Month: January 2014

Does your Charity Know its Face Book ROI?

Does your Charity Know its Face Book ROI?

I feel the need to know what the return on investment (ROI) is on our investment in social media is. I think investing in social media is a prudent thing for a charity to do, but somehow having some metrics to analyze makes me feel more like we are doing the right thing. At the same time I never ask our staff what the ROI on their email use is. At this point we just take it for granted that our staff need to communicate with our stakeholders and email is one of the ways they do it. Likely at some point we will just take for granted that social media is one more way we communicate with our stakeholders and we will stop trying to measure it and calculate its value.
However as we speak our organization is trying to find new and better ways to measure the effectiveness of the impact of our social media channels. Right now our team is working on finding better ways to track how likely a particular tweet or face book post is to result in clicking through to make a donation. I suppose no matter how the technology grows or changes as a charity we still want to know what wording in our case of support or what type of appeal actually translates into donor action.
Kerr (2014) has some good advice for the nonprofit trying to measure the effectiveness of their social media efforts. She suggests: “Every organization collecting online donations should be tracking the referred source of the gift to determine how donors found your website. Recent social fundraising research at Artez Interactive found that 14 percent of online donations in client campaigns were referred directly from Facebook!”
If your charity is using social media appeals or peer to peer fundraising companies who sell products to support these types of fundraising such as Blackbaud, Convio or Artez post on their websites benchmarks and reports based on their own research from their users that can be helpful in evaluating your charity’s own results. If you are not using SM to peer to peer fundraise read this blog post:

Kerr (2014) describes some of Artez’s finding on social media impact on fundraising. She describes:” For example, we looked at a marathon event to see how social media was specifically affecting pledges raised by participants. We found that visitors from Facebook who viewed a donation form after a peer-driven or crowd sourced “ask” subsequently converted to a donation 23 percent of the time. Comparatively, traffic from Twitter converted to a donation only 1 percent of the time.”
For our own organization we have some example of people who have initially become aware of us and what we do from our social media posts, later these people become volunteers and/or donors. I am not sure we have found the best way to quantify the ROI on this yet be we do know that in general this type of growing engagement in our organization is a good thing, and we also know that we get a little better at measuring the outcomes every month.
As Kerr explains: “There’s a significant return on investment when using social media to recruit supporters that you eventually convert to fundraisers. Make sure you know the original referral source of new event participants, contacts in your database, or newsletter subscribers. It’s crucial to quantify the role social media played in acquiring new friends of your organization who go on to help you raise money online”
Kerr. (2014) How Does Your Organization Define “Success” in Social Media Fundraising? AFP
Website as retrieved from:


How two ten year olds raised $20,000 selling $2 hot dogs

         I had been working in the nonprofit sector for about 2 decades when I started working for Ronald McDonald House. My first month on the job a fellow called and he told me he was going to do Ironman and he was going to collect pledges from his friends to raise money for RMH. I think during the first phone call I almost fell off my chair, I couldn’t believe that someone wanted to do a fundraiser for us. None of the other charities I had worked for in the past had groups or individuals do what I later learned was called third party fundraising. What a great concept this was- a fundraising event held on our behalf, raising our profile and visibility and it didn’t cost us a thing. What could be better? We needed to figure out how to increase the likelihood that more people would do third party events for us. Over the next few years we did figure out ways to have more people do events for us, but here is one of my favorite stories of a third party event:

          In 2008 our society was considering building a new Ronald McDonald House in Red Deer. At the time it was to be the first new Ronald McDonald House built in a new Canadian city in over twenty years (all of the existing RMHs had been built in the 80’s). One of the mom’s whose family had used the Calgary House stopped in for a visit one day and had asked to see me with her 10 year old daughter Jenaya. I came out to the living room to meet with Lisa and her daughter. They lived near Red Deer and had heard we were thinking of building an RMH there. Lisa told me that their family had been appreciative of the support the House had provided their family and that they wanted to help other families to be able to experience the same support. Jenaya and her friend Caitlyn has come up with the idea of selling hot dogs at their school one Friday afternoon to raise money for the new House. Ultimately the capital campaign target was $12 million dollars so it was not like I was going to say no, however I did think the girls would be lucky to raise $100. None the less we loved this family and the idea was really cute. Who wouldn’t love the idea of kids helping sick kids in their community? I thanked Lisa and Jenaya and told them we would be thrilled if they would sell hot dogs for us. The girls planned to sell the hot dogs for $2 each, a local grocery store was going to donate the buns and they might have a lead on someone to donate the hot dogs. A week or two before the Friday the girls were going to sell the hot dogs, Lisa called me and said some of their friends were not able to make it to the school the day of the hot dog sale, could they write us a cheque? “Sure” I responded, this hot dog sale seemed to be getting bigger. I told Lisa we had a “donate now” button on our website, they could tell some of their adult friends they could donate using their credit card. We suggested that their friends just type “hot dog sale” into the memo line on the on-line donation page. We didn’t have a lot of experience with peer to peer fundraising at the time and we certainly didn’t have our own software to allow people to set up pledge pages for us at this time.  Well the girls managed to get themselves in the newspaper and on the radio. A local business man made a pledge on the radio and challenged local businesses to match his pledge. I don’t remember how many actual $2 hot dogs were physically sold but the girls ended up raising over $20,000 by the end of the day on Friday. I would have been thrilled if they raised $100 but the final total of about $24,000 made us pretty confident that we would ultimately be able to raise the funds we needed to in Red Deer to build a new RMH.

