The Children’s National Health System website is one of the best I’ve seen. In any nonprofit vertical.
The main homepage and Foundation homepage were redesigned last fall with a focus on simplicity and content. The design is clean and user-friendly, the content is fresh (thanks to being directly fed from institutional blogs), and the online giving form is flawless. Whether you’re in the healthcare, higher education, environmental, social services, arts, community foundation …really just about any type of nonprofit organization, this design and design process (more on that process in the video below) is one worth emulating.
But it’s not just pretty. This online pageant queen would also win most spelling bees. The smart design behind the new Children’s National website has delivered results. Since making the shift from the older design in November 2013, the Children’s National Foundation has seen three times as many online gifts made and the average size of an online gift double to roughly $275 per gift.
So you want to know how to design a website that triples your donor participation and doubles the size of gifts? Then check out the video below featuring Children’s National Foundation AVP for Communications, Mark Miller and Associate Director of Interactive Communications, Jon Thompson.
A lot goes into planning a giving day for higher education. There’s the online giving page, the ambassadors, communicating with colleagues across many different units and departments – all of it crucially important.
Two specific tactics that have been attached to many of the success stories are based on big donors and big events:
Ohio Wesleyan University, a relatively small school, enjoyed big success thanks to those two factors.
In May 2013, Ohio Wesleyan was looking for a campaign to boost alumni donor participation. Around the same time, “42,” a film based on the Jackie Robinson story, was set to hit theaters.
If you’re not familiar, Jackie Robinson was the first major league baseball player to break the racial barrier and play in the big leagues. Robinson’s rise to MLB was due, in large part, to Branch Rickey – the innovative MLB executive who pushed to bring Robinson into baseball’s top level. Rickey – and subsequently several of his family members – was an Ohio Wesleyan alumnus.
And there’s the hook – a huge, international pop culture event with a prominent alumnus at the center of the story.
So the campaign was set for May 17 and the goal was to reach 360 donors. To help guarantee that would happen, Ohio Wesleyan’s development team worked with a major gift donor who would offer up $25,000 if they could reach the 360 donor goal. This major gift donor often gives a large amount every year and is interested in doing whatever she can to help Ohio Wesleyan increase donor participation. The 42 giving day campaign was used to ensure that donor would make her annual big gift. At the same time, the tactic created an incentive for alumni to give in order to “secure” the big gift in a challenge environment.
In the end, over the course of 42 hours (a time frame set to correspond with the film theme) 377 donors made a gift for a total of $112,965 given during Ohio Wesleyan’s first-time effort toward conducting an online giving day.
And this is just one of many examples of smart, successful online giving days. It’s to the point of being formulaic. From finding an theme that connects with your alumni base, to engaging major gift donors, to all the other aspects of planning an effective event – giving days have gone from guesswork to science. If you’re planning a giving day in the near future, study what works and/or partner with someone with experience in planning giving days that work. You, your annual fund, AND your major gift program will be glad you did!
You’ve probably seen it at least once in your Facebook News Feed – one of your friends dumping a bucket of water on themselves and asking that you either do the same OR make a gift to the ALS Association.
It’s called the “Ice Bucket Challenge” and from a pure fundraising standpoint, it’s been wildly successful. The campaign kicked off in late July and has, so far, directly led to $2.3 million in fundraising. More over, from July 29 to August 12, the ALS Association says they’ve raised more than $4 million. During the same time last year, the Association raised $1.12 million. So, the #IceBucketChallenge is working both from the fundraising and awareness perspectives.
But the campaign has its fair share of detractors who say the #IceBucketChallenge is classic “slacktivism” (though the initial numbers suggest that’s far from true).
So is the effort worthwhile? Are the 70,000+ donors who participated (so far) going to become long-time supporters of the ALS Association? Or does the #IceBucketChallenge provide an easy out for supporters who would give financially but instead take a video of themselves and post it on Facebook (that’s slacktivism, in case you were wondering).
Well, first off, it’s not really slacktivism if the effort leads to 7-figure fundraising hauls. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that slacktivism, if it leads to 7-figure fundraising hauls, is far from a bad thing.
But the ALS Association still has the “problem” of retaining all these new donors.
Fortunately, that’s the easy part. Most successful online campaigns include a rush of new donors. To retain those donors and move them up the pipeline, consider the following:
From what this author knows about them, the ALS Association is a smart organization that is five steps ahead of the tips in this blog post. Which means the ALS Association is probably prepared to enjoy long relationships with their new donors from the #IceBucketChallenge. And your organization can enjoy the same retention success with online donors, if you follow their gifts with a multi-channel, content-driven engagement and stewardship strategy.
Online ambassadors lead to big fundraising results when their efforts are applied to short duration online giving events (a.k.a. “money bombs”). This was certainly true for Wabash College during the school’s inaugural “Day of Giving” online fundraising campaign, when 2,200 donors joined forces to raise $465,000 in just 24 hours. The thing is, those big numbers for little Wabash aren’t the main reason why school leaders are so excited about their first giving day. It’s all the attention and enthusiasm around fundraising that has Wabash officials celebrating well into the new fiscal year.
“That’s what I think’s been talked about more than anything after the day, beyond the numbers, is this sense of excitement and the fun that was happening that day surrounding giving back to the institution,” said Wabash Associate Dean for College Advancment, Joe Klen. “We had our reunion weekend in June and many people were still congratulating the president of the College on a great day of giving.”
Klen said Wabash’s Day of Giving had the feel of an extremely well-attended online reunion. As mentioned above, online ambassadors had a LOT to do with the success of Day of Giving. To learn more about Wabash’s Day of Giving, check out the video below…
Want to hear a lot more of the details from Joe Klen himself? We’ve included the full length interview on the BWF YouTube channel. You can link to the longer interview by clicking here.
Justin Ware helps organizations and institutions build peer-to-peer fundraising programs that lead to real, quantifiable success. Want to learn more about how Justin can help your organization? Click here.
Last month, we wrote on tips to help fundraising professionals get in the game on LinkedIn. In that post, we suggested (implored) gift officers – or anyone with a donor facing role – establish a strong presence on LinkedIn. If LinkedIn is the bare minimum, there are other social networks that can open your fundraising work up to new and highly-capable-of-giving audiences.
Facebook is the most popular social network in the world. According to a recent Pew study, a whopping 71 percent of Americans have a Facebook account. And while this social network is highly personal for some – for others, it’s yet another platform to share their lives with the world. In fact, millionaires are disproportionately more active on Facebook than the general public at large.
So, if you really want to expand your reach as a gift officer, alumni relations pro, grateful patient manager, or annual giving director, you might want to consider putting a professional effort toward Facebook. Here are some tips…
Create lists to separate your personal connections from professional. (Click here for a link with instructions for creating lists of your friends) This will allow you to communicate with your professional friends while not driving your personal friends nuts. It will also keep silly pictures of your dog and kids from clogging your professional friends’ News Feeds.
Connect your personal Facebook content strategy with your organization’s content strategy. (Your organization does have a content strategy, right?) Content marketing is best through a multi-channel approach. This means a great YouTube video gets the most traction when it is shared on Facebook, through email, on Twitter, at events, and through the personal social networks of your staff. Just as is the case with online ambassadors, sharing via the personal accounts of your staff greatly increases the reach of the powerful content you put so much effort into producing to tell your organization’s story.
Be responsive and engaged. It should be obvious, but when people comment on or share something you post to Facebook, respond to them! Thank them, answer their questions, provide more information …use Facebook as a virtual coffee shop to meet your donors.
Ask your Facebook friends questions. While images are hugely important for getting your content noticed on Facebook, sometimes the highest engagement comes from a question. It could be something fun – “Who is your favorite actor to play Batman?” for example. Or, you could ask something about your work – “Which childhood disease would you most want to see cured in the next 10 years?” Either way, a simple question that sparks conversation goes a long way toward building online relationships with your supporters, which ultimately leads to stronger relationships overall that leads to gifts.
I know, I know …for some people Facebook is a deeply personal space that you absolutely wouldn’t want to share with the world. That’s more than fine. Unlike LinkedIn and to a lesser degree blogs and Twitter, Facebook – in part due to its highly personal nature – is far from mandatory. That doesn’t mean it’s not also an enormous opportunity for those willing to jump in professionally. Consider this – do you want a personal relationship with some of your organization’s biggest donors? If you answered yes, then you should consider using Facebook to engage them.
Would you rather keep your Facebook profile private? So would most people.
How about Twitter …not your bag? No big deal! Not a fan of photography? (Yours or other people’s?) Then Instagram probably isn’t the place for you.
But if you’re a gift officer, work in alumni relations, have contact with grateful patients, or have any other role in fundraising that involves connecting with donors, then you must have a personal LinkedIn profile. If not, you’re short changing your organization and missing out on significant and impactful connection opportunities with supporters. Seriously, it’s the equivalent of not having a telephone (and we all know telephones are still crucially important).
So what do you do with your LinkedIn profile? First, update it. Make sure you have:
Next, post information that matters to your community. It could be networking opportunities, fundraising events, big gift news …really, whatever matters to your donors.
Use LinkedIn to find new donors and learn more about current donors. Where they work, if they just got promoted, what volunteer work they’ve completed, which additional social networks are they active on …all of this is information you can find on most people’s public LinkedIn profiles. It’s a treasure trove, it’s free, and it’s as simple as a Google search.
Finally, use LinkedIn to connect with your supporters and donors. In a lot of cases, LinkedIn’s message system will connect you with a donor more effectively than the email address you have on file.
Our donors are more segmented than ever before when it comes to the communication channels they use. For some, the phone is still king. For others, print matters most. For many, face to face interaction is the necessary ingredient to seal the deal. But online is now just as crucial as all those aforementioned channels (with the possible exception of face to face). Don’t believe me? Did you know that 74 percent of ALL consumers now use social media to make purchase decisions? (Klout, 2014 Study) How about that 71 percent of American adults are on Facebook? (Pew, 2014 study) Social media is too ubiquitous in our daily lives to be ignored and LinkedIn is the professional network where many people expect other accomplished professionals to be active. Don’t disappoint this segment of your supporters. Beef up your LinkedIn presence today.
In fundraising, the ultimate metric is donors acquired or retained and dollars raised. The question is, how do we get there? What steps do we need to take in order to secure that final conversion or gift from a donor?
One option is sharing a bundle of statistics that numerically demonstrate the impact your organization has on the world. While that pie-chart packed annual report is important for the CFO types in the crowd, the vast majority of donors (including those CFO types) make a gift, not because of numbers, but because they feel moved to support your cause. Something about the work you do touches a nerve deep inside the donor to the point where they can’t stand the problem you’re addressing and will give everything they can, including money, to end that problem.
As is often the case, we have plenty of examples of this emotional content marketing from the for-profit world. From Steve Jobs to Dove, the best marketers – specifically content marketers – have been pulling money out of our wallets for decades, not by appealing to our heads, but to our hearts. Take, for example, the most recent viral content marketing hit distributed by Dove:
The sense of yearning to love your kid endlessly that comes with being a parent; the want to be a unique, cutting edge individual that Apple so deftly communicated while Jobs was at the helm; the drive to compete and win that shoemakers like Nike have conveyed; those aren’t appeals that require a calculator to ingest – they go straight to the heart and they make people do things a million times faster than any logic-based approach.
