Wondering where fundraising is heading in our highly networked, overly saturated, noisy-as-all-get-out post-digital revolution world?
It’s a bit of a jungle out there, with so much competition for attention — for-profits, other nonprofits, political campaigns, friends, family.
It’s a wonderful time to seize the opportunity to put in place a system that values multiple voices.
Truly, if you’re able to really show people how much you value them, you’re going to rise to the top of the heap.
Of course, sometimes it’s easier said than done.
Today we’ll explore 4 keys to raising money in our socially-revolutionized zeitgeist.
Bad News/Good News:
The fundraising environment is altered. Mostly due to technology.
Okay, this isn’t all ‘bad.’ But it’s frustrating! Because while it’s technically ‘easier’ and ‘cheaper’ to do a lot of things (e.g., set up user-friendly branded websites; develop online campaigns, interact with constituents on social media), it’s simultaneously more challenging. And potentially more expensive. Because… there’s more to do!
Technology has made it possible to do things never before imaginable. Multiple email campaigns. Sharing on social media. High quality photography and video made with the ease of a smart phone. Multiple new places to find and connect with potential constituents. But… possible and probable are not the same thing. You create what’s probable; you’ve got to ‘work’ this new environment. You need people, technology, passion and plans that take into account today’s realities. If you’re still doing fundraising and marketing largely the same way you did it 10 years ago, you’re going to be left behind. And, let’s face it, change is hard.
People haven’t changed.
Ah. A bit of truly good news. You can still connect based on commonalities. Shared values. Emotions. Passions. You still want to lead with all this good stuff. Philanthropy, literally, translates to “love of humanity.” Continue to channel this. A human connection should be at the core of everything you do. And this includes every fundraising and marketing strategy. You’re just using some different tools and channels. Along with some of the oldies-but-goodies as well.
The best way to take the bad with the good, mix them together. adapt to changing communication realities and come out on top?
4 Key Social Fundraising Fundamentals for Nonprofits
1. Your Inspiring Story Presentation
The more it’s memorable the more it will be shared.
Stories are the oldest form of human communication. It’s how parents teach children. Not with infographics and pie charts. But by telling them their life stories.
Stories communicate and trigger emotions. Empathy. Sympathy. Sadness. Happiness. Hope. Despair. This connects to people’s guts, not their brains. The feelings in their gut connect to their hearts, not their head. When it comes to inspiring action, the heart trumps the head. Every time.
Of all the content you can create, storytelling is your ultimate weapon. Hands down, it’s the most powerful means of communicating your message.
Don’t let your message leave home without one!
TIP: Brainstorm Stories To Convey Your Message.
1. Begin with the story; then wrap your prose around it.
2. Search for photos that demonstrate the story.
3. Add a caption to your photo to tell the story in a nutshell (people skim).
4. Repeat the story on your response device and web landing page.
TIP: Pick One Compelling Emotional Story
1. Don’t try to raise money for everything all at once.
2. People know they can’t cure cancer. Show how they can help make progress towards a cure. People know they can’t help all 20 of your programs. Describe one in detail, so they can visualize the happy ending they can make possible.
3. Don’t mix your story up with facts and figures. Data depresses response.
Read more on how people can be inspired to change the world, one drama at a time, here.
2. Leveraging People Power
The more you share, the more you’ll succeed.
One of the greatest benefits of the digital revolution is how it’s opened up access to networks you’d never previously have hoped to reach. Today, tapping into current supporters’ personal networks scales relationship building. Folks who are moved by your powerful, values-based, emotional story will share it. As an expression of who they are, and of how they relate to others.
As folks they share with share again, you grow an army of storytellers ready and willing to promote your campaigns to their personal networks! By advocating on your behalf, as your extended fundraising force, folks feel doubly empowered. They’re not just giving. They’re giving back.
Not just to you; also as a little ‘thank you’ or signal to their friend. Through giving and acting, they show they’re part of a tribe or movement. And people really want to belong.
TIP: Include a Clear Call to Action
1. Tell folks explicitly when you want them to share your message.
2. Show how to be an active part of your movement and community, beyond simply clicking “Donate” or writing a check.
- “Please retweet this to your network.”
- “Join the movement to create lasting change.”
- “Please forward this message, with a brief introduction in your own words that describes why you give and why you care.”