Promoting Peer to Peer Fundraising with Social Media: An Experiment



          We had a belief that Peer to Peer fundraising could make our signature fundraising events more profitable and increase their return on investment. We decided to try a social media stunt to see if we could raise some pledges and create a little more interest in our pledge fundraising pages for our Rock the House Run. The appeal was” Larry versus Ronald”. Our communication team came up with the concept that Ronald McDonald House Southern Alberta’s Executive Director was challenged by Ronald McDonald to run the 5 kilometer race. The Executive Director challenged Ronald back that each would create a fundraising page and raise money for Ronald McDonald House. The communications team designed a promotional plan that would live only on the charities social media platforms. The charity would purchase no advertising and would not utilize traditional marketing efforts to promote the peer to peer element of the fundraiser. The charity created a low budget you tube video called “Pledge me maybe” to promote the challenge


            Additionally I was encouraged by our communications staff to use my personal social media channels (twitter and instagram @larrymathieson ) to chronicle my training progress and encourage followers to pledge and set up their own pledge pages to support the event. The appeal was an unexpected success, as 148,000 impressions were made on twitter with 1,200 comments were made using the hash tags #RocktheHouseRun, #teamRonald or #teamLarry. Although certainly not viral by You Tube standards the “Pledge me Maybe” video set a record for the house of 700 views over a two month period. The appeal did not end up being a pure social media experiment as some of the local radio and television personalities who follow the charities social media began promoting the challenge on traditional media channels.

            The pledge revenue had consistently increased over the years however with the social media appeal the revenues jumped from $30,592 in 2011 to $64,500 in 2012. In addition the Presenting Sponsor was so impressed with the community’s engagement in the appeal that on the morning of the run the company announced that in addition to the amount they had paid for their sponsorship that they would make a matching donation of $63,217 (the total pledges received by the charity the morning of the race). The increase in total revenue generated by peer to peer pledges as well as the matching donation significantly changed both the gross and net results for the charity. Registration revenue did increase for the event between 2010 and 2012 but not in a way that was transformational to the total event revenues. It should also be noted that sponsorship revenue also increased significantly between 2010 and 2012 and was also an important factor in the events overall profitability. Ronald McDonald House Southern Alberta’s pledge or peer to peer fundraising for the event continued to grow in 2013 to the point where pledge donations alone reached the level of pledges combined with the presenting sponsor match in the 2012 event.So in essence the pledge revenue doubled once again.

           The example above illustrates how on-line peer to peer fundraising efforts can improve the overall revenue picture for a small nonprofit organization’s events and how social media can be utilized to impact total numbers of donations and total revenue. The Rock the House Run has been an event that has created additional visibility and has raised funds for the House, however there are certainly Road Races locally or nationally that raise a lot more money.  However as a smaller local charity the total amount raised is not as important to us as what the return on investment from the event is. Clearly it appears that peer to peer fundraising combined with the usage of social media does improve an event like RTHR’s return on investment.      

If you’d like to read my last post on peer to peer fundraising check  out this link:

Friend Raising: How your Small Charity Can Raise Funds Through Peer to Peer Fundraising

HM pledge page


             This month I had a little reminder why we have a peer to peer fundraising component in each of our signature fundraising events. On January 1st we received a $25,000 on-line donation; this donation caught my attention for a whole list of reasons. First of all our fundraising program and our organization is small enough that a $25,000 donation is pretty exciting to us. We also don’t get a lot of on-line donations this large; a large on-line donation for us is $5000 or $10,000, with a lot of $100 and $25 donations making up the majority of the gifts. We also don’t get a lot of donations on January 1st, December 31st before the mid-night tax deadline yes, but not mid-day on New Year’s Day.  As we speak, Marla our Director of Development has been playing telephone tag with the donor to find out some more details about this generous gift. What is even more interesting about this gift is that we did a search of our database and the only other donation from this donor was a $100 pledge donation he made to one of our Street Hockey Festival participants last year.

