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.