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Non-profit Fundraising and Social Media

In the past I’ve been a little dismissive, or is the word cynical, about the use of social media in the role of non-profit fundraising.  As someone working daily in the non-profit world, social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, while great as “friend raisers” have for the most part been ineffectual at generating cold hard cash.  As an organization we had in the past tried to tap into the power of Facebook and its “Causes” application but with very little success – maybe we raised $50 from a lot of man hours worth of work.

But a few things are slowly making me change my mind.  Firstly, I was approached by a friend to help fund a documentary she is working on through “Kickstarter”.  “Kickstarter” www.kickstarter.com is a funding platform for creative projects.  It can almost be seen as a micro funding site as no donation is too small to accept!  One of the unique factors about “Kickstarter” is that a project must reach it’s funding goal before money is exchanged – for the donor it means you are not supporting a project that has a very strong chance of never taking off the ground.  Micro-funding sites like this thrive with social media and the concept of getting a short message, repeatedly to a large number of people.

The other thing making me change my mind is Facebook.  I was recently persuaded (read: guilted 🙂 ) into becoming a pie seller for an annual fundraiser called “Pie In The Sky” from a wonderful local organization called Community Servings.  I came into the selling cycle very late in the game, and had very little time on my hands to promote and harass my friends into buying pies.  I turned to Facebook to promote my pie selling activity.  To my huge surprise I not only met, but exceeded my goal by 75%!  The other surprising thing for me was the individuals who supported my efforts.  We are all “friends” with people we are not really “friends in real life” with.  Many of these acquaintances supported me – these are people I would probably not have thought to approach had I tried a more traditional fundraising approach such as a direct ask.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this worked for me when other things haven’t.  I’m not sure that I know the answer, but a some things stick out for me…

  • Many non-profits, while wonderful organizations have mission statements that can be hard to explain to a stranger.  Making your mission or project a succinct, easily understood ‘elevator’ pitch is essential in the social media world.
  • Have a low entry price point that is easy for all to participate in.
  • Balance your pitch message with other non-fundraising messages.  You don’t want to be that person no one reads because you are always asking for money.

Now to get my boss on board…

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