Of course, for fundraisers, this should be easy. Your work changes the world and you have countless stories to tell as a result. And now, thanks to social media, you have unprecedented access directly to enormous audiences. When you create amazing content, people take notice and you raise a LOT of money. The key is:
The third item is the most crucial and the most difficult to come by. Creative content geniuses are not easy to find, but if you have them, give them the resources they need. Allow them creative license to produce amazing, heart-wrenching, and awe-inspring content. Doing that (with a strategic vision in mind) is one of the quickest and most effective paths you can take to reaching that ultimate metric of more donors and dollars raised.
Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner and an Emmy-winning content creator who has produced several viral YouTube videos. To learn more about how Justin can help you take content marketing to the next level, click here.
In case you haven’t noticed, online giving days have become kind of a big deal in higher ed. The million dollar+ day is no longer the miracle campaign only the best and most prestigious schools can accomplish. Nope, seven-figure online campaigns are becoming common place. Assuming, of course, the organization planning the campaign knows what they’re doing.
We’ve said on this blog many times – to have a successful online giving day, you need three things:
Below are 10 of the best campaigns of the past three years. Seven of them had a version of an ambassador program, nine of them had elaborate and long-running social media strategies behind them (the only one that didn’t have a long-running strategy did have a powerful ambassador effort), and every single one had excellent online infrastructure. So without further adieu, 10 higher ed online giving days or fundraising campaigns to model your efforts after… (And I’d love to know which campaigns you think I missed. Please let me know in the comments)
Purpose: Scholarship support and regional alumni engagement.
Duration: 27 hours.
Purpose: Scholarship support.
Duration: 24 hours.
Purpose: Increase student giving and the overall culture of philanthropy in support of UMass Amherst.
Duration 36 hours.
For a blog post recap of UMassGives, click here.
Purpose: Online giving event.
Duration: 24 hours.
For a blog post recap of Give Day, click here.
Purpose: Student engagement and annual giving.
Duration: 40 hours.
Purpose: Annual giving online campaign.
Duration: 24 hours.
Purpose: Donor engagement and annual giving.
Duration: 36 hours.
For a blog post recap of ASU’s campaign, click here.
Purpose: Raise money for the school’s communication program.
Duration: 24 hours.
For a blog post recap of Colgate’s campaign, click here.
Purpose: Online fundraising campaign for annual and major giving programs.
Duration: 24 hours.
For a blog post recap of Columbia’s 2012 campaign, click here.
Average donor number: 3,423
Average dollars raised: $2.69 million
Average duration: 29.5 hours
Are you ready to celebrate a successful online giving day? At BWF_social, we have experience building giving days and a consulting package to ensure success for your school. Learn more by clicking here.
Seems like every week… shoot, almost every DAY now we’re hearing about another $1 million+ online fundraising campaign or giving day in higher education. From Arizona State to Boston University, these seven-figure giving days are becoming the norm rather than anomalies.
But how, right? What is it these schools are doing differently or better than other institutions who are having mixed results?
To get to the bottom of planning a successful giving day, we asked Washington and Lee’s Annual Giving Director, Skylar Beaver, what’s the secret sauce? By answering three short questions in the video below on W&L’s $1.4 million “Give Day” on April 24, Skylar provides an overview for how you might go about planning your giving day in 2015:
Significant lead or challenge gifts to encourage participation and boost overall giving.
We’d also add good, easy-to-use online infrastructure (in other words, a campaign page and giving form that more donors describe as “fun” rather than “maddening”) and a robust online ambassador program. Really, when you do that combined with the above items, it’s tough to fail.
Are you ready to start the planning for your giving day in 2015? BWF_social has a package to help our higher education partners succeed with online giving days. To find out more, contact our Director of Interactive Communication, Justin Ware, by clicking here or here.
Arizona State: $3.059 million in 36 hours … Columbia University: $7.8 million in 24 hours (after raising $6.8 million just one year earlier) … Santa Clara University: 2,600+ donors in 24 hours – by far their biggest day for donor participation ever.
Short duration, online fundraising campaigns or “money bombs” are taking over higher education. But it’s not as easy as sending out an email and posting a few things on Facebook. The institutions that have had success have invested tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in three main areas to prepare for these online events:
If you’re interested in learning much more about the above suggestions, check out the following web chat from the Chronicle of Philanthropy (full-length chat posted below). In it, I’m joined by Georgetown’s Joannah Pickett (chief architect and strategist behind GU’s perfectly executed City Challenge online campaigns), Ohio State’s Chad Warren (one of the best online campaign planners in the business who has both Florida State’s Great Give and Dayton’s I Love UD campaigns under his belt), and the Chronicle’s Cody Switzer:
Are you ready to plan an online fundraising campaign for your institution? We have plenty of experience helping our clients achieve online fundraising success during these money bomb efforts. Click here for my BWF contact info or here for my LinkedIn to connect with me (Justin Ware) and learn more about how we might work together.
Content, content, content… In some ways, it’s the simplest concept: produce lots of good content and you’ll have more supporters and more goodwill among those supporters (not to mention online hooks that catch new supporters).
The thing is, creating good content – especially on a consistent basis – is anything but simple. You need at least one brilliantly creative mind, plus a firm grasp of what it is that your audience wants. In other words, good content is one part art form (the creative component) and one part science (the data that details your audiences’ preferences). Fortunately, there are some leaders in this space who are showing us the way. One of them is Shannon Riffe, the assistant director of marketing and online engagement at the University of Michigan.
In the video below, Riffe talks about the recently completed Victors Valentine online engagement campaign, and how the campaign introduced nearly 1,000 potential donors to the homepage of Michigan’s current $4 billion campaign:
When you’re selling shoes, the metric to prove social media ROI is relatively easy. Ultimately, it boils down to …how many shoes you’ve sold. (A lot of quantifiable engagement metrics lead to that end result, but ultimately, shoe sales trump all else).
For many of us working in the nonprofit world – higher education, in particular – there is no sale-of-shoes metric that easily tells us what’s working and what’s not. Sure, there’s fundraising, event attendance, number of applicants, and other quantifiable objectives, but there’s also the far less tangible goals of improving the reputation of and sentiment toward your institution. At a very high level, those are the goals Santa Clara University’s marketing and communication pros are chasing and – thanks, in part, to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama – SCU (a BWF client) has an excellent case study on how to prove the value of a strong social media strategy.
“Santa Clara University is the Jesuit University in Silicon Valley and the theme of the talk ‘Business, Ethics and Compassion’ played into much of our key messaging,” said Marika Krause, Assistant Director of Media Relations at SCU.
On February 24, the Dalai Lama spoke to about 5,000 people on the Santa Clara campus, providing SCU with a daunting challenge, but also a tremendous opportunity.
Ultimately, SCU’s MarComm team is working to drive home the institution’s strategic priorities which include excellence in Jesuit education, the promotion of global understanding, justice, academic community, and engagement with Silicon Valley (where SCU is located). For nearly two years, Santa Clara’s communication pros have been building and implementing a strong social media strategy and presence. So when the Dalai Lama visit was announced for late winter, the SCU MarComm team knew they had an opportunity to make big things happen online.
“He is one of the biggest names to visit SCU,” said Stephanie Bravo, Assistant Director of Social Media. “His message of peace, compassion, and social justice naturally fit with SCU’s message.”
Bravo says, in addition to the strategic priorities, her team’s goals also include growing SCU’s online and social media communities. Then, using those communities to clearly communicate the message and priorities of the institution.
“Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and BuzzFeed. We also used Storify to pull it all together after the event. The key to tying it all together was one unifying hashtag the we put on all the programs, press releases – even banners outside the event.” said Krause.
“The hashtag was the main tool that kept us organized. It kept the public informed before the event and engaged during the event. It worked so well to generate content that we were able to create photo albums from hundreds of people’s photos from the event,” said Bravo. “A team of 5 student interns were instrumental in helping me post live at the event, which led to our trending on Twitter throughout the day.”
That’s right, the relatively tiny Santa Clara University was sharing space on Twitter’s nationally trending topics list with big hitters such as Netflix and the news of Hollywood comedic legend Harold Ramis’ passing.
Again, a large contributing factor to SCU’s success, was the work put towards strategic planning since mid 2012.
“We had less than two months to pull off more than a year’s worth of logistical planning for the Dalai Lama’s visit. I’m pretty glad we’re all still standing!” said Krause. “I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise that we did so well on social media, because I think we had the groundwork in place for it to happen, but I’m grateful. Social Media is far from an exact science.”
As for advice on managing an event like this? Santa Clara Communications Director Deepa Arora offers the following…
“Be adventurous, try new things, be prepared for the unexpected. On the Live Twitter Feed during the event, some of the tweets were considered inappropriate,” said Arora. “Some students who tweeted the Dalai Lama were inviting him for a drink or asking about rumors, such as if Beyonce was in the audience. We monitored the Twitter feed, but did not delete any tweets. We had to do some hand holding to prepare senior administrators for the tone of the feed, but reminded everyone that SCU is a college campus and sometimes students say silly things. There’s no reason to turn off the Twitter feed for that.”
In the end, Santa Clara’s savviness with regards to managing internal and external forces, led to an amazingly well orchestrated event. And it wasn’t an accident. It’s the product of dedicating staff and resources to creating a sound social media strategy that’s ready for anything or, in this case, anyone.
Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. Justin has been working with Santa Clara University since fall 2012. To learn more about Justin and his work, click here.
When I ask clients “do you have a social media strategy?” they will often point me to a list of guidelines for best practices on using social media. Make no mistake, establishing guidelines for your organization’s use of social media is smart …but it’s far from a strategy.
An online and social media strategy – a document that helps you effectively manage your presence and accomplish fundraising goals – consists of two parts.
The two components of your strategy should work together. For example, the first portion (the goals/tactics/resources/metrics piece) should be applied to the timeline to help planners create a cohesive, on-message, and consistent approach for managing homecoming …or for the communication plan around a hospital gala …or the one-day fundraising effort for your small nonprofit around #GivingTuesday.
Why does this matter? Think about your organization’s online activity. Is it a series of one off posts that have no interconnectivity? When you post something on Facebook or Twitter, are you thinking about how that post will impact your audience’s sense of philanthropy around a specific initiative, say a scholarship drive? If you’re planning an online fundraising campaign in support of scholarships in five months, you should be posting content that (however subtly and cleverly) reinforces that audience’s understanding of the importance of supporting scholarship-related fundraising activity over the next five months (among other good content aimed at other strategic goals, of course).
Unfortunately, too many content decisions are made based on “what’s happening right now?” or “what do we need to immediately accomplish?” or “what’s hot in the news?” Not to say those things don’t matter. In fact, a portion of your social media activity needs to be reactive to provide adequate customer service. The best content is audience-focused and timely. But that doesn’t mean strategic messaging can’t be baked into the content. Not to mention, advanced planning actually frees your staff up to be more reactive, because they’ve already completed some of the work needed to reach those long-term goals.
To do the big things requires a long-term strategy that everyone on your team supports and understands. So what does this look like in real life?
When you plan in advance, produce a timeline, and have a strategy to guide it all, you’re positioning your organization for success. And with how important online communication has become for nonprofits, it’s imperative your organization or institution finds the resources to enact this strategic approach.
Justin Ware is the Director Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. If you’d like to learn more about how Justin helps clients build strategies that lead to six- and seven-figure online fundraising success, click here.
