One Key to a Successful Nonprofit Social Media Strategy
How do children learn best? By playing!
When it comes to understanding our missions, most of our potential constituents are children. They don’t know much. The internet now makes it possible for people to learn about us through play. While charities commonly complain that social media strategies don’t make much money; this is just an excuse. Because, like any other fundraising strategy, social media doesn’t begin with making an ask. It begins with creating a buzz. Then it goes on, through the classic marketing continuum, from awareness, to interest, to involvement and, ultimately, to investment.
You gotta play to win. And there are a lot of toys from which to choose. You know about Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs (but if you’re just keeping these in the closet, and not really playing with them, you may want to check out Socialbrite for tips to bring them back to life). Now… what about peer-to-peer social fundraising? Fundraising badges? Sponsored surveys? Web-based shopping portals? Online games? What might your constituents like best? Most of us don’t know the folks on our mailing list as well as we know our children, nieces and nephews. We won’t know what they’d prefer unless we select something and give it a whirl.
Here are some top social philanthropy toys you may not be using*:
- Google+ Social Network pages for charities became available just this week. Fans who love you can recommend you with a +1 (a lot like Facebook ‘likes’), add you to a friendship ‘circle’ or engage actively with your team. All you need to do is start sharing, and options include posting information, photos and ‘hangouts’ (a pretty cool group video conferencing service, and… perhaps a reason to start a vlog?). Beth Kanter has some great thoughts about using this on her blog .
- Linkedin for Good – it’s jot just for jobs anymore. While not a venue for fundraising, per se, you can do the critical relationship building that is an essential precedent to an ask. One way nonprofits are beginning to use Linkedin, in addition to recruitment, is to create a group; ask people to join; invite people to post about who they are, and what they’re looking for; ask folks to cross post in similar groups, and use the group to invite people to events. For example, the Urban League of Portland increased event attendance from 500 to 1,500 after promoting through LI. Another way to tap into the network’s power is to ask board and staff to link their personal profiles to your website and organization’s Linkedin profile.
- Crowdrise allows users to build a charity profile (this takes under a minute) and then launch their fundraising campaign. The site hosts over a million charities; newcomers can register via Guidestar. Constituents then ask for donations using the CrowdRise share button found on the project page. This button allows the user to message people about their fundraising efforts using email, Twitter or Facebook. Some significant money has been raised this way, including $26.2 million for the NYC marathon. Note: The website is really fun and should give you a good chuckle. Plus, you gotta love a site that states it wants users to “get slightly addicted to giving.” (Similar peer-to-peer sites include Justgiving (8,000 listed charities), Globalgiving (next deadline to nominate your organization is 3-1-2012), Firstgiving (over $1 billion raised) and Razoo ($54 million raised for 1 million+ nonprofits).
- SixDegrees.org partners with Network for Good to enable folks to create endorsement widgets called “fundraising badges.” Badges can be placed on social networking profiles, blogs and websites. Site visitors can donate to the endorsed charity via the widget. As of this writing, more than $3.7 million has been raised for 1.2 million charities. If your charity is not listed, you can apply to have it registered. (Another widgety service called Chipin enables people to collect money for a cause using their PayPal account. It’s a cool looking widget, but it’s equally applicable to collecting money for a friend’s birthday gift, and it’s not clear to me how you assure the money actually gets donated).
- SocialVibe makes it possible to earn donations by connecting friends with brands using a range of social media properties including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and blogs. SocialVibe donates money when you and your connections participate in activities, like surveys, that are sponsored by brand partners. This site requires charities to be registered as partners. So far, only 40 charities are listed.
- Your Cause offers a user-friendly way for folks to create a personal fundraising web page. Any charity can simply sign up for free. It’s easy for your supporters to share the page with friends through any number of social media networks.
- Play to Give is conceptually intriguing: Supporters create mini “gameathons” among friends in lieu of attending a special event. I’m not sure this works, but do believe games offer untapped potential for those willing to be creative. Some anemic sites like clickforachange and charitii, pay a few pennies when games are played. But the real potential lies in partnering with companies (Zynga and Electronic Arts come to mind if you want to go for it!). Last year the San Francisco Food Bank partnered with Kabam over the Thanksgiving week-end to offer gamers a chance to buy a $3 “Chest of Charity.” Inside the chest were tools that helped player/donors advance to the next level of the game. The game was played on Facebook; the Food Bank actively promoted it on Facebook; the full $3 paid for each chest went to the Food Bank, and 6,000 people played! Another interesting model is building a game as a tool to create awareness and educate constituents about your cause. This has been done with great success by MiniClip and Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK. The game has 65 million monthly players!
Are you in the game? Right now, the ‘big guys’ still rule social philanthropy. But a lot of the reason for this can be attributed to the fact that they are big players. They have full time staff devoted to playing. They frequently tweet and post to Facebook. Incorporating social media into your non-profit’s portfolio will widen your overall reach, increase your brand awareness, create viral content, help you find more volunteers and advocates and, ultimately, help you to raise money. .A recent study posted by Craig’s List Founder Craig Newmark on his blog shows who the big players are, and it may be useful to check out what they’re doing. And don’t forget that with Facebook’s latest changes, allowing any action on the web to automatically be shared to your Facebook profile, we have truly entered the era of sharing writ large.
What do we teach our children to do when they play with their toys? To share! So the next time you’re creating content, think about this. Sharing is the way we make friends and build relationships.
*There are many more toys on the shelves. I’ve selected 7 that caught my fancy. If you’ve found some you like, please share them here. There’s no better time for this than the holidays!