           To go from a onetime $100 pledge donation to a $25,000 on-line donation is quite the jump. It is however a great reminder of the potential of pledge or peer to peer fundraising programs potential. I remember a few years back when we were starting to build up our peer to peer fundraising program in Calgary; our Director of Development for the Edmonton House was fairly luke- warm about developing the program. Her concern was that with this type of program the donor is really more connected to the pledge fundraiser or participant than to the charity and that they were unlikely to make a second gift to the organization. These concerns may have some validity, but in the way they are also the point of this type of program. Firstly a donor who has never given to your charity just made a donation, whether they give a second gift or not, this is a good thing in itself. The second “good thing” is that your participant has opened up their network of friends and family members to you- giving you not only the opportunity to receive a gift, but also the chance to develop a relationship with a new donor.  Whenever I think of this kind of program, I think of the old shampoo commercial –“tell two friends about xyz shampoo and they’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on…”

           There is some interesting emerging research on this type of fundraising program. Blackbaud produces a Peer to Peer Fundraising Benchmark study each year. The 2013 report considered 1275 organizations and their 28,000 fundraising events using peer to peer fundraising.  The study identifies some interesting trends. For example the study found that: “Despite a stagnant economy in 2011, fundraising events across all event types experienced growth in both participation and fundraising. Fundraising growth actually outpaced participation growth, which points to the fact that individual event participants are fundraising more than they have in the past.”  This is good news for a charity like ours and is consistent with our own findings. Our Ronald McDonald Houses have a P2P fundraising component in each of our signature fundraising events; however this program has been most successful in our Rock the House Run. This event would fall into the reports “Runs/Walks with a registration fee category” which overall experienced a 8.62% increase in participant growth and an 12.31% increase in pledge revenue raised.  I am glad to say we beat both of those number this year, and I suppose just knowing these number is the benefit of having a benchmark.

           The report itself actually has some great tips for how to increase your participant’s effectiveness in raising funds. For example (p.4) the report suggests:” Communicate year round. Develop a documented communication plan so your participants receive communications in the off-season as well as in the busy event season. Focus those off-season communications on how event fundraising efforts impact the mission of your organization.” Another suggestion which will resonate with most small charities is: “Encourage your event participants to get involved in other areas of your organization. The more connected participants are with your organization, the more loyal they will be to your event.” This suggestion makes sense in a number of ways, not only will you raise more money but the additional volunteer support will allow the organization to more effectively meet its mandate.

          If you are thinking of starting your own peer to peer fundraising event I would suggest you check out the report, there are a number of nuggets of advice that will help in your development of the program and materials. One suggestion that will resonate with a lot of fundraisers is the advice;” Provide a mission-related “value proposition” next to the level you’d like donors to choose, such as “$120 will help immunize 172 children against polio for their entire lifetimes.”  This not only sets a suggested donation level but also gives the opportunity to focus on why you are asking people to fundraise for you in the first place, your mission.  In my next post I will talk a little more about some of the tactics that might work for your charity and how Ronald McDonald House Southern and Central Alberta has developed our own P2P program.



Mendez,R. et. al. (2013) Blackbaud Peer-to-Peer Event Fundraising Benchmark Study: Key Performance  

          Benchmarks for Traditional and Third-Party Events, as retrieved


Non-profit leaders -Are we having Fun Yet?



In the past two years I have raced a clown, dyed my hair completely pink and shaved my head bald.  One might describe this as self-deprecating behavior but the reality is this is nothing compared to what our kids go through.  We don’t often talk about how hard it is to keep a charity running every day and providing support to families. Our staff are very well educated, experts in their fields and they work very hard. I would imagine every one of them would tell you what they do every day is a labor of love. A couple of years ago I loved my job but I decided that I was definitely going to find more ways to do my job while having more fun. I did actually have a 5 kilometer race with the one and only Ronald McDonald but that is really a topic for another post. This week I gear up to participate for the second time in a fundraiser called the Hair Massacure.  Participants dye their hair pink to raise awareness and a few weeks later they shave their heads bald. Victims, as the participants are referred to, raise pledges between “pinking” and the head shave.  Dying my hair pink wasn’t what I first had in mind –but it has done the trick in finding a unique way to add more enjoyment in my job.

