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Peer to peer fundraising and social media

Posted by Sally Heaven at May 28, 2009 01:38 PM CDT
Categories: Fundraising, Social Media

sliced breadAmong nonprofit fundraisers, there's a lot of discussion and disagreement about whether the use of social media for nonprofit fundraising is:

  • the greatest thing since sliced bread, or
  • a flash in the pan that doesn't deserve the attention it's getting and will be over before you know it

Actually, the discussion is a lot more nuanced than this, but there definitely are people who fall solidly on one side or the other.  One of the anecdotal snippets that I've heard is "We started a Facebook Cause, but haven't raised much money from it. Hence, social media fundraising doesn't work and we're not going to invest in it."

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I think the real power for nonprofits to exploit social media lies in the peer-to-peer fundraising area, much more so than direct fundraising.  More than likely your organization has an email list and fundraising pages that you've spent a lot of time on - the language, the design, the strategy, and building the relationship with your members.  I'm not sure that it's worth it to try to rebuild the wheel inside of Facebook.  Constituents who sign up for a nonprofit organization's email list to some extent expect to be asked to donate.  In contrast, people who sign up for Facebook are probably expecting to interact with friends, post pictures, and take quizzes.  (Such as - which Muppet are you?  For the record, I'm Kermit.)

Sally and ChloeHere's a personal example: earlier this week I decided to run a 5K this weekend to raise money for the National Foster Parent Association, and as it happened, the registration form was a Convio TeamRaiser form.  I customized the page pretty minimally - chose a color theme, uploaded a picture, and wrote two short paragraphs about why I was running.  Then I posted the link on my Facebook page and sent a tweet about it.

The results astounded me.  In just two days my friends and family donated a total of $500 and counting.  This was with fairly minimal effort on my part - a Facebook post and a tweet.  Not bad for a last-minute decision to participate!

Of course, this model assumes that your organization has a run/walk/bike ride or other type of event to fundraise around, and that your participants are willing and able to ask their friends and family to donate.  This probably will require some coaching from your organization and reminders about deadlines and to ask, ask, ask. 

But the point is, participants who use social media have a really easy way using Facebook, twitter, or other social networks to post a link to their page and to ask their friends to donate.  And they'll find a receptive audience.  Since Facebook users are expecting to interact with friends, they'll be more motivated to donate because their friend asked them to - they're supporting their friend, not just an organization that they may have no personal connection to.

Not every organization has a signature event like a run or walk, of course.  No problem.  There are also peer-to-peer fundraising tools that are designed for ongoing fundraising rather than for a discrete event.  World Wildlife Fund's Panda Pages are one great example of this.  In cases like this, the organization probably still needs to do some coaching and creating of deadlines since there isn't the hard and fast deadline of a run or walk date.  It's a great opportunity to give constituents something to do around an organizational anniversary or relevant holiday, in these types of cases - Earth Day, Memorial Day, the 25-year anniversary of the group, and so on.

Here's my bottom line:  the combination of peer-to-peer fundraising tools and social media is unbeatable.


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