In the November of 2018, the International Community Foundation (ICF) had an unprecedented crisis. They needed to quickly raise funds to help more than 5000 asylum seekers in the Mexican-Californian border city -Tijuana. Their rapid response team rose to the challenge. In a matter of hours, they raised more than $30,000 for their cause!
They leveraged the power of social media to help in fundraising!
Social media fundraising is one of the most popular ways for nonprofits to raise money. It is the fastest growing area of fundraising in a multichannel world.
Through social media, nonprofits can engage with donors and create a sense of urgency for their cause.
Is your nonprofit brand new to social media fundraising? Need to brush up on your knowledge? This article will help you do so and take your fundraising game to the next level.
The Right Social Network to Fundraise
With 7 out of 10 Americans being on social media, you need to learn where your target audience is and what social channels they prefer.
Every social media user has an average of 5.4 accounts i.e. they are present on at least 5 different platforms. You need to figure out which among these makes the most sense for your organization to target. Consider asking these questions:
- Which is most frequented by your audience?
- In which you can gain maximum engagement from your audience?
- Which is the best platform for your content?
- Which social media channel has the highest number of users?
To give you a better idea, let us look at the number of active users across channels:
Stick to the channels that have the largest amount of growing users. This will help you target potential and existing donors. Don’t invest in a platform unless you’re sure your donors are using them.
If you want to target Gen Z and Millennials, then Snapchat is the right platform to do so. You may not want to consider Snapchat if otherwise.
Still unsure? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are the largest social networks and each works well across most demographics. If you’re starting out, then focus on these three platforms.
TIP: Each social media channel is different, so your posts must be customized to fit that channel. Don’t follow the “cut and paste” approach it’ll just make your work look sappy.
Related Reading: 6 Ways to Tell Your Nonprofit Story With Images
Look at what works for a channel and customize your posts. Doing so, you’ll be able to grab the attention of donors and supporters. For example, Twitter has a limit of 280 characters per post so stick to the word limit and maintain consistency in your tone. If you consider Instagram then stick to storytelling through images and videos.
How to use social media for fundraising?
So, you have decided on the social networks you want to use for fundraising. What’s next?
Here is how most nonprofits would proceed,
- Set up an account.
- Post updates(images, videos etc) asking for donation.
- Use sponsored posts to reach new audiences and request donation.
- Share a post everyday to “keep up momentum”
While this approach may work, it is not the ideal way to use social channels. The fundamental flaw in this method is that it sees social channels as just a means to raising funds.
Instead, it has to be used to inspire donors, engage supporters and motivate volunteers among other things that drive your brand.
“Social fundraising is when people (supporters, donors, evangelists, fundraisers, etc.) share with their personal networks the actions they take related to a cause, all through the megaphone of their mobile devices and social media” – Gary Wohlfeill, Gofundme
So your nonprofit has to focus on empowering donors and followers to share their stories.
This does two things well,
1. Benefit from the power of crowd
The word virality might strike a note. Well, most aim for campaigns like Ice Bucket challenge, but only a few gets there. However, whatever small ripple effect you can get is a great promotion. So thrive on creating great share-worthy content, push it initially and let the crowd take care of the rest.
Audience would be much more inclined to take action for your cause, when they hear it from someone they trust.
2. Social proof drives loyalty
Real stories shared by real people has a more convincing ring in shaping your audience’s mind. This comes with an added advantages of building trust with a new audience.
Also remember, that unlike a peer to peer fundraising effort, you are not encouraging your audience to actively set up a fundraising campaign. You are simply encouraging them to share their story on why and how they support your cause. The idea is to reach like minded people via their (your supporters’) personal network and bring in more followers and new donors for your organization.
An excellent example here is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They do not have a Pinterest page. However, because their content is so powerful (and shareable) you can find a lot of their supporters pinning and re-pinning their posts. Which helps them build a brand on a platform, without even having an official presence in it.
Takeaway: Your social media posts should tell stories that encourage and inspire your audience to share.
