Hanging on your every word? article

The rush to set up spaces on social networks to raise funds and engage with people is not necessarily a sure fire bet. Even if supporters do hang on your every word through Twitter bon mots it doesn’t mean they’ll reach into their pockets.

People from not-for-profit organisations I talked to for an article published in the August 2009 issue FINZ on Fundraising said they weren’t in it for the money (see “Hanging on your every word?” article). At least, not straight away.

Instead organisations are setting up Facebook fan pages and Twitter feeds to engage better with their audiences. This includes connecting with people that they wouldn’t be able to easily reach in any other way.

When choosing different online fund- and friend-raising options not-for-profit organisations Eric Rardin from Care2.com advised organisations to take an analytical approach rather than following fashions. In a lecture on “Creating an online strategy to thrive in tough times” run by Network for Good in May 2009, he shares detailed case studies of the costs of donor acquisition versus the returns.

Rardin, who is Care2.com’s nonprofit services manager, says organisations need to match goals with tactics.

  1. Goals include: branding or visibility, engaging people, generating donor leads, website traffic and/ or list growth, and fundraising.

  2. Tactics include: search engine marketing, banner ads, email list growth services (something I’m not aware of in NZ), and social network outreach.

There is no single tactic that will magically meet all goals. The tactics achieve different things.

Talking about social networks, he says they:

… have proven to be valuable opportunities for branding and connecting, and most people that I’ve heard talk about what they think of how things have done on MySpace and Facebook and elsewhere, they end up talking mostly about the community they built, the branding, and a lot less about traffic and donations.

When pressed Rardin says “I think that using email to drive traffic to your site to get donations is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy here, because it’s a loop here. So the question is: how do you grow your email list? That’s often the most critical step.”

So we’re still looking at a three legged stool. Laura S Quinn from Idealware suggests splitting your time and budget three ways:

  • website, with functionally to capture new contacts and accept donations
  • email communication, including e-newsletters
  • online marketing and outreach, including a social network presence.

(See “Prioritizing Websites vs. Email vs. Online Outreach”, 27 August 2008).

The Network for Good learning centre freely share lessons from the fundraising frontline, including presentations and audio lectures like Eric’s one. It’s good place to start if you want to explore these questions in more depth.