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Four Social Media Fundraising Tools

Ehren Foss

As I read case studies, blog posts and participate in sessions, I imagine replacing the term "social media" with "direct mail" or "email marketing." Has anything really changed?

Not as much as you'd think. Social media fundraising is driven by a combination of relationships and immediacy. The most successful campaigns are reactions to real world events or sparks that move quickly through established networks of human relationships. Your gala event is a culmination of a year or more of relationship building, multi-channel outreach and face-to-face interaction, just like a social media fundraising campaign. "Social media doesn't raise money, people raise money." (Holly Ross)

Numbers: The nonprofit sector runs on 300B in annual giving, and of that 5-7% (20B) is given online, mostly through the donation pages on your website. That leaves a relatively small sliver raised via the third party tools typically available on social media.

Both overall online giving and social media giving in particular are growing at an extremely fast clip (35% last year), but have yet to compensate for attrition in other types of long term, recurring donors. Some sectors have continued to grow, despite the recession, but overall giving did not.

If social media is to truly pay off as a long term investment, it must be integrated closely with your database of donors and messaging in other channels, and your social media campaigns must eventually result in the cultivation of long term, loyal donors. Despite the narcissism and deficit of attention in my generation (as far as you know I'm still 29), I still believe this is an achievable goal. But how?

There are many companies and nonprofits out there trying to solve this problem. I'm limiting my scope to those that do something new or interesting to facilitate actual donations.

Crowdriseplaces the spotlight on individual donors, allowing people to create their own fundraisers, bring in their friends and compete for rewards and public praise. There are several similar services, architecturally, but Crowdrise excels in providing a distinctly new voice and feel - a reminder that there's lots of room for different kinds of messaging. They also do a solid job leveraging the Pavlovian points / badges / stars / stickers that are, like, so hot right now.

Birthdays = relationships + immediacy

Causes launched long before social media (or fundraising thereon) was ready. I give them credit for sticking with it and pivoting to a very compelling tool []. It's immediate (your birthday is a deadline, after all) and it uses established relationships. Great!

I have two complaints: One, there are far, far too many "share this" steps to click through at the tail end of a donation. Two, what if I want people to donate around an anniversary, wedding, party, marathon, or other event? Most people only have one birthday a year, after all.

HelpAttack allows donors to pledge an amount for each social media message. For example, you can choose to pledge 10 cents a tweet, or $0.25 per Facebook update. You decide which nonprofit, how much you're willing to pledge per month, and HelpAttack! takes care of the rest.

Why is this better? We've found that pledging a little bit at a time and not asking anyone to change their behavior leads to some fairly excellent conversion rates to payment (80%+) and to recurring pledges (45%). Plus, you can pledge on Facebook, Twitter and soon more platforms which helps the impulse to donate move through your network.

Rt2Give, a project of TwitPay, (and cousin of Rainmaker App) uses a similar experience to mobile giving. A donor takes action once, by re-tweeting a message and following up with a payment link. I've heard that conversion rates to payment are sometimes not high, and there are few built-in incentives to continue giving or interacting. However, it's quite effective to build a rebroadcast into the giving process.

I think this tool would be particularly effective following a disaster or other unexpected event - just like the very similar mechanism in text message donations.

Isn't it amazing that in a few short years, an organization (NTEN) and a conference (NTC) have done so much to help us push the envelope and evolve so rapidly? To the point that you're reading a blog post about one type of tool that assists one type of fundraising in one type of channel? Let's take a moment to appreciate it!

Here are some other excellent resources for your reading pleasure:

* HelpAttack! is my startup, and just as if it were my child or pet, I am convinced it is the most talented, attractive and intelligent startup around. I'm completely unbiased though, don't worry.

Ehren Foss has a decade of diverse technical experience with web programming, database administration, and many of the open source tools that help make the web an amazing place to work. He is the founder of Prelude Interactive, a web development firm. Before that he worked at Alchemy Systems an Austin, TX company specializing in professional development and training systems. Ehren is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Image: Tree Structure Networks Internet Network Social, Pixabay