There’s nothing like the feeling after an intense fundraising campaign ends with all the goals met. And of course, it’s great when your organization blows past its goals. But how about when you beat your goals by more than 3,800 percent?
That was the glorious experience Arizona State University development pros enjoyed after ASU recorded an awe-inspiring $3,059,265 during the second annual, two-day, Mark It Day online fundraising campaign. That $3 million haul vastly exceeded the modest goal they had set of $76,611. (ASU had raised roughly $170,000 during the first Mark It Day one year earlier)
So… HOW?!?! Well, to begin with, ASU had solid online infrastructure built on the iModules platform. An attractive landing page for the campaign had a nice mix of fundraising asks, updates, and engaging content…
Beyond the basics, Arizona State’s annual giving and interactive marketing teams got together to assemble a strategy built around smart, fun, engaging content. The very idea of the campaign is both cute and engaging. Markie – essentially a map pin mascot – encourages ASU alumni to mark their place on the map with a gift. It’s the type of campaign where donors contribute almost involuntarily, because taking part is so much fun thanks to the technology.
Another key to ASU’s success were the efforts at bringing the entire campus community on board with the campaign.
“Mark It Day 2014 had increased partner participation with colleges, programs, faculty, staff, and students all helping spread our message and encouraging people to support ASU,” said Stacy Holmstedt, Senior Director of Internet Marketing.
Holmstedt and fellow campaign planner, Senior Director of Annual Giving Shad Hanselman, worked diligently to get their colleagues on board by providing them with the resources they needed to successfully contribute to the effort.
“We created a lot of custom prepared social media messaging and art for each of the colleges so they could just plug it in and go,” said Holmstedt. “We’ve found that the easier you make it for your colleagues, the higher amount of success you’ll have in getting your message out to a wide audience.”
ASU also didn’t let the enthusiasm from the first Mark It Day in 2013 die after the campaign closed. Instead, they used Markie to keep the idea of philanthropy alive and thriving throughout the year.
“Markie has his own social media presence and thousands of followers, and he kept them engaged throughout the year, not just in the weeks building up to the campaign,” said Holmstedt. “He did some fun things like leading a Fight Song Sing-Along video and constantly posted shout-outs to students who were being philanthropic, even if they weren’t giving directly to ASU. Building a culture of philanthropy has been of great importance here.”
As for advice, Holmstedt and Hanselman say “start planning early” and learn what it is about your audience that will motivate them to give during the campaign.
“Ours like seeing their names appear on a map in real-time; both the individual recognition and the instant gratification are motivational to our audience,” said Holmstedt.
But perhaps most important, don’t go it alone.
“Getting buy-in from the whole university is also key. This can’t just be a foundation effort, it has to be ‘everyone in.'”
A message to social media managers, consultants, gurus, experts, etc – STOP TELLING NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS YOU CAN’T RAISE MONEY ON SOCIAL MEDIA. It’s cliche and it’s not true. But you don’t have to take my word for it…
In October 2012, Columbia University launched their inaugural Giving Day. By all accounts, Giving Day 2012 was a monstrous success raising more than $6.8 million from 4,940 donors. How did so many thousands of donors decide to jump on board? Primarily, because those donors learned of the campaign via social media and made their gifts directly after seeing a post on social media. 55 percent of all referral traffic to Columbia’s online giving page during the campaign came via social media. In other words, social media led directly to a lot of giving activity during Columbia’s Giving Day.
Still not convinced? Think about the online ambassador programs that we at BWF have helped multiple clients build. During ambassador-led fundraising campaigns, on average, those institutions saw 40 percent of all giving come from new donors. 40 percent. That flurry of new donor activity happened because dozens, in some cases hundreds, of passionate supporters were sharing the message of the campaign with their friends via social media networks. Again, this peer-to-peer social media activity was a direct driver of fundraising activity.
I get it – when someone says “you can’t raise money on social media” they’re referring to the approach of an organization or institution sending out bland fundraising asks via their official Facebook or Twitter accounts. It’s true that approach rarely works. The carpet-bombing-your-audience-with-posts-begging-for-money method is an unimaginative approach that applies old marketing principals (push messaging) to new channels (social media networks). But we know better than that now. We know how to strategically engage influential social media users and work with them to build wildly successful six- and seven-figure online fundraising campaigns.
So yes, you can use social media to raise money online. In fact, when the following three things are done and done well, I don’t know of a single organization that has fallen short of its online fundraising goals:
Doing the above is not free. It’s takes significant staff time and probably an investment in outside counsel and a tech vendor (Columbia had both). But when the investment is made, you absolutely can use social media to raise (a lot of) money.
Bentz Whaley Flessner’s Justin Ware helps clients build online ambassador programs that lead to successful online fundraising campaigns. If you’d like to have online fundraising success, connect with Justin by clicking here.
Finally, you get the green light to purchase that fundraising or crowdfunding platform that gives you all the tools you need to start raising real money online.
Maybe you’ve had these online platforms in place for a few months or years now. And if you’re like many nonprofits, you’re not having the fundraising success you envisioned when signing the dotted line to purchase that shiny new software.
What happened? Why is it that your fundraising campaigns continue to fall short of their goals? Chances are, it’s not the platform’s fault (and you probably know that).
Without a single exception, every online fundraising campaign this author can think of was successful when the organization did the following three things (and did them well):
When the above three things are done well, the organization running the campaign has always met or exceeded its goals. Every. Single. Time. When the organization cuts corners on strategy or doesn’t have an online ambassador program, the success rate drops significantly.
So, when investing in a good online giving or crowdfunding platform (and you should, campaigns are rarely successful without good infrastructure) make sure you’re saving budget to build a strategy that includes online ambassadors and content production so those ambassadors have something to share.
Justin Ware helps nonprofit clients build online and social media fundraising strategies that lead to six- and seven-figure online fundraising campaigns. On Thursday, March 20, he’ll be hosting a FREE webinar on the topic. To register, click here.
Attention major gift crowd: what’s your mobile strategy? According to this BBC World News study, you need one.
The BBC World News and BBC.com study surveyed 6,000 smartphone owners from the US, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, India, and Sweden and found that:
For quite some time, we at BWF_social have been suggesting clients look at online as a major gift tool, in addition to something to strengthen the annual fund. Additional studies tell us that online-acquired donors give larger gifts, give more of their lifetimes, and have greater capacity to give. That established data combined with this most recent smartphone study and it’s clear – no major gift program is as effective as it could be it doesn’t use online and social media for lead generation and stewardship (at a minimum).
And really, this mobile news should come as no surprise. Click here for a 23-year-old Radio Shack ad that shows just how powerful of an all-in-one tool our smartphones have become…
Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Now get to work on a strategy that leverages these amazing tools!
Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner where he helps nonprofit clients build comprehensive online and social media fundraising strategies.
Online fundraising and crowdfunding can do more for your major gift program than it can for your annual fund.
No, really. I’m serious. Here’s my evidence – Colgate University raised $5.1 million – the majority of the dollars coming from major donors – during a campaign that was broadcast via their radio station WRCU …which is streamed online. The bulk of the dollars came in via major donors who wanted to drive up participation during the campaign (The focus of this campaign was a more annual fund-centric, participation-centered goal …but several six and seven figure gifts were the end result, along with a lot of donors).
For the full story, check out the article on Forbes.com. For a brief summary, here’s a few bullets:
OK …so what’s the takeaway and how does this relate to online fundraising and/or crowdfunding? There are multiple ways…
Crowdfunding is a social event that creates buzz. If you have a major gift donor who likes the spotlight, consider inviting them to participate by offering a similar challenge. It’s the naming rights concept translated to the digital space.
Of course, while we’re at it, why restrict this approach to just major gift donors? Corporate and foundation support is increasingly important in the philanthropic space. Given the exposure a solid crowdfunding or online fundraising campaign offers, corporate partners would likely be champing at the bit to get involved with an effort like this and all the related marketing appeal.
The potential for connecting your online and crowdfunding efforts to your major gift and corporate development programs are immense. So what are you waiting for? Multi-million dollar fundraising efforts that bring about impressive donor acquisition at all levels are there to be had for those who can build a smart strategy.
Crowdfunding is a great for small gifts and donor acquisition. It’s also a powerful tool for major donor prospecting and corporate foundation relations. Don’t believe us? Well then, you’ll just have to attend our Crowdfunding Boot Camp in Washington, D.C. on February 27th! We’ll share examples that prove those points. Then, we’ll help your organization develop a strategy to achieve those results through a successful online and social media strategy.
Having an advanced online fundraising and/or crowdfunding strategy is one of the best things your organization can do to raise money and (especially) acquire more new donors in 2014. We say this because…
So join us on the Georgetown campus on Thursday, February 27th from 9am to 4:30pm for this full-day event. Along with sharing lots of online fundraising success stories, we’ll show you how to set up a successful program for your nonprofit organization or institution.
Click here to sign up now and we’ll see you next month in the Nation’s Capital!
The BWF Crowdfunding Boot Camp will be led by BWF’s Director of Communication, Justin Ware. Feel free to send any questions Justin’s way by clicking here for his contact info or by connecting with Justin here on LinkedIn.
Wanna raise a blizzard of money online? Well then, tie your online fundraising in with a snowstorm!
That’s exactly what a single online ambassador did for Indiana nonprofit Wheeler Mission Ministries. The result? $41,000 raised through Twitter. That’s right – using ONLY Twitter, a single online ambassador raised more than $40,000 during one single snowstorm. For more on that story, check out the full post from SocialMedia Today by clicking here.
Hijacking Current Events = Fundraising Success
The snowstorm Twitter surge mentioned above happened when a smart supporter of Wheeler Mission decided he’d ask his connections to pledge a dollar amount for each inch of snow that fell during the storm. The end total was $3,700 per inch, which led to the $41,000 total for the 11+ inch storm.
The strategy above is known as “hijacking” a current event. Super Bowls, weather events, the Oscars, holidays …all can be leveraged to boost online fundraising in a big way. For another example, look at the first Tweetsgiving.
The up-and-coming-at-the-time Epic Change organization wanted to fund a school in Tanzania. To do so, they needed $10,000.
During Thanksgiving 2009, the fledgling Epic Change group started sending out tweets with the hashtag #Tweetsgiving. Using that hashtag, Epic Change tweeters starting posting about what they were thankful for during the season of thanks. The hashtag caught on and soon thousands of people were tweeting their thanks using the hashtag #tweetsgiving.
Periodically, the Epic Change team would include a link to the online fundraising page in a tweet using the #Tweetsgiving tag. After just 48 hours, the buzz around the campaign led to the easy fulfillment of their goal, with more than $11,000 being raised. Epic change reached their funding goal by “hijacking” the Thanksgiving holiday by adding a clever twist in hashtag form.
What current events can your organization hijack for similar success?
As counterintuitive as that sounds, a recent study highlighted in this John Haydon blog post tells us that giving donors an option to give and NOT to give actually doubles the likelihood they will donate.
It’s called the “But You Are Free” approach to a giving ask. In other words, along with saying “Please donate by clicking here” you would also want an adjacent button that says “You are free not to give by clicking here.” (The approach worked best face-to-face, but also worked well when done via email)
So NOW what??