- “You are central to the story we’re writing together.”
- “You can set up your own birthday campaign here.”
- “Start your own food drive here.”
Show your supporters how to leverage their support and grow it beyond their own gift. Millennials and Boomers, the two most dominant demographics in today’s world, want to be active. They need you to show them how to do this.
3. Tapping into the Power of ‘Social Proof’
People are trusted more than organizations and brands.
The more voluntary advocates you have, the more trust you’ll inspire. Trust triggers folks to act. People look to their peers to become better informed before they make their own decision. This ties back to Robert Cialdini’s principle of influence: social proof. When others we respect or like do something, we’re inclined to follow.
TIP: Multiply the Impact of Limited Resources
1. Actively recruit your tribe of fundraising boosters.
2. Consider giving these campaigners a catchy name so folks feel part of a group that shares common values (e.g. Arts Advocates; Back-to-School Believers; Change Champions; Democracy Devotees; Earth Enthusiasts; Family Fanatics; Grassroots Groupies; Housing Helpers; Interfaith Initiators; Jazz Jubilators; KidSave Kickstarters; Legal Aid Leaders; Make-a-Wish Magicians; Neighborhood Network; Ocean Obsessives; Peace Promoters; River Rooters; Science Supporters; Technology Teamplayers; University Uniters; Voices for Veterans; Women for Women; Zoo Zealots, etc.). This may be something you promote on your website, as well as via email and social media.
3. Create a job description for these folks, so they commit to joining in and taking on this special role as your philanthropy facilitators. When folks sign up, thank them warmly. Let them know what to expect next, and when they’ll hear from you.
TIP: Make Your Trusted Supporters Super-Heroes
1. When advocates act on your behalf, shower them with gratitude.
2. When donors give money, make them feel you value them for more than just this transactional act. Philanthropy should be a transformative “feel good’ experience. It should feel big and important – not like a one-time donation or ‘drop in the bucket.’
3. P2P fundraising propels your supporters more deeply into your organization’s narrative, as they become not just donors but also fundraisers on your cause’s behalf. Treat them as super-heroes!
4. People are Busy; Make it Easy
Encourage folks to pick a reachable goal.
This can be dollars they intend to raise, donors they intend to recruit and/or appeals they intend to send. Offer ongoing support and cheerleading as they move towards their goal.
Do this with both staff and volunteers. Everyone needs clarity around expectations. Likewise, everyone deserves acknowledgement and celebration when goals are reached.
TIP: Offer an Easy-to-Use Platform
1. Review your many options; pick one you can manage.If it isn’t easy, busy people won’t engage.
2. Ask folks to share via social media and/or email.
3. Offer fundraising pages online that serve as your campaign hub. Many systems — including DonorPerfect Online, DonorPro, Artez Interactive from FrontStream, and Blackbaud‘s suite of tools — offer fundraising features and peer-to-peer functionality. Your existing database provider may be able to integrate with many of these online fundraising bells and whistles; ask them! There are numerous companies offering explicit peer-to-peer fundraising solutions (e.g. 4aGoodCause, CauseVox, Classy, Network for Good, among others; this list is by no means exhaustive; check more here); some will help you with everything from messaging to promotion to follow-up.
TIP: Make P2P Fundraising Personal
1. Allow people to fundraise on your behalf using their own voice.
2. I like to offer several different messages as samples. Your advocates can choose one, or they can take bits and pieces and tailor the message to one with which they feel comfortable.
3. Also empower supporters to tell their own story – how they got engaged with your cause and why they’re passionate.
Raising money in today’s fundraising environment involves shaping how newly connected groups grow and change the world around them.
Technology is empowering people to come together like never before. Good news!
Your job is to help people use the tools at their disposal to share their values and passions. Double good news!! You can become a philanthropy facilitator.
Never forget that a major part of your constituents’ agenda is often a quest for meaningful social interaction; a tribal connection.
Best-selling author and blogger, Seth Godin, notes: “A crowd is a tribe without a leader.”
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This is a simple guide to help you evaluate what’s worth doing/not worth doing for your nonprofit. You don’t have to do everything. But you do have to do something in order to meet evolving donor expectations in our increasingly networked world.
Whatever you do, you should first know your goals so that you can select the objectives and strategies that will help you reach them most effectively.
To your success!