HOW TO Manufacture Viral Fundraising Campaigns on Social Media

A few weeks back, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to record a podcast for Iris Creative. The subject? Using online ambassadors to bring about the viral spread of your organization’s message and fundraising asks.

During the roughly 40-minute podcast we touch on a number of items, including:

  • Ambassador Podcast GraphicWhy online ambassadors are so successful in driving campaigns to become viral.
  • How can you create a dynamic online ambassador program for your organization?
  • Tools you can use to gauge influence on social media and enhance it.
  • How can you cater to multichannel donors?
  • What types of content are people excited about sharing?
  • How do you deliver content to your ambassadors in a way that makes it easy to share?
  • What are the benefits of having a toolkit with prewritten social media posts and images that users can share on their networks? What are the consequences?
  • Is it worth it to advertise on Facebook?

Sound interesting? Click here to listen to the podcast in its entirety.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social where he helps clients build online ambassador programs that drive fundraising and communication results.

Include “Trending Topics” in Your Facebook Posts for Bigger Audiences

A little while back, I blogged about the importance of meshing your social media content with pop culture and current events. As it turns out, that’s not just a communications strategy – it’s a technical approach to boosting your FNFO (Facebook Newsfeed optimization …patent pending on that acronym).

Facebook now rewards posts with Newsfeed prominence when those posts include a trending topic.

Facebook Trending ListTrending topics are those topics listed on the right hand column of your Facebook profile. They’re often predictable and, for those organizations with a news savvy social media manager, are items you can leverage to help get more eyeballs on your content by mixing those topics into your content. Not just because people like seeing content that gels with the news of the day, but because Facebook’s algorithms are searching for content that connects with current events.

So how do you make the most of Facebook’s leaning toward the popular posts of the day? Below are a few suggestions:

  • Building current events into your content marketing will boost your FNFO (Facebook NewsFeed Optimization).

    Building current events into your content marketing will boost your FNFO (Facebook NewsFeed Optimization).

    Hire well. Whenever we’ve been involved in the hiring process for a social media manager, I always recommend placing former journalists’ resumes on the top of the pile. Journalists do everything you need a social media manager to do – they think quickly, produce massive amounts of content at rapid speeds, and they understand the news cycle and what an audience wants. With a former journo leading your social media charge, you’ve taken a big step towards establishing a timely and relevant content marketing strategy.

  • Budget time to react nimbly to breaking news. Everyone should have a content calendar that extends at least 12 months out to cover the big events and campaigns. But sometimes, your audience (or, more accurately, the news cycle) doesn’t care about your calendar. You need to plan for the unexpeted and be ready to jump on the news of the day so that you can integrate it with your organization’s message when appropriate.
  • Consider Facebook Ads. Let’s face it, Facebook wins – they’ve forced us to pay for exposure on their social network. Which, in the general history of how advertising works, makes perfect sense. For this and all your Facebook content, consider paying for Ads and promoted posts to get the greatest exposure.

Justin Ware is the director of interactive communications at BWF_social where he helps clients build online and social media strategies for fundraising.

Online = Big Donors: Why Your Major Gift Program Needs Social Media

Business Man LaptopOnline donors…

We know online fundraising is a strong tool for the annual fund. New donor acquisition, especially during ambasssador-led giving days, is staggering when the campaign is done right. But for all that online fundraising does for your annual fund, digital philanthropy is even more effective in your major gift program.

Check out this guest post I recently wrote for EverTrue. In the piece, I provide recommendations for using online and social media to find, engage, and steward major gift donors.

Short story short, don’t pigeonhole online and social media as a small gifts only tool. Just this past week, a single $143,000 gift came in during one of our higher ed client’s giving day. A well-run, well-resourced online strategy can do more for your  major gift program than you ever thought possible.

Justin Ware is the director of interactive communication at BWF_social where he helps clients plan six- and seven-figure online fundraising campaigns.

Best Nonprofit Websites – Children’s National Health System

Children's National Health System has created a user-friendly website that has led to more and larger online gifts.

Children’s National Health System has created a user-friendly website that has led to more and larger online gifts.

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.

Justin Ware is director of interactive communications at BWF_social where he helps clients build a digital presence that leads to real fundraising results.

2 Keys to Giving Day Success – a Great Theme and a Major Donor

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:

  • Connecting an online giving day to a well-known, excitement-inducing event in pop culture.
  • Working with the major gift program to provide challenge grant opportunities from major gift donors.
Ohio Wesleyan University connected pop culture with their alumni base for online giving day success.

Ohio Wesleyan University connected pop culture with their alumni base for online giving day success.

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!

Justin Ware is Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social where he leads online giving day planning for clients.

3 Thoughts on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and “Slacktivism”

Ice Bucket Challenge

One of the many thousands willing to douse themselves in ice water for the ALS Association.

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:

  • Deploy a strong, well-resourced content marketing strategy. These new donors gave to you because they saw a post online, right? Then focus your stewardship efforts on that channel. Invest in great video, photography, and infographics. Repeatedly show the impact of giving through mission-related stories posted online. Remind the new donors of how close you are to a cure and/or what it will take to reach that cure. Use digital content delievered via email, social networks, and online ambassadors (the so-called “slacktivists” in this case) to reinforce giving and prime donors for the next ask.
  • Thank them profusely. Surprisingly, many organizations still drop the ball when it comes to effectively showing their gratitude for a donor’s gift. After the donor makes a gift, have two emails ready to go – one to thank current donors for their continued support and another to welcome new donors to your cause. In each case, detail the impact of their gift. For new donors, it’s about education and retention. Focus this effort on how their gift is changing the world and helping them understand the crux of your organization’s mission. For repeat donors, it’s an update on campaign progress, a call to action that asks them to share the news of their gift online and via social media, and something that highlights the impact of this specific gift.
  • Don’t forget about mail! Especially for your new donors, send them a beautiful new donor package in the mail that thanks them for their support and tells the story of your organization. Then track both their response to mail and digital outreach. If they continue to engage online, but not via mail, think about moving more resources to your online programs to support your donors’ desired form of connectivity to your organization. But first, start with a good mail piece.

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.

Justin Ware is Director Interactive Communications at BWF_social where he helps clients build world-leading online fundraising programs.

Wabash Expands Culture of Philanthropy with Online Ambassadors

The Wabash College Day of Giving was a big win in donors and dollars AND in raising the culture of philanthropy to support the school.

The Wabash College Day of Giving was a big win in donors and dollars AND in raising the culture of philanthropy to support the school.

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.