship request with the same old benefits think about asking them to sponsor your Facebook page for a year. (Or your Twitter account, blog, online conference, etc.) With the economy being what it is, corporations are spending less on charity.

However, they recognize the huge value of cause related marketing. But for a lead sponsorship of an event, how far does that really take their message? They are likely to reach the event attendees as a maximum reach, and they might get a mention in a newspaper ad if your city still has a newspaper. But what if you have a thriving community and can let these individuals know that XYZ Corporation is a good corporate citizen and ask them to spread the word, perhaps through a sponsored application that can be passed around from friend to friend, a.k.a. a widget? Ultimately I think corporate sponsorship of online presences is going to be the largest online funding resource.

2. Soliciting Individual Donations Within Your Social Networks: Your organization needs to do a lot of work to get those micro donations. But when you feel frustrated with the work that goes into a $25 gift remember that those donations won Obama the White House. Here’s the thing, just like direct mail, the more contact you have with your donors the more likely they are to give. This is the logic behind the duplication of contacts in various social networks. Ultimately your donors are most likely to actually respond and give to an email request. However your chances of getting that gift via email go up with each additional tool you use to contact them.

3. Email: As referenced above, email is still the most reliable way to garner financial support online. Therefore one goal of all your other social networking should to be to collect an email address. Then you need to write compelling appeals and news. Treat your $25 donors like your $25,000 donors. Keep them in the loop. Make them feel like they are a part of something and they will return to give and give again.

4. Website Donations: Chances are, it’s time to update your website. It needs to look clean but it also needs to be a home base for your online community building which most likely includes an interactive component that allows your supporters to talk to each other. This will be part of the motivation to give, and it will be a toolkit to prepare your supporters to go out on your behalf and make those peer-to-peer asks. You also need a LARGE Donate Now button and it should probably be in the upper right hand corner of your homepage and possibly on all of your main site pages. The size and placement of your Donate Now button will have a significant impact on website donations.

5. Individual Fundraising with Personalized Supporter Pages: This is particularly useful if you host a walk, or some other event where supporters/participants ask for donations from friends and family. Giving them their own page will increase their visibility and sense of ownership and result in higher overall donations.

6. Twitter Events: Twitter is both very fast-paced and community driven. Through Tweetsgiving (created and benefitting Epic Change) and Twestival (benefitting charity: water) have both done this well. It has to inspire a sense of urgency and pitch to twitter users in a way that targets their sense being unified by their use of Twitter and working as a virtual community.

7. Online Advertising: If you are a direct service nonprofit you can apply for and will most likely receive a Google grant. Google has a very simple process allowing nonprofits a monthly AdSense account of over $300 per month in perpetuity, providing the organization is a good steward of the resource. This can, if used well, provide increased website traffic which can lead to donations.

8. Mobile Giving: There are a number of mobile support companies that are charging more reasonable rates than in the past that allow for mobile giving. This can be very useful in an event setting where supporters are motivated by the generosity of others around them to have that $5 or $10 added to their phone bill when you ask them to text GIVE to your 5 digit code.

Special thanks to Mike Chapman, someone I consider to be a true social media expert (so does the Austin American-Statesman!) and blogger for industry leader fg2 for meeting with me recently and allowing me to pick his brain. Much of this post consists of ideas that came together for me as a result of our conversation. If you would like to follow Mike on twitter his profile is here and his blog for fg2 is here.

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