From an online giving standpoint, the next logical question is …if someone clicks on the “But you are free not to give” option, where does that link take them? Do you ask them to instead share some content via a social network or email? Ask them to ask their friends to support the cause? …redirect the to a homepage? …or end of story, do nothing at all? I think this makes for a great conversation, so I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or online at Twitter or LinkedIn.
User generated content – it’s the holy grail of content marketing. But as many who have tried can tell you, it’s not as simple as asking your audience to “submit your favorite photos of (fill in the blank).”
First, it needs to be easy on the user. I mean, REALLY easy …like including a simple hashtag in a post is all they should need to do. Which is the case for students, alumni, and supporters of the University of San Francisco, thanks to the institution’s use of Scoop.it – an online application that builds audiences through publishing by curation.
Scoop.it helps the University of San Francisco’s e-communications team track content tagged with the #USFCA hashtag on leading social networks such as Instagram, Twitter, and blogs. After a post using the #usfca hashtag is discovered, that content is then reviewed. If it passes muster, the USF e-comm team features that content on the Hashtag.usfca.edu website. The result is a conglomeration of photos, videos, and stories about life at and around the University of San Francisco.
“Hashtag.usfca.edu fits perfectly into how we work towards the strategic goals,” said Thomas Listerman, Director of E-Communications at USF. “We curate content as a part of our regular monitoring – morning, noon, and afternoon.”
And it’s working. The Hashtag.usfca.edu project has led to a spike in visitors to USF’s web presence.
“We launched in March 2013 and after 9 months, we have now reached 130,000 views and 960 unique contributing sources,” said Listerman.
The Scoop.it page has also led to extensive use of the #usfca hashtag.
“We also measure (through radian6) the social media footprint in terms of social media conversations that mention the university name, and specifically conversations that include #USFCA,” said Listerman. “Compared to the same month last year, we have seen an average 168% increase in USF-relevant conversations overall and a 573% increase for the use of #USFCA.”
Like most universities, the University of San Francisco has few staff resources assigned to social media.
“Three full-time staff manage both email marketing and social media for the university, so we have to use our time efficiently,” said Listerman. “The monitoring and review process of #USFCA has been a way for us to generate more social media content, and more engagement with our content, with much less effort compared to creating the social media content ourselves.”
The Hashtag.usfca.edu Scoop.it site is authentic while also remaining on brand, thanks to the review process. Since it’s easy to use, there’s no shortage of user-generated submissions. And, because it’s user-generated, it’s helping USF understand what matters to its constituents, which shapes overall content marketing.
“The data from Hashtag.usfca.edu is playing an increasingly important role for our content marketing strategy,” said Listerman. “We use metrics from hashtag.usfca.edu and our other social media venues as a live ‘Litmus test’ for which stories to develop further through other channels.”
Interested in conducting your own content marketing campaign similar to what the University of San Francisco has done using Scoop.it? Listerman has the following list of tips to offer:
Justin Ware helps higher ed institutions, healthcare organizations, environmental organizations, and other nonprofits develop content marketing strategies. To connect with Justin to learn more, click here.
Online communicators tend to harbor love/hate relationships with Facebook Ads. On one hand, no other form of online advertising – quite possibly no other form of advertising, period – allows a marketer to hyper target their message to the precise audience they’re looking to reach for such a small investment. In other words, Facebook Ads are efficient.
On the other hand, Facebook has changed its News Feed algorithm so that posts you make from your page that aren’t “promoted” (read: Ads you pay for) have very little chance of being seen by your fans. In other words, if you don’t have cash to spend, Facebook may no longer be a worthwhile investment of resources.
The latter, more negative, “hate” view of Facebook brought about by its recent focus on selling Ads is a gut reaction by many of us. But to ignore Facebook and its more than 1 billion users is a recipe for disaster. If you want to grow your nonprofit base while staying connected with your current supporters, Facebook is a must. So, knowing that, here are two things you can do in 2014 to make the most of the world’s leading social network:
Content is (still) King: Facebook Ads are most effective when they’re set up to appear in a user’s News Feed. To optimize clicks and impressions, you should create content that looks like it belongs in the News Feed…
Really, all the rules that apply to good content also apply to Facebook Ads, because Facebook Ads are set up to look like content people share on a daily basis.
Leverage Online Ambassadors: As we’ve written about in the past, there is a way around Facebook’s increasingly restrictive algorithms – don’t rely solely on your page to share content about your organization. Instead, work with your online ambassadors to deliver content to their networks. Content means more when it comes from a trusted peer …which online ambassadors are to a large number of people. More importantly, Facebook’s page algorithms don’t apply to individuals. So, when online ambassadors share your content, far more people will see it. Use ambassadors to either directly post content from their profiles or share content posted on your org’s page.
Facebook is too intertwined in the daily lives of your donors to be ignored and Facebook Ads too effective to forego. Be sure when you’re making the investment in Ads, you’re doing so in a strategic, content-driven fashion to help ensure your dollars are well spent.
Justin Ware helps nonprofits develop online and social media strategies for fundraising. To connect with Justin, click here.
BuzzFeed is the embodiment of the move toward visual that has consumed social media in recent months. You’ve probably seen a few yourself – BuzzFeeds are those lists of images and gifs such as “21 Reasons Why Exercising is a Terrible Idea” and “The 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013.” They’re funny, heart-warming, and the safest bet of just about any content to go viral.
So it makes sense that Santa Clara University (a BWF client) decided to leverage BuzzFeed for their online and social media engagement and content marketing activity.
“The idea to use BuzzFeed really came from vigilant monitoring of social media,” said Marika Krause, Assistant Director of Media Relations at Santa Clara. “I noticed how many people were liking and sharing BuzzFeed links in my newsfeed.”
Krause is part of social media team at Santa Clara led by Assistant Director of Social Media Stephanie Bravo and Communications Director Deepa Arora. Bravo and Arora have been focused on using online and social media to connect with SCU alumni and supporters who might not otherwise be connected to the institution (in addition to serving those with a high degree of connection already). BuzzFeed, the team found, fits that need perfectly.
“It is vital to have a strong presence on multiple social media platforms, because the communities are in constant transition – anyone remember Friendster or when MySpace was the biggest player?” said Krause. “As social networks evolve, each site serves a different purpose, with different levels of popularity, and means different things to the unique population using them.”
The result is a series of BuzzFeeds – some created by students and alumni, others by the Office of Marketing and Communication at Santa Clara – that capture what it means to be a student at Santa Clara in the heart of Silicon Valley. All the while, keeping a strategic message there for everyone to see in the best, least-intrusive way possible.
“The content is engaging with subtle nods to Santa Clara University,” said Krause. “We’re not banging people over the head with a message, but instead inviting them to enjoy some easily digestible content with a little Santa Clara flavor.”
Maybe the best example is this BuzzFeed – Top 7 Reasons You’re Addicted to BuzzFeed. In the visually-driven spirit of BuzzFeed, here’s a breakdown of why this particular Feed is such an awesome example of content marketing…
Top 4 Reasons Why SCU’s BuzzFeed Rocks Content Marketing’s Socks
For more on content marketing and how it helps your achieve online fundraising success, connect with BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware by clicking here.
It’s the day after #GivingTuesday and your organization is flush with first-time donors. You had a strategy to boost participation and acquire new donors. That strategy worked great, but now what? After a big online fundraising rush comes the real work of retaining those new donors. The following are a few tips to help you turn someone’s online impulse to give into a lifetime of support for your mission.
Thank first time donors: They’re online donors and so far, that’s the only way they’ve supported your organization. So be sure you thank them in a clever, engaging, and (most importantly) online way. Be ready with a brief, funny or heartwarming, and shareable video that reinforces their gift and makes them want to give more. Produce an infographic you can share with these new donors …a top ten list of why their support is so important …an email from someone who’s benefitted from your mission. Something, anything online that catches their attention and thanks them in a way that leaves them wanting more.
…but don’t forget about mail. Studies tell us dual channel (online and mail) donors give more money per gift and over time. That’s especially true when the donor receives follow up information from the nonprofit via both mail and online. So send them a welcome packet in the mail. Then study their response. Is online the only way they continue to interact? If so, significantly reduce the amount of mail they receive going forward. Then, reallocate those savings from reducing your mail program to add more staff and technology to support your online stewardship. Obviously, you should thank all your donors who give on #GivingTuesday. Be sure to have a unique plan for the first-timers who’ve come to support your organization via the web.
Steward through great content marketing: With all we know about the power of good content and how it moves donors to give more often and acquires new donors, you should have a solid content marketing strategy in place already. With an influx of new donors from #GivingTuesday, it’s especially important you’re producing and/or sharing good content to tell your story and reinforce their intent to support your organization.
This is another component of retention. New online donors will often visit your website, Facebook page, or blog to learn more about what you do. It’s imperative you have a rich set of content ready to greet those new, curious donors and steward them toward becoming more entrenched supporters.
Find new online ambassadors: Chances are, some influential social media users gave to your organization on #GivingTuesday. In your thank you message(s), ask for the donors’ Twitter handles, Facebook profile URL, blog URLs, website links, etc. Then, review their submissions to find social media users with large online followings. There’s a decent chance many of these social media savvy new donors wield influence online and can help you raise more money during upcoming giving days and online campaigns. Identify these potential online ambassadors and build them into your online fundraising and stewardship strategies.
It’s never too early to start planning, especially when it comes to next year’s budget. As for that budget, it should include money for online and social media under the communications heading. If it already does include budget for online and social, unless you’re beating all your fundraising goals (online and off line), it should include more money this year.
Why? I’m glad you asked. The following are three, statistically-backed reasons why you want to be doing more online to boost your fundraising in the next 12 months and beyond…
New donor acquisition: Well-run online fundraising campaigns are absolute juggernauts when it comes to acquiring new donors. A recent, informal BWF survey of mostly higher education institutions found that, on average, 40 percent of the donors who give during online ambassador-driven campaigns are new donors. While we haven’t crunched the numbers yet, when it comes to the healthcare examples we know of, that number is even higher.
And here’s the thing – we’re not talking about 22-year-old donors who can barely make ends meet …online-acquired donors have higher household incomes, are more educated, and give larger gifts than donors acquired via mail. And, they’re not just kids. For everyone under age 65, online is now the primary method they use to make their first gift.
Stewardship: A good social media content marketing strategy helps donors understand how their gifts make a difference. The more you share that story online, the more their decision to give and give again is reinforced. That’s true for donors at all levels. Good social media content marketing is a major component of modern donor stewardship.
But what about stewarding major donors? Online and social media are just too impersonal, right? Not if you don’t want it to be. Check out this wonderful thank you video from Cornell to a generous supporter. Not only does content like this recognize the donor it honors, but that donor can easily share this video with their connections – many of whom are potential major donor prospects themselves. Content marketing is just as, if not more powerful in your major donor stewardship programs as it is for the annual fund.
You’ll raise money! By now, you’ve probably heard about Columbia University’s back-to-back $6.9 million and $7.8 million 24-hour campaigns. But have you also heard about how the University of Dayton raised $1.7 million in one month through an online ambassador program? …or how Georgetown used gamification to raise more than $500,000 in 27 hours? …or how the University of Massachusetts Amherst exceeded the entire previous year’s worth of student giving in a day and a half? You don’t have to be an Ivy League school to raise big money online. All you need is a smart online and social media strategy that’s connected to a well-planned online fundraising campaign.