Tammy and Gord founded the Hair Massacure. Their own daughter fought and beat cancer and they definitely know how much families need support the support of charities like Ronald McDonald House and Make A Wish. In fact that is why they created the event to pay it forward so that other families would have the supports that they had experienced during their journey. The event has run for years in Edmonton (this is the second year for the event in Calgary) and to date has raised over $7 million dollars for cancer research and for charities supporting children fighting cancer. A few years back Tammy told me that it was Gord who originally made the statement that for men it is no big deal to shave your head for a fundraiser and walk around for months bald as it grows back-lots of men are bald. I think he quipped “if a man dyed his hair pink that would be something.” Sure enough Tammy had Gord dying his hair pink for that years fundraiser. Shaving your hair symbolizes what our kids have to go through while they battle with cancer. Dying your hair pink beforehand draws attention and awareness to the campaign and in turn the two important charities that support these children and their families. So once again this year I will be dying my hair pink and shaving it all off on March 14th to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Southern Alberta and Make a Wish Southern Alberta. If you are in a leadership role for a nonprofit-do yourself a favor and don’t take yourself too seriously. Do something that is a little bit out of the norm to draw some attention and support to the cause you are passionate about.

If you want to check out my fundraising page-click the link below:

Five Keys to Maximize the Impact of your Charity’s Social Media Channels



           Emerging research tends to suggest that social media may be impacting the donor behavior of different demographic groups. For example Dixon & Keyes (2013) describe:” Today the internet and social media have permanently disrupted the traditional donor engagement process. On-line giving-with each new way for organizations and donors to interact come increasingly complex entry points into the traditional models of donor engagement, greater variation in movement along the pathway to deeper engagement, and more opportunities for a person to be influenced by forces outside an organizations control (p.24)”.

          Five consistent themes seem to be apparent as key factors to enabling nonprofits to become more successful in their use of social media and online tools to increase public support. These five themes include:

1.            Charities should use social media tools in concert with each other maximizing the reach and development of networks

2.            Charities should use more of the features of each social media site to be more interactive with the nonprofit organizations followers

3.            Charities should engage in more two way interactions with followers

4.            Charities should abandon traditional marketing or advertising approaches in favor of approaches which capitalize on follower’s ability and willingness to engage their own networks.

5.            Charities should develop materials and appeals that the nonprofit organization’s own network is more likely to want to share with their own network.

           Although each of these tactics does represent a need to devote resources it is fortunate that most of these strategies would not seem cost prohibitive to a small charity. Additionally, although focusing on all five strategies may be ideal it seems probable that focusing on one or two might create significant improvements on a small charity’s ability to engage current and new supporters. It would seem advisable that a charity systematically over time address all five tactics in a staged manner. The research seems to suggest that employing one of the less costly tactics, such as using more of the features on their social media sites may create enough positive outcomes to support devoting resources to further develop other tactics. What is further encouraging about the findings of this research is that small charities should be able to use social media and online tools to equalize the playing field against some of the larger or international charities. Investing resources in advertising campaigns or direct marketing approaches presents the risk for a small charity to create a loss of valuable resources or at very least a return on investment that would not justify the cost. However with social media channels a small charity can make incremental investments that are more modest than some traditional approaches and reap benefits before making additional investments. As Quinton & Fennmore (2013) suggest  social networks: “could provide charities with a fertile environment to help build cause driven communities and further incite friend to friend or peer to peer fundraising” (p.37). The suggestions and observations identified in this research may help small organizations to create and develop this fertile environment. Although charities may need to use different approaches to effectively utilize social media to increase their visibility and raise additional funds, these approaches are still fairly consistent with some of the most important components of traditional fundraising. Successful approaches have focused on engagement and relationships the use of new tools must still focus on these basic concepts. It is likely that organization’s that are unable to learn how to use these tools to develop and enhance relationships through online networks will suffer the same fate as organizations that have been unable to develop and enhance face to face networks. It seems unlikely that these virtual networks will completely replace face to face relationship development but charities will over time create strategies to use their online capabilities to further enhance these face to face relationships as well.




Dixon, J. & Keyes,D.(2013) The permanent disruption of social media. Stanford Social

          Innovation Review, Winter, 2013.

Quinton, S. & Fennemore, P (2013) Missing a strategic marketing trick? The use of online social

           networks by UK charities. Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing.V18:36-51.