Customizing your pages/profiles for social media fundraising
Once you’ve narrowed down on a social channel, you need to customize your profile. Your profile must reflect your organization and stay consistent with the brand. Your profile must include:
- The difference that your nonprofit makes
- A link to your website making it easy for people to donate
After you cover the basics you can move on to adding other adding features to your profile.
Take Advantage of the Cover Photos
Add cover photos to announce new events or raise awareness about your cause. You can also ask for donations with a proper cover image and having a distinct donate button below it.
Add Facebook “Donate” button & tab
If you’re using Facebook for fundraising, you can add a Donate button/tab to raise funds directly from your Facebook page.
This one is pretty straightforward. If you have these, your donors won’t have to follow the links to your website, they can donate in just one click.
All you have to do is set your page’s category to “Non-Profit Organization” to set-up the Donate Now call-to-action button. Once you register as a nonprofit organization on Facebook, you will automatically get access to a ‘Donate’ button under the “add buttons” section.
This is possible in Instagram too. As of May 2019, Instagram has launched ‘Donation’ stickers that automatically become available to you if you are registered as a verified nonprofit. Here is how you can create a donation sticker in your instagram.
NOTE: Adding a Donation sticker is not possible unless your Facebook business account is verified (as a nonprofit) and linked to your Instagram account.
Add a Call to Action to your updates
Adding a call to action to your posts is very important. It reminds people to take the next step. When someone sees your post chances are they want to help share your story or help. But they need a reminder to do so. Say: click here to donate, share this post, link in bio, or help spread the work. Whatever you want your end result to be, add it to your posts.
Further reading: How to use Facebook for fundraising
Telling your Nonprofit’s story
When posting on social media it’s not just about the pitch. You need to tell your followers your story.
Your donors and supporters want to be updated, they want to hear about how you’ve made an impact. This is what you must tell them through your posts.
Give people the chance to learn about your social mission and feel like a part of your cause. Your story should offer a compelling reason to hit that donate button.
What posts to share on social media?
It does seem like a pretty daunting task – to post stories that move your audience so much that they engage with your brand, share the posts and eventually become supporters and donors. But hey I got your back! I am sharing a few ideas that has been successful and that you can replicate.
Thank your donors
So let’s with a pretty simple one. You already have existing donors who contribute to your cause. All you have to do, is share their donations on your social media page. Don’t just stick to a generic “thank you”. Keep it real – tell your audience how you feel about it. Here is an example:
This update by Charity: water on Instagram is remarkable in three ways. Firstly, as a thank you note, it does an excellent job of acknowledging the donors support. Secondly, by sharing a handwritten letter (and the envelope it was mailed in), they just showed their audience the kind of support they enjoy from their to their followers. Thirdly, (more importantly), they chose to highlight a post that evokes an emotional response from their audience! If you squint really hard, you can see that this post has 36 comments. This kind of engagement wouldn’t be possible for say a generic thank you post from a stock image.
Thus, in a single stroke they managed to keep their supporters happy, convey social proof and also increase engagement. Now, if your thank-you posts can do the same, then you are on the right track.
Share real stories
The World Bicycle Relief empowers people across the world by giving them a sustainable mode of transportation (yep, a bicycle). One bicycle makes a world of difference to disaster victims, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs, because it improves accessibility and their productivity. Here is a snapshot of their latest Facebook post.
Even though the number of shares in this post is just 5, it tells the story of how their cause improved the life of a healthcare worker. It puts a face to the organization’s efforts, shows the donors how their contribution has helped and also inspires their followers by showing tangible impact.
You do not have to go looking far, for stories like these. The fundamental idea behind your nonprofit is to make change in people’s lives. Look to the community you are looking to help and you will find a wealth of stories that you can share. It is these stories that inspired you to take up the cause. If their stories have such a profound impact on you, they will definitely impact your audience too!
