Social media is rapidly influencing the tone, tools and methods traditionally used for all kinds of communication—including fundraising. Last spring the website Nonprofit Tech for Good reported that 21% of peer-to-peer fundraising dollars are the result of a direct click-through on social media.1
But social media has a way of making us feel agitated and overwhelmed, especially when it comes to developing and managing effective strategies for our bottom line. So, let’s take a deep breath, and consider the long game. You may not be a social media expert, but if you’re at the helm of a private school, youth organization, or camp, you already possess the foundational skills for an effective social strategy.
Here are 3 ways you can build upon your strengths to maximize fundraising potential on social media.
Put your interpersonal skills to good use, virtually speaking
New technology tools can be daunting for some and distracting for others, but fundraising expert Marc A. Pitman says social media is about relationships, not tools. “It’s not about obsessing over Twitter or Facebook,” he says. “Social media sites allow you to extend conversations with donors, build stronger relationships between them and your organization, listen to what others are saying about your cause or your organization … And it’s free.”2
Accessible leaders have a magnetic draw, and social media makes your accessibility more possible. Transparency (valued highly among millennials, by the way) shows your humanity in ways that help people relate to you, and by association, your organization—whether you’re sharing your heart for young people, telling a personal anecdote, or making an off-hand remark about your weekend plans of favorite breakfast.
Especially if you have not been very present on social media yet, find ways to get in on conversations already happening. One article put it this way: “Keep an eye on likes, shares, comments or hashtags on social media, and strike up conversations with these like-minded people. … Tap into established communities and groups.3
When you forge alliances with people who share your values, you’ll connect to their networks and increase your followers. When you’re ready to ask people to invest financially in your camp or school, it will feel more like an extension of your ongoing conversations.
Entering these virtual conversations is akin to striking up face-to-face convos at a networking event, Pitman says. “… before you jump in and start spouting off all the virtues of your organization and begging people to visit your website, take a deep breath and listen to the conversation that’s already going on. … Just like at any networking event, it’s important to introduce yourself—you as a person not you as an organization—and engage people in conversation. Ask questions. Listen to what others are saying.”4
In the process of showing your humanity and contributing to conversations with like-minded people, you’ll build your organization’s social followers, draw them into your story, and prime them for successful fundraising.
Share your vision and make it personal
Effective leaders know how to share their vision, and that’s far more important than technical prowess. As social media has elevated the value of transparency, it’s also mitigated demand for the highest professional quality in story-telling. A selfie often shows more contagious personality than a professional portrait, right? A spontaneous video interview can evoke greater emotion than one meticulously edited.
Here’s the bottom line: You don’t have to be all that experienced with the technology tools to tell your story well. If an image or a video impacts you and shares the heart of your organization, you can assume that your followers (like-minded, remember, as they are) will be similarly affected—even if the content is somewhat raw.
Tell your story in all kinds of ways—through images and interviews, blog posts and videos. And make sure it’s personal. Whether you’re making an ask or acknowledging a gift, find ways to help the donor connect with the kids you serve.5 Likewise, ask your students and families to consider sharing their stories. Their faces and voices will breathe life into your fundraising efforts in countless ways.
Unleash the power of peer-to-peer fundraising
Without question, you will need expert help to unleash the fundraising potential of social media for your school or camp. You need people who understand fundraising strategy to work closely with people who understand digital technology and social media tools. BOTH groups need the gumption to keep learning.
There are no simple answers to fundraising with social media, and getting people to actually click away from mindless scrolling to donate can pose a particular challenge.6 Your organization’s social media fundraising may be more beneficial for creating awareness than generating immediate donations; however, some social strategies have proven effective for raising money, according to an NPR article about the topic.
Peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding “are the kind of financial appeals that come from friends and other humans instead of organizations and typically ask for small sums of money — and they tend to connect with people on a personal level.”
Especially on blogs and Instagram feeds, it seems that friendships can be developed solely through the use of these platforms. All the more reason to get out there and build those virtual relationships!