Can a Small Charity Use Social Media and On-line tools to Raise new Revenue? Part 3

     How does a small charity use social media and on-line tools to increase their visibility and find new donors? What must be included on our website or other on-line channels to meet the expectations of our donors?

           Waters (2007) describes that top tier charities were more likely to include the organizations: annual report, organizational goals and mission statement on their websites (p.68).  It could be argued that including these items makes a charity appear more transparent and in turn more attractive to potential donors. Listing your organizational goals demonstrates that the organization is not stagnant, that it is moving forward. Likely this also makes an organization attractive to potential donors as cognitively it provides material or information that a donor could rationally respond to or emotionally engage with. In this study the strategy of two way engagement was also highlighted. Having these items on an organizations website was found to be correlated to raising more revenue through online means (Waters, 2007, p.72). This is encouraging news for a small charity as merely including these items on their website is not heavily resource dependent, yet may increase the amount of money they raise on-line.

           With similar themes emerging in the research as to how to effectively use these tools to improve visibility and to raise more funds it seems surprising that so few charities are using them to their full capacity. With the growth in the number of charities using social media and online giving capabilities as tactics it could be argued that charities see these tools as solutions to their problems. The research also indicates the similarities between traditional fundraising approaches and how the structure of social networks lends themselves to this type of approach. It is possible that there are more fundamental changes to the way members of society interact and that charitable organizations may be ignoring this shift. It may be prudent to consider how these changes may have implications for how charities should change the way they communicate with stakeholders, followers and potential donors. One author in the literature positions a theory and its implications for fundraising in a networked society. Miller (2009) describes changes in general for consumers in the following manner;” these consumers are free,  in ways not imagined by previous generations, to choose their own personalized networks of connections and influences in place of traditional societal guidelines which were the norm for their forebears”(p.365). In this research a second condition is described that is inter-related to this first observation. It is possible that charities are ignoring these changes and that they are designing their online and social media communications to mimic the old model of advertising. This is a model in which you push information out to a public with the hope of educating them or persuading them in some fashion. As described above Miller (2009) describes this approach as a model that interrupts individuals (p.367). For example in the same fashion a television commercial interrupts the viewer from the program they intend to watch. Miller (2009) recommends instead:” The future of advertising is to stop interrupting what people are interested in and to be what people are interested in.” The majority of research recommends creating two way dialogues with followers, clearly nonprofits need to engage in more of this behavior. The implications of Miller’s (2009) research suggests that the sector will get even better results if we not only engage in two way dialogue but also figure our tactics to get our supporters engaged in two way dialogue with members of their networks about us.  Miller (2009)  further describes:” given the growing evidence that our prospective supporters would far rather listen to someone in their trusted network of peers than anything a direct marketer might have to say, it seems clear that we must evolve the ways we engage with them to avoid rejection(p.367). Traditional fundraising approaches combined with traditional marketing approaches or materials appear to be becoming less and less effective in helping charities reach their goals. Miller( 2009) describes: “In the traditional vertical funnel direct marketing model, we pour prospects into the wide funnel mouth, expose them to fundraising asks, and hope that some will respond and emerge out the other end as supporters. Unfortunately as we see the performance of traditional mass direct marketing approaches waning, we need to feed ever more prospects into the funnel mouth just to deliver the same number of supporters at the other end, So the recruitment costs go up and up and the model becomes increasingly unviable”(p.368). For our efforts to be fruitful we need to consider how our supporters and potential supporters use social media and how they want to be viewed by their own network of followers.

          It is human nature to be proud of your affiliation with a good cause and to want to demonstrate the good work you are doing for that cause. If charities are able to harness their own networks to share or discuss the organization with their own networks they will be able to tap into not only the geometric capacity of these networks but also the preferences Miller(2009) describes for individuals to receive donation advice from their peers. This approach can capitalize on traditional approaches of having supporters approach their own network of friends and families but in a manner that is greatly enhanced by a much broader online network. Fortunately for charities the tools to take advantage of these trends are becoming increasingly available and economically more affordable. Miller (2009) describes:” the growth of easy peer to peer recommendation fuelled by the rise of Web 2.0 applications has transformed this situation. It is now incredibly easy for users of social network sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn to share ideas and information with their personal network of friends, work colleagues or wider peers. They do not even need to make a special song and dance about it. Simply upload something to their online social network profile or update their status field to mention what they are doing for their favorite charity and this flows out into the news feeds of everyone in their network” (p.368).