Now that you know you
should must increase your investment in online and social media for fundraising, where should you allocate that investment? Below are three tips that will help you raise more money now and long-term.
An online ambassador program: Identify, engage, steward, and leverage your most influential online supporters to boost your online fundraising and awareness-building activity. Use smart tech, dedicated personnel to managing the program, and treat your ambassadors like the valuable volunteers they are… ALL YEAR LONG. Not just leading up to a fundraising campaign.
Better online infrastructure: Ease of use is enormous. You must be sure that your online giving process is as attractive, trusthworthy-seeming, and effortless as possible. Give donors the ability to make a gift from where ever they feel comfortable online – from email, on a mobile device, or via social networks like Facebook. Good tech (when coupled with a good communications strategy) is always worth the investment.
Personnel to create and manage an online strategy: You need a detailed social media strategy that delineates how your online and social media is going to help you reach your goals. This is not guesswork anymore. There are experienced professionals (and consultants!) who know what it takes to raise more money online. Hire them and build a strategy to help you increase online and social media fundraising in 2014 and beyond!
If you’re looking for a step-by-step recounting of how to use social media for advancement, check out this recent white paper assembled by mStoner and CASE. (BWF contributed two of the case studies to this effort)
How did UMass Amherst boost it’s culture of philanthropy by acquiring more than 1,000 new donors in 36 hours (half of them students)?
What allowed Georgetown to pull in more than a half million dollars from donors across the country during its 24-hour City Challenge online campaign?
And how in the world did Columbia University raise $6.8 million from 4,400 donors in just a single day? …most of it online?
Those stories plus three more case studies are included in the white paper “#SocialMedia, Advancement, and Fundraising in Education.” Download it, have a read, and then apply the lessons learned to your own online fundraising and advancement initiatives. No matter your size or goals, the tactics can be scaled to meet your institution’s needs.
Would you like to learn more about using social media to raise more money? Connect with BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication, and co-author of the aforementioned white paper, Justin Ware by clicking here.
They did it again. This time, it was even bigger.
On October 23, Columbia University hosted its second annual Giving Day. An almost entirely online, ambassador-driven fundraising campaign that ranks among the most successful in history. In just 24 hours, Columbia raised more than $7.8 million dollars from 9,759 donors. Those who gave represent 53 countries and all 50 states.
The logical question is, “how?” We’ll get to the specifics on that in a later post, but here’s what we already know about Giving Day 2013 and what made it successful (which are the same things that can make your online fundraising campaigns successful, albeit at scale):
And that is probably the most impressive thing that we can glean (so far) from Giving Day 2012 – well-run online giving days are not fads. When smart strategy, experienced personnel, innovative tech, and enthusiastic ambassadors come together, online giving days become tradition.
Justin Ware is the director of interactive communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. To learn more about BWF’s work in planning online fundraising campaigns, visit BWF.com.
A lot of smart institutions and organizations have come to BWF in recent months with the following question – “what do we need to do to be ready for a crowdfunding campaign?” That’s a smart question, because it indicates the leaders of that organization know there’s more to crowdfunding than having an online giving page on your website.
So what do you need to be ready for crowdfunding? Allow us to show you via the visually-pleasing approach of the infographic! Below is a flow chart that lays out the prerequisites to hosting a successful, peer-to-peer, online ambassador, or crowdfunding campaign:
Robust online ambassador programs are built around multi-level strategies that include detailed steps for identifying and engaging new ambassadors, stewarding current and potential ambassadors, training and coaching ambassadors to help with fundraising activity, and more. From a strong content marketing strategy to ambassador recognition, a lot goes into successful peer-to-peer marketing programs.
But there are a few, relatively quick and easy things you can do with a small budget and very little staff time. Think of the idea laid out in the video below as a mini online ambassador campaign or, better yet, an online ambassador fundraising test.
Would you rather read than watch? Below are the steps for running a mini online ambassador test campaign:
When done right, even a small effort like this could lead to several new donors and a nice boost to fundraising (not to mention the data you’d get to help you understand the potential of a larger ambassador program). Come to think of it, a mini ambassador test would be a GREAT idea for the upcoming year-end campaigns.
Of course, if you’d like to talk more about leveraging ambassadors for your organization’s end-of-calendar-year fundraising campaigns, you can find my contact information by clicking here. In the mean time, good luck with your online crowdfunding efforts!
A handful of small projects are the beginning of what Michigan State development staff hope will be a massive change in annual giving work at the University. That change involves a shift of focus toward more donor engagement via crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding allows donors – specifically new and smaller gift donors – to more clearly see the impact of their gifts, because they’re helping to fund a specific project or cause. This demonstration or proof of impact is something annual giving programs have been struggling with for some time. Crowdfunding, or online peer-to-peer giving, is one very effective way of addressing that desire of the donor to see the impact of their gift.
At the same time, crowdfunding is tremendously efficient at acquiring new donors, because …well, it’s all about the crowd! Peer-to-peer or online ambassador-fueled crowdfunding campaigns reach out to new donors by way of friends and family communicating online, specifically, via social networks. On average, 40 percent of the donors who give during ambassador-led online campaigns are new.
In the video below, Michigan State’s Director of Online Engagement, Paul Prewitt, uses MSU’s recent Extreme Makeover: Sparty Edition campaign to show how crowdfunding is helping the University identify more new donors and communicate the impact of philanthropy to all donors, big and small.
Consider the following:
In other words, all those new donors the Sparty campaign brought in for MSU are not just college kids and recent grads – they’re middle age and older supporters of the school. Many of them have deeper pockets than you might imagine.
Knowing the above, it’s clear – serious resources should be dedicated to an online and social media strategy for development. And not just resources for crowdfunding in the annual giving department, but for your entire development operation. Millionaires are online disproportionately more than those of lesser means. It’s not just about the annual fund – if you want to have a major gift program ten years from now, you had better start engaging and stewarding those future big gift donors with a smart online and social media strategy today. And you can start by leveraging the crowd.
A recent survey from Google found that 57 percent of everyone who watches a nonprofit’s video will go on to make a donation to that nonprofit.
So, what is your nonprofit’s video strategy? As recently as 10 years ago, that question was ludicrous for a large number of cash-strapped organizations. But video is far more affordable than it used to be. High-quality cameras that provide HD video can be purchased for just a few hundred dollars. Editing software is either free or low-cost …most of us even carry phones that shoot decent video!
Below is a video from a workshop with tips to help even the most novice photographers shoot quality video that can be uploaded to sites and networks like YouTube and Facebook. It’s likely your organization has someone who could easily become a decent videographer. Think about your staff members who have active Instagram feeds or those who often post cool pictures to Facebook – they could become highly valuable video producers for your nonprofit. Get them started with the tips in the video below…
Now that you know how to shoot, the next question is, what should you shoot? Think about the following when deciding what to produce and/or post:
Measure, measure, measure. No social media strategy is complete without the ability to test your activity. To do so, requires access to useful and meaningful metrics. For Instagram users, a good and affordable (free) option is Statigram.
Tracking content for engagement is key to future content planning. In its simplest form, that means counting the number of likes, comments, and shares something receives. Statigram does that… (Sidenote: my dog is FAR more popular on social media than I am)
If it’s discussion you’re after, Statigram gives you that data, too…
Beyond the basics, Statigram digs deeper into the modifications you make to your photos. Filters are one of the reasons Instagram is so popular. Statigram organizes engagement data around your photos to paint an easy-to-read picture of which filters correlate with the most likes…
Similar info is available to help you understand which tags attract the most Instagram eyes…
You might also want to use Statigram for account maintenance and remove the dead beats who aren’t following you back. No reason to clog up your feed with an Instagrammer who’s not interested in what your posting (unless you REALLY like their stuff, of course)…
Those are some of the most valuable data sets I’ve discovered using Statigram. I’d be curious to know …what do you find most useful in measuring Instagram activity? Let me know in the comments below or connect with me on LinkedIn by clicking here.
Learn more about how BWF helps its clients raise more money and acquire more donors by clicking here.
Are you concerned about the future of your nonprofit’s base of fundraising support? Do you like the idea of adding new donors who are wealthy and well-educated? Then you might consider adding a robust online ambassador program and social media strategy, because simply put, nothing adds more new, wealthy donors more quickly than a well-run online ambassador campaign.
BWF did a quick survey of seven very different higher education institutions who recently conducted mostly online or online-only fundraising campaigns. The sample size was small, but diverse – schools included major public research institutions, small liberal arts schools, an Ivy League member, an internationally-renowned private, a small state school, among others. Of those surveyed, the average percentage of new donors during an online campaign was 40 percent. And the outliers were subtle – the lowest school had 27 percent, the highest 58 percent. And we’re not talking about 40 percent of a few dozen donors – most of the schools counted their donors in the thousands during these campaigns. This is especially impressive considering most of the campaigns were 36 hours or shorter.
Who are these newly acquired online donors? On average, they’re far wealthier than their peers who chose to give through traditional means like direct mail. According to a recent Convio study referenced below, those who give both online and off have the highest household incomes, followed by those who give only online. The distant third and least wealthy group are those who only give via mail.
To create online campaigns that help your organization or institution leverage the above trends, consider increasing your effort and resources in the following three areas:
To learn more about BWF’s online and social media fundraising consulting services, click here.
The online ambassadors strike again. This time at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (a BWF client) where the annual giving team led the inaugural UMassGives online fundraising campaign. Sarah Sligo, Executive Director of Annual Giving at UMass Amherst, had two goals in mind when the campaign planning started – acquire new donors (specifically young alumni and students) and expand the “culture of philanthropy” around UMass Amherst. The 36-hour UMassGives inarguably accomplished both by bringing more than 800 new donors in to the fold and creating a substantial amount of buzz online by way of UMass Amherst’s growing online ambassador program.
In the months leading up to UMassGives, Sligo and her colleagues identified more than 200 potential online ambassadors to help promote the campaign. Nearly 150 of those potential ambassadors agreed to use their social networks to share information and build the buzz around UMassGives, creating a viral spread of awareness.
During the campaign, ambassadors received emails asking them to share updates about UMassGives on their social networks. That activity spread across the Internet, helping make news of UMassGives go viral, which ultimately led to the university raising more than $80,000 from 1,588 donors.
For more on the campaign, check out what Sarah has to say in the video below: Need help planning a campaign that acquires new donors? Check out BWF’s social media consulting services by clicking here.
Social media can serve as a window into your organization, connecting supporters and donors to your day-to-day operation. Piedmont Healthcare Atlanta took that window concept literally, live posting tweets, photos and more from a kidney transplant operation in December 2012.
The goal of the live posting project, according to a Piedmont Healthcare statement, was “to increase awareness about living donation through the power of social media since half of all kidneys transplanted at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital come from living donors, which allows for better long-term outcomes for our recipients.”
The following are a few examples from the live posting project:
The live posting of the process drew rave reviews from followers across Twitter and other social networks…
In addition to expanding awareness of a cause, a project like this can easily be leveraged for fundraising by occasionally including a link to a giving form in the tweets or building a website to serve as a hub for all the live posting activity with a clearly visible “Donate” or “Give Now” button on the website.
Beyond any practical applications, Piedmont should be commended for taking a chance on a project that puts the patient on display. With privacy laws in place, many healthcare organizations would not consider a project like this, because of the mistaken idea that privacy laws make it nearly impossible to accomplish. Piedmont has shown us otherwise and is likely reaping the benefits of a more connected and dedicated base of followers as a result.
