No wise charity leaders out there or fundraising will be suggesting that their organization plan its Christmas appeal around covering administration costs this season. However as wise leaders understand we do have to invest in our administration or our fundraising to increase our ability to make the impact our charity is intended to make. Imagine if a friend suggested that you invest in the favorite companies stock. The company bragged that it invested no money on staff, operations ,technology or training and development. You might thing that this company might not be a good long term investment. However Marina Glogovac President and CEO of CanadaHelps.org, points out in her recent Huffington Post blogpost that this is what we do to charities when we expect them to direct donations. We encourage or demand of them that they spend money only on direct programs not the other things we would expect a for profit company to do. Below is a link to a vlog post that further covers this double standard we have for charities:
Research demonstrates that spending your money “pro socially” can make you happier. Elizabeth Dunn in her research found that after giving people experience both positive mental and bodily affects. For a charity talking about the positive benefit to the nonprofits users is something that is often linked to a donors gift. It is not uncommon to hear your $100 means one new clean well for a certain village. We are less likely to talk about the benefit to the donor themselves in giving a gift. We might make reference to a tax benefit- but we are less likely to talk about the positive mental benefit of spending your money pro socially as Dunn’s research suggests. Maybe as charity leaders we should be posting this type of research on our websites. We all want to be happy- maybe we should start writing the happiness we are creating not only for our users but also our donors in our case for support.
The video post explains why we use peer to peer fundraising in our Rock the House Run fundraising event.
Our NPOs should measure and evaluate our volunteer programs, but sometimes the value our volunteers add to our service is much more than can be captured by the numbers alone.
Weber Shandwick has been auditing the on-line presence of CEOs from the world’s largest companies since 2010. Find out what their latest findings are and how these might be relevant to a CEO leading a charity or NPO organization.
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.