           Miller describes an opportunity for charities but nonprofit organizations will still need to be thoughtful in how to capitalize on this opportunity. When online fundraising through websites first became a viable reality many charities thought just popping a “donate now” button on their site would be the solution to their financial woes. Some put these buttons on their sites and waited for the money to roll in. As the research indicates to make this capacity effective charities must change their social media and on-line behavior to be much more interactive. When it comes to capitalizing on peer to peer fundraising nonprofits will need to develop collateral, campaigns and other materials that are easy to share and that individuals will be motivated or proud to post. Miller (2009) suggests;” We need to move from the direct marketer’s focus of building and mailing mass contact lists and develop new online fundraising products that supporters will want to take to their friends and wider networks themselves. As we flip the funnel and our supporters become a key channel through which we communicate, the professional fundraisers role will increasingly become that of community manager rather than campaign manager, as each community fundraises in that way that works best for them.”


To see part 1 of this article:

To see part 2 of this article:


Feldmann, D,.Nixon.J, Brady,J.,Banker-Brainer,L. & Wheeler,L. (2013) The 2013 Millennial  

          Impact Report, as retrieved from:

Miller, B. (2009) Community fundraising 2.0-the future of fundraising in a networked society?

         International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing. V14, n1: 365-371.

Water, R.D., et al. (2009) Engaging stakeholders through social networking: How nonprofit

          organizations are using Facebook. Public Relations Review,


Can a Small Charity Use Social Media and On-line tools to raise new Revenue? Part 2


Can a Small Charity Use Social Media and On-line tools to raise new Revenue? Part 2

           Authors such as Olsen et. al. (2001) describe how the combination of social media, email and other online tools can be used together in a powerful way (p.364). They describe:” The internet is merely a new medium, a tool, which can be used to build dynamic and loyal donor relationships in addition to processing funds” ( Olsen et al, 2001,p 365). Since the arrival of powerful fundraising software has come on the market charities have struggled to use the tools not just as an expensive way to produce tax receipts. Instead they strive to use the software as a tool to keep close to their supporters.  As mentioned previously the authors further describe how tools such as email is an:” avenue of communication [which] is the most dynamic tool a fundraiser could use beyond face to face relationship” (Olsen et al, 2001, p 366).It is interesting that Merritt et al. (2001) point out that nonprofit organizations may in fact have an advantage over for profit organizations when it comes to the use of social media and online tools to promote their brand. Olsen et al. (2001) suggest: Nonprofit organizations have an advantage over corporations in using these strategies because people are more likely to be loyal to an organization and its cause than a corporation and its product” (p.366). Also comparing for profit behavior utilizing these mediums to nonprofit behavior it is suggested that corporations send out monthly email messages or social media messages to stimulate buying behavior. Olsen et al. (2001) indicate;” Nonprofit organizations can utilize the same strategy to stimulate donor behavior. When communications are based on a schedule, donors anticipate them” (p.367)”. A theme which appears across the literature is that one social media channel or one individual on- line resource is not a panacea to solve a nonprofit organization’s need to create awareness of their organization or their mission. Instead the concept of combining tools and using them in combination appears to be recommended as an approach that may result in a better synergy than using tools independently. For example Olsen, et. al. (2001) describe;” Furthermore successful e-mail marketing requires additional expertise in using the technologies and infrastructure needed to deliver high volumes of personalized, correctly configured messages across multiple channels” (p.370).

            Since the creation of powerful fundraising databases began to show up in the marketplace nonprofit organizations have had growing ability to create this type of messaging and to communicate in both a personalized and frequent basis. Social media has provided additional opportunities to promote these messages and direct them to a broader audience. Quinton & Fennmore (2013) describe the use of online social networks as a way to direct these messages to a broader audience. Quinton & Fennmore (2013) argue that social networks: “could provide charities with a fertile environment to help build cause driven communities and further incite friend to friend or peer to peer fundraising” (p.37). Essentially followers begin through the use of their own social networks begin to do work for the charity in marketing their cause and spreading their message. “Through online social networks partial control of the cause and the reputation management can be taken on by the contributors. The contributor derives the benefit in form of self-satisfaction of having made an indirect donation through their participation and also possibly by having broadcast their willingness to help society to their online social network associates” (Quinton & Fennmore, 2013, p.38). The potential benefit described by these authors is that a charity has at its disposal tools in which it may use its supporters to reach individuals and organizations which it may have never reached in the past (their followers networks).Researchers are beginning to draw parallels between traditional fundraising tactics which involve recruiting people to ask their colleagues friends and business associates for donations and how social networks actually function. These social networks act in the same manner as other human relationships and thus have the potential to be used as a high tech version of a tried and true fundraising approach. Quinton & Fennmore  (2013) describe this parallel in the following manner;” In sum, there appears to be beneficial synergies between the way in which social network communities function and the way philanthropic communities give to each other because both operate on peer to peer principles” (p. 38).

