Justin Ware, of Bentz Whaley Flessner, disagrees with the statement, “you can’t really use social media to raise money.” In a recently released video, Ware shared how nonprofits can drastically increase the number of donors and donations by incorporating three key factors into their social media marketing efforts. Below, the three factors that Ware discussed will be outlined.
An important note about what follows. This is NOT a promoted article. None of the persons, brands, companies, or organizations have compensated the author.*
Stop Paddling. Catch a Wave! While many nonprofits have not been able to take full advantage of the fundraising power behind social media, when Bentz Whaley Flessner implemented three key factors into a social media marketing campaign on behalf of Florida State University, they were able to raise $250,000 in less than two days. Does this sound unlikely? Read on…
The Three Factors That Must be in Place to Raise Money with Social Media
1. Identify the Wave-Makers
Instead of going it alone, as many nonprofits do when launching a new fundraising campaign, Bentz Whaley Flessner helped FSU identify a rich network of 130 alumni and existing donors to act as fundraising ambassadors on behalf of the nonprofit. Together Ware’s company and FSU’s giving team designed what he called an online ambassador program, wherein the initial 130 influencers were given sharable content and asked to spread it to their followers through social media.
Online peer-to-peer fundraising increases the number of potential donors and donations, because it does not only rely on a short list of potential donors but uses the energy within social media to create a new network of enthusiasts.
Ware explained that the power behind this concept is that the university was not asking their existing donors for more money; but, instead, it merely identified ambassadors who were influential on Twitter, Facebook, etc. and asked them to spread the word on those platforms. In the video (http://bit.ly/18iiEcC), he called this “online peer-to-peer fundraising.” Online peer-to-peer fundraising increases the number of potential donors and donations, because it does not only rely on a short list of past donors but uses the energy within social media to create a new network of enthusiasts.
For example, FSU’s initial 130 ambassadors used their influence on social media to enlist 1100 donors. Nevertheless, the true indicator of success behind this online-only campaign was the fact that 380 of the 1100 had never before donated to FSU.
2. Design the Infrastructure for the Wave
After identifying online ambassadors, a nonprofit will need to create the infrastructure that those ambassadors will operate within. Since segments within the group could have different needs and motivations, and because social media technologies are ever-evolving, it is recommended that this infrastructure be designed to fit the specific group of identified influencers and their situation.
Ware proposed that such an infrastructure should include a well-designed website/microsite, a user-friendly and responsive online giving application, as well as active social media accounts, including a blog and YouTube channel. These social media technologies will serve to move the ambassadors and their followers through the fundraising campaign.
For example, Trustparency is a rather new, but quickly growing social media technology that is designed to feed ambassadors real-time content about an online fundraising project. In Ware’s video (http://bit.ly/18iiEcC), he mentioned that during the FSU campaign, the initial 130 ambassadors were coming back to the university asking for more “updates” and fresh content. As illustrated in an article about on-going transparency (http://bit.ly/18aJ63X), Trustparency is a mobile social media app that provides just that – real-time updates and fresh content to potential donors.
Although the actual social media platforms are a crucial part to the infrastructure of an online fundraising campaign, employing a social CRM tool to measure and track the engagement on those platforms is essential. In a recent article (http://bit.ly/12LnGN2) on SociallyMindedMarketing.com, it was shown how a social CRM platform, such as Nimble, can effectively mitigate marketing pitfalls that a nonprofit could be faced with, while managing an online fundraising campaign. Brian Ross Adams uses Nimble to mitigate potential pitfalls by employing the CRM solution to manage the online engagement for his charity, The Chronically Awesome Foundation. Adams said that the Nimble platform helps his team measure, track, and organize those who receive services from the foundation, as well as the charity’s donors. Moreover, he explained that Nimble makes it possible for his marketing team to proactively “search the internet for people who are using the #ChronicallyAwesome hashtag,” and effortlessly import the hashtag users’ profiles into the nonprofit’s database (A. Seacat, personal communication, September 15, 2013).
3. Invest in the Wave
Investing in the right people to grow the relationships with the online ambassadors and manage the social media infrastructure was the third element that Justin Ware explained as a critical piece to the puzzle. While the technology can vastly expand the crowd that the nonprofit can surf, the online ambassadors, who connect the institution to the crowd, need to feel that they are valued volunteers. Moreover, each ambassador needs to have a personal relationship with a real person working for the nonprofit.
The personnel that nonprofit’s invest in should not only be skilled in managing relationships with online influencers and generating “topically-rich content” (Traphagen, 2013), but perhaps be recognized bloggers and social media influencers themselves.
Additionally, the nonprofit’s personnel will be responsible for working with an agency like Bentz Whaley Flessner to create the sharable content, which is fed to the online ambassadors. In fact, in the video, Ware reminded viewers that the nonprofit’s active engagement throughout the online infrastructure should be less about asking for funds and more about providing valuable and sharable content. And, considering Google’s strong support for the authorship markup, the personnel that nonprofit’s invest in should not only be skilled in managing relationships with online influencers and generating “topically-rich content” (Traphagen, 2013), but perhaps be recognized bloggers and social media influencers themselves.
Summary of How to Catch a Wave in the Social Landscape
Justin Ware proposed that many nonprofits do not believe in the fundraising potential in social media, because, historically, their social media marketing efforts have not drastically increased the number of donors or donations. However, Ware explained that such negative results are indicative of nonprofits that “haven’t been using social media in the appropriate ways” (A. Seacat, personal email communication, September 13, 2013).
An example of an inappropriate way nonprofits sometimes utilize social media is when an organization directly asks for money on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Conversely, If a nonprofit is successful in identifying enthusiastic online ambassadors and willing to invest in the appropriate infrastructure and personnel to support the social media program, the ambassadors will take over the fundraising efforts, as well as enlist new enthusiasts.
It is worth noting that the key factors outlined above do require that a nonprofit invest a sufficient amount of its marketing spend specifically toward social media. Ware explained that to be successful in catching a social media wave, like the one he designed for Florida State, a nonprofit’s “online and social media investments must be on a par with traditional advertising efforts”…if not supersede it (A. Seacat, personal email communication, September 13, 2013).
*Full Disclosure: After this article was composed, Nimble extended a temporary, trial membership to the author to try its CRM solution. This trial membership is available to everyone at: http://bit.ly/195lwog. Additionally, for a limited time the CRM solution is giving nonprofits a 30% discount. Sign up today to get your free trial membership and 30% discount: Nimble
Traphagen, M. (2013). Rel=author or rel=publisher: Which Should I Use? (Updated). Virante. Retrieved from http://www.virante.org/blog/2013/06/14/relauthor-or-relpublisher-which-should-i-use/