Straightforward posts to cause change
Social media is a powerful platform to bring change by creating awareness. So, your posts can choose to educate your audience about your cause. If these posts are powerful and catch the audience’s attention, the now-educated audience will turn into followers, then supporters and in due time, also donors.
Take the example of The Story of Stuff Project. This nonprofit talks about the underside of the consumerist society we live in. Using videos, it educates its followers on how the production and manufacturing industry negatively affects the lives of certain communities and the environment as a whole.
Their video on “bottled water”, released on world water day, caught my eye. It has a call to action in the end, where it appeals directly to the audience. More importantly, they have a host of links on their video page that encourages their viewers to interact with them.
Since 55% of engaged audience eventually take action, facilitating such engagement via every channel you are present in, paves the way to gaining new donors.
And of course, the direct fundraising ask
Let us also focus on those posts that directly appeal to the audience for money. Here is an example of one such post:
What I like about this post is that, instead of a point-blank ask, it talks about what the cause is trying to achieve, how much they have accomplished and only then gives a CTA to the reader.
Instead of a generic stock image, they have used a photo from the community they are working for. All these touches make it quite a compelling ask!
I know that it is not easy to get such high-quality content every time. As a nonprofit you would be so pressed for resources that generating quality content is not always a priority. However, what I would like to impress on you is: mix up the every-day posts in your social media profile. Do not make it a banal and serious fundraising ask every time. Use it (like the above examples) to engage and communicate with your audience. Think of it as winning their trust and building relationship one post at a time. Eventually, the followers will turn supporters and then become donors.
Engage in conversations
Social media is not a one-way street, so you’ll need someone to monitor conversations. Every interaction you have should receive a response, even if it’s a simple thank you.
Get more involved with your donors by sharing and retweeting posts and links of influencers. Once you’ve developed a friendly relationship with your supporters and donors, use tools to understand how often they engage. You can use tools like Commun.it to better understand supporter engagement.
Join groups (Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities) that other organizations relevant to your nonprofit are a part of. This will give you an idea of how they engage with their donors.
Once you have built relationships and trust on social media, activate those donors. You can do this by:
- Creating a Hashtag campaign: Encourage your members and donors to tweet about your organization. This will help in spreading the word about your organization. Make use of an original hashtag to do so and include it in your follow-up mail.
- Creating a brand ambassador program: Make your top donors and influencers advocate on your behalf through a brand ambassador program. The program should be mutually beneficial, so give them something in return, maybe a free pass to your next event.
Show the impact
Donors want to know what their contribution has done for your cause, so let them know it with your posts. These kinds of posts act as strong testimonials and let people know the impact of their donations. For example, say for every $20 donation, we could buy 3 pairs of clothes for children in need.
You can use social media to keep your supporter up to date and encourage others to help you reach your targets.
These kinds of posts work well on social media if you use audio, a video or a game accompanying it. Make thank you videos using testimonials from those receiving the benefits of your campaign. Spotlight volunteers and donors showing why they are a part of your campaign.
Taking social media fundraising efforts a step further
Sharing posts from your account is the first step towards raising funds for your cause. If you are following the fundraising tips above, then you are definitely building more momentum and supporters online. While that is a great way to organically build support, here are a few more ideas to supercharge your fundraising efforts.
Yes, you read that right. I did not say influencers. I specifically said micro-influencers.
FACT CHECK: Micro-influencers have better engagements rates than regular influencers.
Micro-influencers are those who do not have an overwhelming number of followers (between 1K to 100K). Their engagement rates with the said followers are considerably higher, thus making them quite valuable for your organization.
Micro-influencers are not celebrities, they are just social media users who are actively speaking up on matters that relate to your cause. They have a network that actively engages with them and this network is whom you want to reach.
Every time they share your posts or talk about your organization, you are essentially bringing your cause in front of their highly engaged network, who share the same sentiments.
Don’t get me wrong – celebrity fundraising efforts do work (like #PuberMe). However, if your nonprofit does not have access to that kind of resources or if you are looking to start out small, look to micro-influencers to improve engagement and raise funds.