          Whether your nonprofit is currently using social media or not it would seem prudent that a charity should heed Brinckerhoff’s (2010) advice:” As this is written, nonprofits communicate through personal contact, paper materials, websites, social networks such as Face Book, text messaging, phone calls email and twitter. By the time you read these words those communication choices will have changed. (p.18). Brinckerhoff (2010) goes on to caution:” you have to use all available media, not just those you are currently comfortable with.”

           In part 3 of this article I will talk about some of the “must haves” on your website and some of the ways social media is changing the fundraising landscape.


To see part 1 of this article


Brinckerhoff, P.C (2010) Mission-Based marketing: Positioning your not –for –profit: New   

          Jersey: John Wiley &Sons Inc.

Olsen, M, et al  (2001) E-relationship development strategy for the nonprofit fundraising professional,

          International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, V 6, Issue 4, pages 364–373.

Quinton, S. & Fennemore, P (2013) Missing a strategic marketing trick? The use of online social

           networks by UK charities. Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing.V18:36-51.

Can a Small Charity Use Social Media and On-line tools to raise new Revenue? Part 1

     Most nonprofit leaders would likely agree that on-line tools and social media have some place in the marketing and fundraising programs for their charity. However despite a belief that these tools may be useful most charities are raising less than ten percent of their revenue on-line. In a world that is becoming quickly more and more technologically savvy nonprofits will need to become fluent and successful in using these tools. It is possible that as most social media channels are becoming easier to use and they are cost effective, that their use may become an equalizer in allowing small charities to compete with larger charities with larger promotional budgets.         

           Some might argue that segments of the charitable sector can be slow to embrace new technology or advancements. A growing segment of our population is becoming more and more comfortable with on-line financial transactions, to the point that often consumers are annoyed when a company does not offer this option or the option for mobile transactions. Nonprofits need to find ways to increase the proportion of the revenue through applications that are becoming preferred by their donors.

           Small charities are at greater risk to fall victim to loss of revenue as they are at times reluctant to use scarce resources to invest in some of the web-based or on-line tool development that their donors may prefer. This problem can be further compounded as small charities may be reluctant (or may feel they do not have the resources) to invest staff time in creating the visibility they may need to become competitive with other charities in their marketplace. However the use of social media is a way that a charity can increase its visibility to potential donors at a very low cost.

            Over time it is likely that donors will only give to charities that afford them the ability to donate in the method that they prefer, and with the passing of time more of these donors will prefer on-line transactions. In essence small charities will need to embrace these changes or will risk losing their current donors. Brinckerhoff (2010) describes: “this is all about meeting techspectations. If you want to get someone born after 1987 to come to your weekend volunteer activity you’d better be on Face Book. For someone born between 1980 and 1985 you better be on Twitter (p.193).”  Leaders of nonprofits will likely find it discouraging to invest in expensive software to only avoid losing ground in their revenue generation. Investing in this technology is more attractive if there is also a way to leverage its capacity to attract new donors and new sources of revenue

          Authors such as Reynolds describe one of the reasons charities may want to employ social media. She (Reynolds, 2011, p.16) points out: “excellent organizations stay close to their customers, employees and other constituencies.” She also points out an additional reason why nonprofit organizations might want to engage in some of these strategies. Reynolds (2011) describes:” social networking allows companies (both profit and nonprofit) the ability to create, maintain and extend their positions within these sites that connect potentially millions of people to one another at little or no cost.” The research identifies that not unlike the for-profit marketplace traditional forms of advertising or marketing are becoming less effective and less sustainable for charities. Authors such as Miller (2009) point out:” In place of once trusted institutions consumers are increasingly looking for alternative sources of information and advice to help guide the myriad of decisions they make in everyday life, including their purchasing and donating decisions. In particular, in search of authenticity and independence, they are turning to the opposite end of the scale from the big traditional sources. To friends, family and countless others that they have never met, but through the use of online recommendation activities that they treat as informed and trusted peers” (p.366)”. 