To follow the full day’s activity on Storify, click here.
To learn more about developing strategies like this to connect with your donors and supporters, contact Justin Ware, BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication, by clicking here.
Good social media strategies often start with the question “how can we use these tools to provide something of value for our constituents?” In other words, how can your organization leverage Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs, and whatever else to better serve your supporters? …how can social media be part of your organization’s overall stewardship plan? Turns out, there are plenty of good examples of using online and social media for donor stewardship. In the video below, BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware and Annual Giving Consultant Vanessa Chase share some of the best examples of social media stewardship they’ve seen to date:
Interested in building online and social media into your stewardship strategy? Have a look at BWF’s online and social media consulting services by clicking here.
It’s an age-old (in social media time) and still relevant question – “what do we tweet?” The easy answer is, “something that’s useful, valuable, and fun for your audience.” For a specific example of a Twitter account that covers those three things and more, check out Syracuse University’s @WorkingOrange. The @WorkingOrange Twitter account is run by Syracuse’s Career Services department and is awesome, because…
First, it provides valuable information about a hot topic, especially for younger grads. Those of us who work in higher ed know there’s a lot more to a four-year degree than simply landing a job. That said, it is a big reason why many people attend college. Which means, finding a good and rewarding job is part of the “product” that colleges and universities offer. And successful brands provide
adequate stellar customer service around their products. In large part, that’s what this Twitter account amounts to for Syracuse grads – a customer service channel to help fullfil that promise of meaningful work following graduation.
Two, it is highly engaging and interactive – lots of retweets and mentions. It might seem trivial to some, but to your most active and influential social media followers it is not – validation matters online.
When you think about it, we all like to be validated. Some of us at work, others by our families, others still by our friends and social circles. For those of us who spend a lot of time conversing on social networks, we also seek validation in our social media communities. @WorkingOrange provides that validation by truly communicating with the account’s followers. That activity matters, because it builds and strengthens relationships with supporters, which increases the likelihood of them becoming life-long supporters.
Three, it has personality! Most successful Twitter accounts have personality. Just have a look at the following tweets…
Some Twitter accounts – @DeptofDefense, for example – need to be a bit more serious, most of the time. (Although even the Department of Defense can find appropriate ways of having fun on Twitter) But for the majority, it’s important to fit the attitude and style of the social network. For Twitter, that’s (hopefully) quick-witted, courteous, upbeat, useful, and timely. @WorkingOrange is all of those things and more.
Wanna talk more about social media for higher ed? Contact BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware by clicking here.
Another online ambassador program has resulted in a 7-figure-plus fundraising campaign for a higher education institution. This time, it’s the University of Dayton and their I Love UD campaign. In addition to the spectacular fundraising haul and large number of new donors acquired (27 percent of the 3,016 donors were making their first ever gift to Dayton), this online campaign had a strong focus on donor retention. Chad Warren, the brains behind Florida State’s inaugural Great Give goes into detail about I Love UD’s donor retention plan …a plan that was built into the campaign. For specific tips on retaining new donors during online campaigns, start watching at about the 3-minute mark in the video below. Or, watch the whole thing to learn more about just how awesome the first I Love UD campaign was…
To learn more about building online ambassador programs that lead to successful fundraising campaigns, contact BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware, by clicking here.
We work in fundraising. So when we think about return on investment or ROI, the “return” part of that acronym usually has something to do an increase in gifts and dollars given. Of course, for those of us whose fundraising experience extends beyond running a bake sale, we know there’s more to a nonprofit’s budget than what comes in via fundraising from donors. There are expenses – not just employee salaries, but phone programs, direct mail resources (from printing costs to the fees associated with actually mailing the items), costs associated with stewardship activity, and more. When we reduce those costs, the savings are no different than an equal amount coming in via fundraising. In fact, it may be even better since revenue generated from savings can often be considered “unrestricted.”
A well-orchestrated social media strategy can produce significant savings in areas like direct mail, stewardship activity, and phone programs. Which is why savings from a reduction to, for example, a phone program due to a greater reliance on email or social media is one way of measuring the ROI of your social media. For more on different ways of measuring the impact of your social media activity, check out this infographic on the MDG blog. Pay special attention to the four points in “The New Game Plan” section at the bottom of the infographic. One of those points asks if you’re better prepared to react to issues that affect brand reputation (as a result of your social media strategy). Having a greater hold of your brand or reputation is highly valuable and certainly demonstrates a return on investment – even if it can’t be directly quantified in fundraising dollars or new donors acquired.
So how might your nonprofit organization or institution measure online and social media activity beyond the easily trackable donors and dollars raised figures? The following are a few suggestions:
Listen to your data and adjust your direct mail program accordingly: How many of your donors give exclusively online? If someone gives online – especially if they give repeatedly online and never give via mail – then you’re likely wasting resources by sending them direct mail pieces. That doesn’t mean you should never mail an online donor. Every new donor should receive a welcome kit via the postal service. But after that, if they never respond via mail, and especially if they continue to give exclusively online, redirect those mail resources to beefing up your online and social media strategy (including email, social networks like Facebook, and your organization’s websites).
Still don’t believe me? Check out the 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmarking Report. In that report, you’ll see the average value of a Facebook “like” is $214 in the 12 months following the acquisition of that like. How much did it cost to achieve that like? $3.50. How much does it cost your organization to acquire a new donor via direct mail? For many organizations, that direct mail acquisition cost is ten times the $3.50 it cost to acquire the donor via Facebook.
Still don’t believe me, part 2? Here’s a personal anecdote… My wife recently asked that we stop supporting an environmental nonprofit, because they repeatedly sent us massive packets in the mail. We have never sent a gift to that organization via the mail, but had made multiple online gifts. To recap … an environmental nonprofit sends their online-only donor enormous amounts of PAPER. A wiser approach would cutting mail to families like ours and instead investing those resources in a more robust online stewardship and fundraising strategy. The online approach would likely be less expensive. The savings from that approach should count towards your online and social media ROI.
Stewardship: Nothing allows you to stay in touch with a large number of donors on a daily, even hourly basis, like social media. More and more, we are learning about the value in keeping our supporters appraised of how their fundraising dollars are being spent to improve the world. Use online and social media to tell that story (from a DONOR CENTRIC standpoint) and you will strengthen relationships with current donors, plus attract new donors when your current donors share your stories with their friends and family via social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
How do you measure this activity? It’s not always as easy as counting donors and dollars, but there are metrics like awareness and perception. For larger organizations, tools like Radian6 can help with tracking these “soft” metrics. You might also consider donor attrition. If you make a serious investment in online and social media, has your attrition rate improved?
Think about all the metrics that matter to your organization and what you’re trying to accomplish through better stewardship. Then, line those goals up with online and social media activity. Track the two over time and you should be better able to understand the ROI of your online and social media activity as it relates to stewardship.
Tweet banks to replace phone banks: We continue to hear stories of institutions or organizations that are investing more and more in their phone programs only to see the same or lesser results. Why not replace some of those callers with social media conversation monitors? In higher ed – where phonathons are common place – take some of those student callers off the headset and put them in front of a keyboard. Especially during an online campaign, their activity could very well result in more gifts and dollars raised than they would be able to generate over the phone. At the very least, you’d be reaching a different and enormous demographic of people who don’t have or use landlines. Just how enormous is that demographic? More than half of all Americans. No, not just younger Americans …MORE THAN HALF OF ALL AMERICANS ARE UNREACHABLE BY YOUR PHONE PROGRAM EFFORTS.
Cutting back on your phone program in favor or more online and social media activity may produce ROI in the form of savings, but it will also likely lead to a much more easily quantifiable metrics like more money raised and more donors acquired.
For more on measuring the impact of your online and social media activity, connect with Justin Ware, BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication by clicking here.
A new trend is starting to emerge that provides nonprofits with yet another reason to ramp up their online and social media giving efforts – the “long tail” of giving that follows those short-burst online fundraising campaigns. The roughly 24- to 72-hour, mostly-online or online-only campaigns have already proven themselves to be excellent tools for engaging new donors and boosting overall donor participation. Now, we’re starting to see the value in the “buzz” these campaigns create by the number of gifts that come in online AND off in the days and weeks immediately following the short online campaign.
Big Gifts Follow a Big Campaign at Columbia
Even without the post-campaign activity, Columbia University’s 2012 Giving Day was a big win for the institution and its alumni. In just 24 hours, Columbia’s supporters gave more than $6.8 million to the University through 4,940 gifts …all but 184 of which were given online. As is typical in short online campaigns, roughly 40 percent of those nearly 5,000 donors were making their first gift and more than half of the gifts originated on social networks (special apps allowed donors to start the giving process from blogs or Facebook pages. They were were then redirected to the main online giving website). But the giving didn’t end at midnight on Giving Day.
In the week following the Giving Day campaign, Columbia saw a significant boost to giving at all levels, with one story standing out. At an on-campus event, a major gift donor stood up in front of a crowd and pledged a seven-figure gift on the spot. The reason the donor gave for the spur-of-the-moment monster gift? They were proud of Columbia for taking such an innovative approach to giving and excited about all the activity around giving to the University they saw taking place online and, specifically, on social media. This is a direct example of social media buzz leading to major fundraising success for a university.
*Sidenote: multiple other institutions tell stories of seven-figure gifts coming in because a wealthy individual learned of the work being done at an institution on Facebook. That work mattered to the wealthy donor, causing them to reach out to the institution and make their first (very big) gift. Lesson? Social media is not just for the annual fund anymore.
UMassGives …and keeps giving
In late April 2013, the University of Massaschuetts Amherst conducted its first ever UMassGives – an entirely online, 36-hour campaign. The goal of UMassGives was twofold:
UMass Amherst accomplished all of the above raising nearly $84,000 from more than 1,500 donors. Roughly half of those donors were making their first ever gift to UMass – many of them students. Nothing says “expanding the culture of philanthropy at an institution” quite like engaging hundreds of students and young alumni in a buzz-worthy online fundraising campaign.
Again, the giving didn’t end with the 36-hour campaign. May 1-8, 2013 – the week immediately following UMassGives – saw twice the number of online gifts given and twice the dollars raised online when compared to May 1-8, 2012. This 100 percent increase to online giving is another example of the long tail following a short campaign.
Ambassadors drive buzz during and after online campaigns
Both Columbia’s Giving Day and UMassGives incorporated a peer-to-peer online communication plan. Or what we call at BWF, an online ambassador program. Ambassadors programs are built around the concept of having your biggest supporters do your communication work for your organization. Ambassadors share content on Facebook, post items to their blogs, tweet messages about your institution – they engage in activity that promotes your organization’s initiatives directly to their online connections. Simply put, ambassador programs are friends encouraging friends to support your philanthropic mission. It’s the age-old “recommendation from a friend” that is and has always been the most trusted form of promotion that leads to the most conversions – in the case of fundraising, that means more gifts given.
For Columbia and UMass, ambassadors were highly active during their online campaigns, igniting buzz in dozens of social media communities and spreading word of the campaigns. That buzz wasn’t extinguished the moment the campaigns ended. It carried throughout the days and weeks following the campaigns, helping to raise more dollars, acquire more new donors, and extend the culture of philanthropy for both institutions. The key is building a volunteer ambassador program for your organization so that you can influence that peer-to-peer activity and enjoy that long tail of giving, long after a short online fundraising campaign.
To learn about how BWF can help your organization build comprehensive online ambassador programs and prepare for online fundraising campaigns, contact BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware by clicking here.
UNICEF Sweden is taking shots at its online supporters who “like” activity the organization posts on Facebook. A recent ad campaign from the Sweden branch of UNICEF is rather bluntly telling its supporters that so-called vanity actions on social networks – the likes, shares, pins, retweets, etc. – do nothing to further the mission of the organization. Literally. (Check out the full story in the Atlantic by clicking here) The ads say a like on Facebook will “vaccinate zero children against polio.” (See the bottom of this post for a UNICEF YouTube spot along the same lines)
The objective of the campaign is to help supporters understand that donations are the lifeblood of the nonprofit organization. Which, of course, is true. The trouble is, donations come from a general awareness of a problem that a nonprofit solves. And awareness – as multiple studies now show – comes from activity on social networks. Perhaps UNICEF Sweden hasn’t seen the recently released joint study from Georgetown University and Waggener Edstrom that shows social media is, by a vast majority, the primary way digitally active supporters and donors learn of new causes – even for those donors who give money offline.
“Likes” = awareness. Awareness = more donors and dollars
Let’s consider the mechanics behind some of these vanity metrics that are, by and large, worthless according to UNICEF Sweden. For example, a Facebook like. When someone “likes” a post on Facebook, that activity is sent to a large number of that person’s network of friends via their newsfeed. Go ahead, take a second to look at your Facebook feed. In the lower left, you’ll see a constantly-updating scroll of activity your friends are liking. Occasionally, that liking activity appears as a major news item in the News Feed. That leads to more exposure which leads to more new donors joining the cause. Knowing that, it would appear that mission awareness is something UNICEF Sweden does not value.
Know Your Data
Beyond the awareness building capacity of social media, there is evidence that suggests “slacktivists” are less slackerish than one might expect. According to another joint Georgetown study – highlighted in this Mashable article – slacktivists are:
All of the above would suggest that Facebook “likes” do, in fact, help organizations vaccinate kids against polio. As a matter of fact, a good argument could be made that a strong Facebook approach could be more effective than the ad campaign against slacktivism that UNICEF Sweden likely paid well into the six figures to create and implement.
To be fair, in the interview with the Atlantic, UNICEF Sweden’s Director of Communications Petra Hallebrant said “We like likes, and social media could be a good first step to get involved, but it cannot stop there. Likes don’t save children’s lives. We need money to buy vaccines for instance.”
Trouble with that statement is, if you look at the data, it would seem that Facebook “likes” actually do lead to money for those vaccines.
To be fair part 2, it’s certainly possible that UNICEF Sweden is trying to use the classic “shock value” approach to advertising as a way of drumming up awareness and support. And you could argue by the attention this campaign is getting in well-respected publications like The Atlantic and far less respected publications like this blog, they’re shock and awe campaign is working. Plus, the YouTube video below has been watched more than 38,000 times at the time of this post’s first publication. That is, of course, also awareness. So Maybe UNICEF Sweden is just much sharper than this author. That said, I would advise against any strategy that openly ridicules your
slacktivists social champions. As the data tells us, those highly active social media supporters might just be the key to your organization’s future.
When producing an email for donors, the following are a couple tips for grabbing your supporters’ attention:
As is often the case, the online team at the Humane Society of the United States provides the blueprint for online communications with this email sent to donors who gave to prevent the Canadian seal slaughter:
In addition to the above criteria, this email is personalized, opens nicely on mobile devices, connects easily to leading social networks for sharing, and is upbeat. The last point is not always associated with animal welfare organizations, but the HSUS understands the value in providing hope along with the more horrific reasons why a person should give to their organization. Especially when your cause is a tough one to face on a consistent basis – poverty, illness, child abuse prevention – it’s important to remind donors that their contributions are making the world a better place.
The focus on email is crucial. According to this Chronicle of Philanthropy piece on the 2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, the share of people who made a gift in response to a fundraising email dropped by 21 percent. The article offers a slew of reasons for the decline, none of which suggest email is dead. If anything, the lower numbers are due to a carpet bomb approach and/or a general lack of good data about the donors behind the email addresses. People do read emails and when the message’s content is done right, they respond positively. The key is being personal and offering users something via email. Make it about them, as opposed to always being about your organization, and engagement with your email audience will grow …which leads to gifts when you do make an ask.
OK, now that you’ve made it through my brief tips/rant on nonprofit emails, here’s a video of cute seal pups:
Nowadays, when I’m asked “what’s the ROI on social media for fundraising?” I often respond with my own question – “that depends, what’s your investment?”
Too often, organizations put a low-level employee or intern in charge of managing a Facebook page or Twitter account and claim that they’re active on social media. If that’s the level of investment in social media at your organization, the lack of results from social media shouldn’t come as a surprise. Real results take a real investment in time and money. If your organization is serious about making that investment, you will see a significant return. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, check out the collection of statistics in the infographic below that show just how valuable online and social media are for your awareness building and fundraising activity.
John Haydon is a fundraising consultant and blogger who, simply put, knows his stuff. His recent post – The Secret Behind Viral Content – is chock full of good tips for producing engaging content. Go read it, then come back and finish reading this post…
Back? Cool. John suggests in his post, as many social media specialists do, that the viral spread of content is like catching lightning in a bottle. To some extent, depending on your definition of “viral,” that is true. If you have an alumni base of 300,000 living individuals, then aspirations of having your alumni association YouTube video about the homecoming tailgate reach 15 million views is probably out of the question. (click here to read about why that shouldn’t concern you) But, if you have a video that’s smart, funny, and tells the story of your organization, there’s no reason that video can’t pull in 10,000, 50,000, or even 100,000+ views. This happens when a few of your supporters share that video with a few of their friends, who then share it with a few of their friends, who then share it with a few of their friends, and so on – also known as the viral spread of content. Which is precisely what a well-developed online ambassador program should bring about.
Online ambassador programs are built around a core group of online and social media users who are enthusiastic leaders of online communities — communities that are full of people who matter to your organization. When these ambassadors post something, several members of their online communities are likely to see it, “like” it, comment on it, and hopefully share it. Which, of course, is that exponential exposure that leads to something “going viral.” Ambassador programs have been successful in awareness building and fundraising (see Florida State’s Great Give and Columbia’s Giving Day campaigns). Which is why I disagree with the assertion that no one really knows how to make something go viral. It’s as simple as using your ambassadors. Well, sort of…
Going Viral Part 1: Utilizing your ambassadors
After you’ve identified your first core group of ambassadors, connected with those ambassadors, and provided them with a brief orientation program, you’re now ready to put these enthusiastic supporters to work spreading your nonprofit’s mission and message. But don’t take their allegiance for granted. Part of the ambassador process should be an ongoing effort on your organization’s part to learn about the type and formats of content that your ambassadors like to share. As a group and as individuals, what are the content profiles of your ambassadors? Do they more often share videos or photos (or infographics)? Do they like hearing donor stories? How about messages from your organization’s leadership? Produce and curate content that your ambassadors will want to share based on what you observe them sharing – this includes content that’s not related to your mission. Knowing the content profiles of you ambassadors and those in their networks will help you produce content they’re more likely to share, because it’s similar to what they’re already sharing. (For a great piece on how the Obama team used Facebook both to identify supporters and learn about their content profiles, click here).
Going Viral Part 2: Fit your content into the Zeitgeist
John offers some fantastic tips for content creation in his post. His “Science Behind Viral Content” and “Viral Content Checklist” sections in that post are loaded with tips to help your org produce better, more engaging, more shareable content. As stated above, you might have 5,000 enthusiastic supporters of your cause, but if you give them bland content that doesn’t fit their content profiles, they’re not likely to share it. In addition to knowing what an ambassador wants, another technique for creating shareable content is connecting it to the news of the day. What movies are popular? Which hit dance song is topping the charts? Which sports season is heating up? Are the Oscars right around the corner?
At the University of Minnesota, I was part of a team that created two videos that I believe fit the definition of viral. Both were more the result of a strategic plan than they were luck. Each video connected to the pop culture zeitgeist.
The first, The Science of Watchmen, was released just a few days before the highly-anticipated film “Watchmen” hit theaters. The purpose of the project was to promote the University of Minnesota’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. Knowing full well there would be scores of “Watchmen” fans scouring the Internet for anything related to the movie — and knowing that there would be plenty of potential students and science fans (our core audience) in that group of “Watchmen” fans — we produced a short video that looked at whether there was any plausible science behind the science fiction in the film. In the first few days after we posted the video it received 250,000+ views and sits near 1.8 million views today.
A year later, we tried a similar approach with another video meant to promote the Department of Physics. This time, we connected the science to another popular topic, football. In the video below, Professor Dan Dahlberg does the math to determine just how many Gs wide receiver Eric Decker withstood thanks to a vicious hit he took during a recent Gopher football game. The video was released the week before Thanksgiving at the height of both the college and pro football seasons. It didn’t have the same success as the Science of Watchmen, but it currently sits at 115,000+ views …not bad by most mortal standards.
One person’s idea of “viral” is likely different from the next. But if your goal is to increase exposure by having your content spread out through the vast networks of current and potential online supporters, it can be planned for and accomplished through a strong online ambassador program and corresponding content strategy.
According to a recent Nielsen study on which types of advertising or promotion people trust most, the top five in North America are:
In other words, if you want someone to know and trust your organization your best bet is having someone they know post something about your org online. Let that sink in for a second and then ask yourself, “do we have a plan for encouraging our more active online followers to talk about us online?” In other words, do you have an online ambassador program? Components of a good ambassador program include:
We continue to see more examples of this approach leading to fundraising success. Two of our favorite examples are Florida State’s Great Give and Columbia’s more recent Giving Day. Both campaigns had a heavy reliance on some form of an online ambassador program. Simply put, a robust ambassador program could be the most important thing your nonprofit can do from a communications standpoint. So good luck building your program! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
In a previous post, I suggested nonprofits do three things to boost their online (and offline) fundraising. 1) Build an online ambassador program. 2) Improve your online giving websites, apps, and widgets. 3) Invest in personnel to manage your social media strategy. Columbia did all three of those things on their way to a wildly successful, 24-hour, online giving campaign that brought in more than $6.8 million on October 24, 2012. But you don’t have to take my word for it. BWF interviewed CloEve Demmer, Columbia’s Director of Annual Fund Programs, and Gwynne Gauntlett, Director of Digital Strategy for Alumni Relations and Development at Columbia. In the video below, Demmer and Gauntlett talk about how they prepared for and executed Columbia Giving Day:
In addition to the massive fundraising total brought in during the 24-hour campaign, Demmer and Gauntlett said they were equally surprised by the success in the days following Giving Day. Several million additional dollars were given to Columbia by alumni and supporters who said they were inspired by the powerful campaign. Which shows that online campaigns might be as valuable as marketing tools, as they are fundraising mechanisms.
Above all else, what Columbia’s campaign demonstrates is the value of investing in online and social media for fundraising. Facebook might be free, but a strategy to raise money using Facebook is not. Columbia’s staff and leadership understand this. As a result, the school just wrapped up one of the most successful one day fundraising campaigns ever. And chances are, they’ll do it again in the near future.
Times they are a changing. Well, at least Facebook’s EdgeRank is changing. As a result of the recent EdgeRank changes, you may have noticed a sharp drop in your Facebook Insights analytics in the past couple weeks. If so, you’re not alone. All signs point to Facebook making things more difficult for brands, nonprofits, and other organizations to get noticed if they aren’t willing to buy advertising for their pages from Facebook. Yay IPO. (For a quick break down of the good and bad behind Facebook’s recent changes, check out Heather Mansfield’s post here.)
Now for the good news: this is an EASY problem to fix. The solution lies in that oh-so-important group of online supporters of your organization, a.k.a. your online ambassadors. Instead of trying to broadcast your message to your audience via your organization’s Facebook page, build a strategy that is focused on sharing your message with a select group of online ambassadors and encouraging them to post that content to their Facebook profiles. That way, your page’s EdgeRank doesn’t matter, because you’ll be piggybacking off the popular EdgeRankings of your biggest supprters. The following are a few steps to make this happen…
Identify your online ambassadors: This is something you should be doing already, but if not, here’s how…
After you’d identified your online ambassadors and have a program in place to leverage their support, the next step is producing content your ambassadors will want to share. Much in the same way you want to avoid distributing overly-promotional content from your social media networks, your ambassadors will also want to avoid scaring their followers and friends away with content that reads like a TV ad. Leveraging your online ambassadors is not solely about asking for help communicating the message about a current fundraising campaign. The majority of the time you should be providing them with interesting, relevant, FUN content that is in some way tied in to your organization or your organization’s mission. For example, Baltimore’s Show Your Soft Side campaign posts news all animal lovers can appreciate far more than they post news specific to their campaign.
In some ways, the changes to Facebook’s EdgeRank is a blessing, because it forces us to focus more on what our biggest online supporters want from us as an organization. In social media, the focus shouldn’t necessarily be on your organization’s content – it should be on the content your most active, engaged, and influential followers are posting about your organization. Thanks to changes in EdgeRank and a number of other factors, you should be more concerned about what influential Internet users are sharing and posting about your org, than what your organization is distributing directly from your nonproft’s pages, accounts, and profiles.
Producing a social media strategy is crucially important for nonprofits that have any need whatsoever to communicate with their constituents. Thanks to items like the changes in Facebook’s EdgeRank, it’s becoming increasingly important for that strategy to be centered around connecting with your organization’s online ambassadors.
Gone are the days of simply opening a Facebook page and Twitter account without a clear plan. At least those days should be gone. When it comes to social media, we now know what we’re doing and what works, because we’re seeing a lot of smart campaigns delivering extraordinary results. In most cases, these tales of success are no accident. They’re the result of smart communicators learning from the best practices of other organizations, combining them with sound scientific statistics, and applying it all to their organizations. In other words, they’re thinking strategically about social media. But what exactly does that mean? The following are a few examples…
Gamifying Your Campaigns — Few things drive Internet participation more than competition. The UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital discovered this after their “Challenge for the Children” campaign during the 2010 holiday season brought in more than a $1 million. The campaign revolved around social media users creating online teams with the winner determined by which team brought in the most donors. Despite the fact that some big names got involved (Ashton Kutcher managed a team), the winning team belonged to Zynga – the video game development company behind Facebook’s wildly popular and equally annoying “Farmville.” Why did Zynga win? They sold digital candy cane seeds that Farmville players could plant. The proceeds from the candy cane sales went to Benioff Children’s hospital. In a little over a week, more than 162,000 candy canes were sold raising upwards of $800,000.
How is it strategic? Online competition (a.k.a “gamification”) drives activity, especially in social media. If you can, try connecting with pop culture or whatever might be culturally revenant at the time (holidays are a great partners for online campaigns). With that in mind, selling digital candy canes during the holidays is absolutely strategic.
Build a Campaign That Begs to Be Shared — With the end of the fiscal year fast approaching, Carleton College was in need of shot in the annual giving arm in order to achieve 50 percent alumni participation. With only six weeks to go until the June 30th deadline, Carleton’s annual giving team turned to social media as a quick way to acquire new donors. Specifically, they built an online giving campaign called “Calling All Carls“. Via email and social networks like Facebook, Carleton sent out an image of the Carleton mascot projected on the night sky that bared a striking resemblance to what Commissioner Gordon uses to summon Batman.
The idea was simple, but it was loads of fun. A donor gives their gift, then receives a confirmation asking for their help in “Calling All Carls” to the giving process. Or, a supporter follows the Facebook page, sees they’re being summoned, makes a gift, and/or shares the news about “Calling All Carls” with their friends and followers. The campaign was a huge success, with the message about “Calling All Carls” shared more than 600 times on Facebook alone. And, Carleton easily surpassed their 50 percent participation goal.
How is it strategic? Carleton’s giving teams came up with a creative campaign that tied in to a pop culture event (The Dark Knight Rises was only a month away from release) to drive donor participation.
Using Your Online Ambassadors — Florida State’s annual giving team didn’t raise $186,000 in 36 hours online by accident. Leading up to the “Great Give” campaign, FSU’s fund raisers were in close connection with their “online ambassadors” – a group of influential Internet users who they knew could drive participation in the campaign. But FSU’s annual giving team didn’t just sit back and hope their ambassadors would drive interest in the campaign. Prior to the Great Give, the annual giving team connected with their ambassadors, verified the ambassadors’ email addresses, and let them know they would need their help during the campaign. Then, throughout the Great Give, FSU sent out pre-packaged social network updates that made things easy for the ambassadors – all they had to do was copy the prepackaged updates and paste them into their social networks. The end result was the viral spread of messages from FSU’s annual giving team that found their audience in a very natural way – from the social networks of friends and family members.
How is it strategic? Building strong relationships with influential Internet users is one of the best things your can do from an online communications standpoint. FSU did that AND found a way to leverage that support that led to fundraising success.
For more on how online and social media can be used strategically to impact fundraising, visit BWF.com.
Connecting with influential Internet users is a great way to do, well, just about anything you need to do for your nonprofit organization. These influential users – aka “online ambassadors” – can make or break online fundraising campaigns, can boost volunteer engagement, and can drive overall awareness of your organization, among a slew of other things. They’re important, because nothing drives donor behavior more than a recommendation from a peer. And online ambassadors, by definition, have a lot of peers online.
So, how do you find these online ambassadors?
One quick, common, and easy way of identifying a user’s online influence is by looking up their Klout score. Klout is a measure of a person’s online influence that takes a number of factors into account including how often an Internet user has their content shared combined with the influence of the people sharing that user’s posts and/or other content. Klout is far from perfect, but I believe it’s a great place to start when trying to determine a user’s influence. Heidi Massey, who was in attendance and a speaker at the Social Media for Nonprofits event in Chicago where I recommended this approach, strongly disagreed. (To read Heidi’s counterpoint to this piece, click here). Heidi said that Klout is completely useless because, among other things, it can be quickly and deliberately influenced by a user despite that user’s actual online influence. To prove her point, she had some of our fellow social media users conduct the following exercise…
The exercise to alter my Klout
As you can see in the graphic to right, Klout gives users topics they are deemed to be influential in, in addition to their Klout score. Prior to this experiment, I was influential in “Social media,” “dogs,” and “nonprofit.” Klout was dead-on accurate in that assessment.
In an attempt to prove wrong my suggestion that Klout is a good indicator of influence, Heidi had four people give me a “+K” for the topic “Hunger Games.” (a +K is something you give a Klout user in any given topic in which you think they wield influence) Immediately, “Hunger Games” surpassed “nonprofit” and moved on to my third most influential topic. So, four people give you a +K and it turns Klout upside down? Certainly makes Klout seem a little flimsy, doesn’t it? Except it doesn’t. In fact, given the real-world influence of the people who gave me those +K’s, it proves just how smart, valuable, and useful Klout can be.
First, let’s look at the Klout scores of the users who gave me a +K:
Doug Haslam – 69 – This is a great Klout score. For a frame of reference, most casual social media users have Klout scores in the teens, 20s, and 30s. Movie stars have Klout scores in the 70s and 80s.
David Svet – 63
Rebecca Denison – 55
Lisa Thorell – 48
All of those mentioned above are very active in social media. Most of them are considered leaders in the space and are at the very least “influential.” Klout knows this, (accurately) gives them a high score, and allows them more weight when they give someone a +K. When I asked Heidi, who has a Klout score of 60, if she believed she wielded influence online, she didn’t answer calling my question a “catch 22.” I wonder if Heidi thinks Klout is wrong in labeling the above users as influential? I didn’t get a chance to ask her.
So let’s recap – Four Klout users, two of which are social media super users and the other two are higher than average users suddenly converged to give me a +K in the topic “Hunger Games.” Klout recognized this, and awarded me the topic in my list of influential areas. Klout recognized that multiple, influential users believed I had influence in a specific area and subsequently added that to my list of influential topics. (Little did they know that I had been organically labeled as influential in the “Hunger Games” earlier this year, but I digress…)
This experiment does show how easy it theoretically is to alter Klout. But ask yourself this: how many people do you know who sit around all day long trying to skew a Klout score? Also remember than you can’t do this on your own. You have to have a team of highly influential Klout users willing to help you artificially boost your Klout. Let’s say you work in higher education for a fictional institution named “State School.” Do you think a large number of Klout users are going to spend their time convincing influential social media users to help them artificially boost their influence about “State School”? A few might, the vast majority will not. Which means most of those you find with high Klout scores and influence about “State School” really do have influence in that area and might be valuable online users who you could develop into online ambassadors for State School.
Using Klout to Determine a Twitter User’s Influence
So, how then should you use Klout to identify online ambassadors? First, remember Klout is NOT perfect. It’s a free tool that should be used as one of many first steps in a process towards identifying a crucially important group of influential online supporters of your mission. But Klout can help and here’s an example of how…
A new Twitter user follows your organization’s official account. Next, check their Klout score. Is it low? That means they probably don’t spend much time on and/or don’t have a huge following on Twitter (they might in other areas – Klout measures all public Twitter accounts, but not Facebook, Google+, and others unless the user authorizes Klout to do so). Heidi took particular issue with this, but when I asked her to tell me about an influential Twitter user she knew of with a low Klout score, she couldn’t.
Next, take a look at the user’s content. Are they truly engaging and having lots of conversations with other users? Do they share a lot of content? In particular, is the content they share relevant to your mission? If so, then great! You likely have someone that you can target as a potential online ambassador of your mission. It’s not all about their Klout, but the service did provide you a nice starting point.
I’ve been using Klout for more than a year and this is the first time I’ve been attacked for devious purposes using the +K. Every other +K I’ve received has been from well intentioned and genuinely influential users who, over time, helped me build a Klout profile that is a mostly accurate portrayal of who I am online. And, when it comes to social media, nonprofits, dogs, and yes, even the Hunger Games, I do believe I have a decent amount of influence.
Again, Klout is not perfect. There are other measures of online influence and you should always consider the value an individual brings both online and off when determining how much effort you’re going to dedicate to communicating with them. Some highly influential leaders spend very little time online. But if you’re trying to find influential ONLINE ambassadors, Klout is a great, free resource that can help you start forming a picture about just how valuable the person behind that Twitter account could be to your organization.
For more on how social media is transforming philanthropy, visit BWF.com.