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: http://www.themillennialimpact.com.
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,