             Findings and suggestions such as these suggest that not only should charities engage supporters through the use of social media platforms, but they should change the way they think about and approach promoting their organizations. Authors such as Miller (2009) suggest that charities should think about the promotion and their activities  in a completely different manner:” Miller (2009) describes: “The future of advertising is to stop interrupting what people are interested in and to be what people are interested in.” This type of perspective illustrates some key findings and direction for a nonprofit. The research identifies a need and benefit in truly harnessing the power of the network to transform their relationships. That is instead of considering what messages to push out to followers’ charities must create materials that their champions and followers themselves will be interested in and motivated to push out themselves to their networks.

              Fortunately some of the themes identified which could improve a nonprofit’s results in employing these media do not appear to be as cost laden as some traditional approaches to marketing and fundraising. This literature suggests that if used wisely small charities may be able to use social media and other online tools to compete with larger charities as the majority of large charities are not using the tools as effectively as they could. Some of the major advantages of social media usage for small nonprofits are the ability to develop new relationships with new stakeholders. The nature of any type of relationship is dependent on back and forth communication, not merely pushing information out. That is, the research suggests that there is benefit in using these tools to educate and be transparent with potential donors and stakeholders. However the research also suggests that the most significant features of these tools is the ability to really engage and involve stakeholders in a new way and in a real relationship. It is possible that these tools will allow nonprofits to engage individuals who would not typically view themselves as philanthropists but would gladly share a post or try to engage there friends in supporting their favorite cause. In part 2 of this article I will talk about how a small charity can combine on-line tools and social media to maximize their effectiveness for their organization.


Brinckerhoff, P.C (2010) Mission-Based marketing: Positioning your not –for –profit: New   

          Jersey: John Wiley &Sons Inc.

Miller, B. (2009) Community fundraising 2.0-the future of fundraising in a networked society?

         International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing. V14, n1: 365-371.

Reynolds, C. (2011) Friends who give: Relationship-building and other uses of social networking

          tools by nonprofit organizations. The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in

          Communications, v2:15- 40.

Why is Your Charity Communicating?

I was reading Kivi Leroux Miller’s 2014 Nonprofit Communication Trends the other day and there are some surprising findings. Of the nonprofit leaders polled 53% indicated the “acquiring new donors” was their most important goals for their nonprofit communications strategy. Only 30% rated “retaining current donors” as one of their most important goals. For a small charity we always need to be concerned with finding new supporters and donors. However a challenge for a small charity is that finding new donors is more expensive in terms of time, staff resources and money. In business it is often less expensive to keep your current customer than to attract a new one. In fundraising and sustaining charities the added bonus is that loyal donors can have a tendency to start giving larger gifts over time. It seems reasonable that charities should move engaging, informing and retaining current donors to the top of the list. I wouldn’t argue that attracting new donors should be high up the list however a good proportion of your marketing and communications efforts should be directed towards your current donors. Leroux Miller (p.8) suggests:” It’s a common mistake that the best way to raise more money is always to get new donors. In fact donor retention strategies (additional gifts from current donors) often produce better results. For long term success you must do both.”

Even more interesting when the same author drills down a little deeper in this area to ask “Who believes donor retention is a top goal-the differences between staff in different roles is a little surprising. Sixty four percent of Development Directors said this was a top priority, which I suppose itself is a little surprising that this percentage wasn’t a little higher. More surprising is that only 34% of Executive Directors and 16% of Communications Directors thought donor retention was a top priority. With how retention is viewed differently by these different roles you can imagine that everyone in these organizations is not rowing in the same direction.

If you are in one of these roles in your organization, do your charity a favor. Before you plan your marketing and communications strategy for the next year take a look at the data in your fundraising database. If 40% or more of your donors have given you more than one gift, good for you, you should focus on marketing strategies to increase the percentage of your donors who do give a second gift. What do these donors want to know about what you are doing with their donation? What information about your charity, if they read it would make them more engaged and emotionally invested? If the percentage of your donors who have given you a second gift is less than forty percent, let’s say it is 10 to 15%, and then you really should focus your communications on those individuals closest to you (or who could be closest to you). What do these donors want to know about the work that you do that you are not telling them?

One of the top themes identified by this same group of professionals when asked “What excites you most about 2014?” was- New opportunities to reach people and the potential to expand their impact. Most of us who work for a small charity would agree with this sentiment, but if you want to be able to fulfill this common desire, make sure you are communicating to your current donors what you are doing with their money and the impact it is having in your community.

Leroux Miller,K (2014) Nonprofit communications Trends, as retrieved from: