Blog | Jul 15, 2011 | 10 Comments

[online fundraising: there’s no quick fix]

Online fundraising is growing but still only represents >8% of total fundraising in the U.S. And fundraising through social media channels such as Facebook is even less strong. However, social media will deliver long-term revenue growth if nonprofit leaders make a strong commitment now.

Turning online friends into funders is not easy.

As posted on the blog of the Philanthropy Journal, which quotes the Blackbaud Index of Onine Giving Report (July 2010):

Online fundraising grew 34.5 percent in 2010, compared to the previous year, and accounted for 7.6 percent of total fundraising, a new report says. Large organizations posted 55.6 percent growth in online fundraising, compared to 22 percent at small nonprofits and 15.9 percent at medium-sized nonprofits…

In The Networked Nonprofit, Beth Kanter quotes Betsy Harman, a fundraising consultant, who really hits the nail on the head:

“Any nonprofit who thinks they can simply put a ‘donate now’ button on their website, or slap up [a] Causes page on Facebook and wait for the money to roll in, doesn’t understand online fundraising.”

There is still such a thing as donor cultivation, even online. The same principles of building relationships apply. In fact, Beth even sets a time schedule:

“Building an online community of supporters who want to donate can take six to eighteen months.”

I’ve heard nonprofit leaders say they don’t have time for social media.

Yet they have cultivated other “offline” donor and volunteer relationships over months, years, and even decades, if they’re lucky. Each one of these relationships started somewhere, probably with a small commitment. So although social media fundraising may seem like the online equivalent of a bake sale now, it has very large potential for the future–and not just in terms of money.

How is online fundraising different?

As Beth says,

“People are partners, not ATM machines.”

She also quotes another consultant, Ivan Booth, who says that social media helps cultivate relationships with passionate supporters, “giving them ways to speak in their own voice” and “connecting them with other people.” You’re allowing them to tell your story, or their own story as it relates to your organization, thereby turning them into evangelists. You’re building community around them, which eventually magnifies the effect of your fundraising efforts.

I don’t see the downside in this. What about you?

As you read this today, July 15, I’m in Santa Cruz hearing Beth Kanter speak. Check back here soon for more wisdom I’ve learned from Beth .

Image from the Karla J. Williams Foundation Facebook page
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Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.

10 Comments

Claire – I couldn’t agree more. The perception that social media is easy/instant is clearly mistaken, but nonprofits are nuts not to invest the time in online efforts, as the investment can pay off at a greater scale than traditional face-to-face efforts. (Although obviously it won’t replace traditional means.) I’m seeing many of the music-related nonprofits (in the bay area, of course) really start to work social media to build relationships.

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Claire Wagner Reply:

We were just talking about this – I’m with Suzanne, who orchestrated a Facebook campaign to get a grant for arts education for the Chorale. Thanks, Anne.

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Anne Janzer Reply:

Also, I just saw today that American Bach Soloists is hosting a colloquium at their Summer Academy that includes social media people, on ‘how to use social media to promote concerts’ Fundraising cannot be far behind!

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Claire Wagner Reply:

Yeah! Anne, you should get in touch with Suzanne Oehler at yappergirl.com (also on Facebook as YapperGirl). She is a newer (3-4 years?) Chorale singer who orchestrated the Chase Giving social media campaign for Symphony Silicon Valley. Arts and social media are her thing.

Anne Janzer

7/15/2011

Such a charged topic. Some good points but it seems the conversation is focused on old fundraising techniques (specifically converting existing connections into donors).

While Lead conversion is always a basic operation social media has changed things drastically and I have found creating multiple streams of micro revenue the most effective.

Spending your precious time trying to get your network to go from viewers to donors tends to be seen as hard marketing and breeds resentment in more intelligent markets.

Creating marketing channels specific for these potential micro revenue streams can be a better use of time.

Example: Create a line of Logo Wear or Branded merchandise on Society 6, Redbubble or Threadless and use soft marketing social networks like Flickr, Twitter, Tumblr or Ffffound to post images of product.

By using these approaches you are cultivating people who have proven they lead with their wallets & are much more receptive to being hit up for actual donations.

Cold mailing or contacting your network who found you for you content suddenly for cash can be risky. Treat carefully.

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Claire Wagner Reply:

    These are some interesting ideas, Justin. Most nonprofits have issues with for-profit ventures but the barriers are starting to break down once they can get through tax and legal issues. Many are actually setting up for-profit social enterprises. Thanks as always for sharing your experience and enthusiasm!

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justinstoned

7/15/2011

Most non profits don’t understand they can take & make revenue, they just need to pay tax on it.

More often than not it is a manpower issue and they wish to avoid the extra effort for accounting for taxable sales.

All non-profits have this ability but are not educated or willing to take the steps to take in taxable income.

It’s very fustrating encountering this block in organizations with my clients & groups I’ve worked for.

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Claire Wagner Reply:

But it’s also a huge cultural divide for older organizations that have always operated and identified themselves as charities. Change is slow for them. I work with one that has started a social enterprise because of a lack of funding available for an urgent need in the community, but it’s taking a long time to work out all the kinks. At least they are trying!

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justinstoned

7/15/2011

Nice blog, Claire. The real opportunity here is not about converting “paper donors” to online donors, but about capitalizing on connections and the instant response and social gratification afforded by the online gift. That’s where new donors come in with less direct effort. More nonprofits need to open up to online donation strategies, but with building a lasting relationship in mind.

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Claire Wagner Reply:

It’s always about relationships, right? Thanks, Suzanne!

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Suzanne Oehler

7/15/2011

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