We could do a whole blog dedicated to stories of how social media has changed things, personally and professionally. When it comes to raising money social media has introduced countless ways to reach new donors. Whether you prefer Twitter, or Facebook, MySpace or YouTube, Change.org or your own private online community, social sites have done wonders for spreading the message and issuing calls to action. But as easy as connecting is now it also ushers in a new set of expectations. Increased connections mean an expectation of more personalized requests.
How social media has changed my expectations for fundraising:
The request must be personalized. The technology has been available since the early 90s (if not before that) through mail merges. With the introduction of social media personalization is now an expectation not a choice. Whether it’s adding a first name (please do more than just that) or how you connected to them it is essential to establish a link with the potential donor. The more personal, the better.
The request should have different levels at which potential donors can give. I know the psychology behind making assigned levels of offerings but multiple donations of five dollars are better than scaring someone away because they feel they can’t give under a certain level. Don’t base donation levels on past history either as some donors have been hit hard by today’s economy. Make them feel like any money is good money. The bell ringers for the Salvation Army give you the same hearty thank you regardless of whether you are throwing in a few cents of several dollars. They know it all adds up.
It’s not all about money. Not everyone can help financially right now. Maybe they can provide their time and volunteer for you or maybe all they can lend is a signature to your latest petition but if you don’t give them options on how they can help, you won’t get any (help). Establishing a base of volunteers or supporters can lead to future donations as they spend more time witnessing first hand the work you are doing. Plus just because someone is unable to give now, doesn’t mean they won’t give in the future. Establish connections any way that you can.
What I see is what you’ll get.Your efforts are more transparent than ever. Whether you are out there beating the bushes in social media or others are merely talking about your efforts on your behalf, good or bad, your work is being talked about. Before I give money to a group I’m not familiar with, I’m going to do a little research. Do your best to ensure that what I see is complimentary. You may not be able to combat every disgruntled mention but if I see more of them than I do of you, I’m going to wonder why you’re not taking advantage of the free information exchange that occurs daily on sites. At the very least, upload some pictures of your work throughout the community.
Make it easy (and effective) to spread the word. With social media you can now create a cult-like following, friends telling friends about the good work you’re doing. It’s become infinitely easier to spread the word. But you still need to personalize the message. Having a request come from a friend is more effective than it coming from someone you don’t know but if it’s an obvious form letter it may have very little impact. Encourage people to give their own words to supporting you. Instead of giving them a form letter to copy, enable them to fill in fields about what they think is great about you; something that sets you apart from other groups. That content can then be added to a form letter but this way the recipient gets a feel for why their loved one was drawn to you (in his or her own words). Make it easy for your supporters but take the time to make it worthwhile for you as well.
This morning I received a form email from a friend whose son is raising money through the sale of products, part of which he gets back for his group. I haven’t heard from this “friend” all summer and when I do it’s in the form of a bulk email. If only the organization had prompted these students to draft their own letters (even just partly) I’d be more apt to give.