This week, Twitter announced that it will be testing a "buy" button with a select few of it's current users, including a group of nonprofit organizations, spurring the ongoing debate about whether social media is an effective strategy for raising actual funds. You can read more about Twitter's new buy button here. Many, if not all, organizations have experimented with social media as a fundraising tool, and there is a growing industry of "social" and "digital" experts that are out there giving advice about it that ranges from extremely insightful and helpful (google Beth Kanter, author of The Networked Nonprofit) to common sense bordering on obvious.
If your organization's capacity is limited and you don't know where to start with building social media into your fundraising strategy, here are some quick tips and things to consider:
- All social media is about building relationships. Approach it as a tactic rather than a strategy as it relates to fundraising. The best use of social media in fundraising, broadly, is to engage more people with your organization's story and to give your current supporters a chance to be ambassadors for your work.
- You do not need to have an account on every social media app to get started. Think about your fundraising goals. Do you want to reach a lot of people? Then Twitter is probably the best place to start. Do you want to organize an existing group of people and build a broader community around a specific aspect of your work? Try Facebook. Do you have regular information to share in short bursts? Definitely create a blog. Start with one and focus on it for a while to build up your presence, and then think about how other apps can support that effort.
- What about those fundraising challenges like Pepsi Refresh and Chase Community Giving? Well, both of those programs have been either eliminated (Pepsi -- see an interesting article about this, here) or rolled back up into the broader company giving, in the case of the Chase Community Giving program. Unless you have a very large network in social media and a highly recognizable brand OR you are willing to dedicate a very large percentage of your organization's time to these types of projects, you are unlikely to see any return on investment. My advice: Focus on your own fundraising strategy and how social media can support it.
The best approach you can take with social media in fundraising is to tell a story in small (Twitter), medium (Facebook), or big (blogging) chunks. Then use your existing networks to engage with that story -- ask them to retweet or share their experience (Twitter), comment or share (Facebook), or repost/link to you (blogging). Use your strongest volunteers and your staff as "plants" to increase retweets, shares, and reposts or links. Assign a group of people as your social media ambassadors. Give them messages to share regularly. This is an excellent way to increase your social media presence while also engaging your current supporters.
There are also many other social media apps - Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ ... the list goes on and on! Here's a helpful tutorial from on what to use when (this is for your broader social media strategy, not just for fundraising): How Much Time Should Your Nonprofit Invest in Different Social Media Channels?
Most importantly, you don't need social media to fundraise, but it can help you reach new people and tell your story in different ways.