Using ‘Stories’ to raise funds
There is a fundamental difference between the Facebook ‘Donate’ button and the ‘Donation’ sticker on Instagram. In Instagram, the Donation sticker is used by your followers to raise money for your cause. That is, every time they post a story, they can choose to add the ‘Donation’ sticker, directing to your nonprofit.
When users from their network clicks on the sticker, they will be prompted with a donation tab to complete donation.
What this means is, the ‘Stories’ feature in your social media profile just became a new way to raise funds. You can now run creative fundraising campaigns to encourage your followers to raise money on your behalf.
But hey, for this to work you need to have an established presence and a huge number of active followers who are willing to pitch in. If you are a small nonprofit or you are just starting out with social media, that may not be possible. In such cases, you can simply use ‘Stories’ to increase engagement (yeah, this again). My personal favorite is how Polar Bear International used #NationalPoetryDay to share one poetry on polar bear in their stories everyday.
Since they saved it as ‘Highlights’, you can see on the 30th day, how all the icebergs have melted! In one stroke, they nailed newsjacking, engagement and visual storytelling (top of the class guys!)
The advantage of ‘Stories’ is that, it gets prioritized over regular posts and is seen right on top. It beats the Instagram algorithm which only shows the users posts that they are most likely to interact with. If most of your followers are casual observers, then there is a good chance that your brand gets buried under all the posts. By posting in ‘Stories’ however, you beat the system and get eyes on your update. Don’t be worried that ‘Stories’ disappear after a 24hr period. You can save it as ‘Highlights’ (like how the Polar Bear International did) so that it is always part of your profile.
Running paid campaigns
You can always look to paid campaigns or sponsored posts to reach new target audience. While it needs an initial investment, if you target your audience right, you can easily start seeing returns.
In the above example, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) wanted to boost their donations over Christmas and New Year to better fund their humanitarian work. They took to Facebook to promote a video talking about what they do. I must say, that the campaign strategy here was an absolute genius. They initially rolled out the video ad as a reach and frequency campaign for relevant audience. Then, after a 5 day period, they looked at who had engaged with that video and re-targeted them with a donation ad.
This is extremely similar to any other fundraising effort. You do not make the donation ask in the first interaction – you build up to it. MSF used the same formula to win funds from prospects. What this teaches us is this: regardless of the channel, the fundraising principles of donor acquisition and making an ask are the same. And as with any other effort, online fundraising too needs immense planning and careful strategy to come to fruition.
Moving offline efforts online
The key objective behind social media fundraising thus far has been to engage your audience (yes, I know that is repeated. But hey, just making sure you haven’t missed it). On that score, all the above ideas are a huge win. However, never forget that social media is just one channel for your audience to engage with you. They are also interacting with you offline. So, it is up to you to encourage those offline interactions to be shared online, by your supporters.
For instance, say a supporter has just bought a ticket to your fundraising event. Then, after ticket purchase, craft a message that encourages him to share his buy in his social media network. This could also hold true for merchandise sales. Instead of having t-shirt sales offline, you can have an online space from where your followers can buy your merchandise.
Use online stores as a part of social media fundraising
You can sell merchandise online to promote your cause and advertise it on social media. Use sites like Shopify to build e-commerce sites. Next, promote it within your Facebook page or other social channels. For example, Buildon uses an online store as a part of its fundraising efforts.
Social media fundraising is all about building a relationship with your followers. That takes time and effort and does not happen overnight. However, once done, it is relatively easier to harness supporters sentiments for your cause via social media, than on any other channel. Now, if you go back to the ICF example we spoke about in the beginning, you will notice that they had spent considerable effort in building that relationship, before they went ahead with their campaign. Also remember, social media fundraising cannot be a standalone effort. It is the cherry on top that bolsters your email and direct canvassing fundraising efforts. Try out these ideas and let me know how it works for you. Feel free to share your thoughts.
Further Reading on Fundraising: