Local Government Innovation & Redesign

To support local government redesign efforts and recognize the innovative work already underway, the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center has partnered with state associations to create the Local Government Innovation & Redesign Guide and host a yearly Local Government Innovations Awards ceremony.

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Facebook for Funding?!

Marc Pitman, author of Ask Without Fear! and founder of FundraisingCoach.com has dedicated much of his career to helping organizations raise funds more effectively. Early in October Pitman headed a panel introducing several nonprofits to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. He attempted to illustrate how these websites can garner support and potentially even increase donations. While Pitman expressed that he understood some of the downsides of using social networking sites in this way - mainly that they are exactly that: social - he offered several reasons as to why it might be beneficial to employ some of these tools:

  • Our society is highly mobile and interconnected: Social media can encourage new donors to support your cause without forcing you to increase your travel budget.
  • Large social media numbers equal credibility: To the average Twitter or Facebook user, sizeable support via groups, fans, or Tweet followers highlights your nonprofit and could encourage donors.
  • People are already using these sites: The support is out there, and there are large pools of resources that are currently untapped.

I can see why Pitman feels these online tools could be an asset to an organization - they help build relationships. But as a social media user myself I find a couple of flaws in his argument. Facebook, for example, offers hundreds of thousands of groups and fan pages that you can become a part of, and people do! But clicking that "Become a Fan" button doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to donate my time, energy, or income to that cause. Similarly, virtually every time I sign onto Facebook, I have a couple of "group invites" waiting for me. Sometimes I'll skim over the page to see if it's interesting, but more often than not I just delete the notification.

I think a more important point is that an organization has to think about who actually uses Facebook, Twitter, and those other similar sites: high school kids, college students, mom and dad. People are drawn to these networking sites because they're fun, easy to use, and a great way to stay connected. I think the amount of people surfing the sites to find nonprofits to donate to is rather small.

Don't get me wrong, I see why Pitman and others feel that these tools could be useful. As I write this, there are 32 million Facebook users of the "Causes Application". It lets their users know about nonprofits and other organizations dedicated to a myriad of causes. That's a lot of people waiting to read up on your organization.

I would love to hear people's thoughts. What do you all think about using social networking sites to garner support?

Comments

Social media can be an efficient way to tell people about your compelling idea or product--it doesn't make your product any better. More importantly, social media can be a great way to enable advocates on your behalf--unpaid evangelists.

I recently read a blog post about attracting attention online. Good advice:

Make something great. Tell people about it. Do it again.

That’s it. Make something you believe in. Make it beautiful, confident, and real. Sweat every detail. If it’s not getting traffic, maybe it wasn’t good enough. Try again.


If, after telling people who care, your charitable cause still isn't garnering attention online, maybe it flat-out isn't compelling. Try again.

I'm a fan of using it (social media) to promote volunteer opportunities, recent news, and other information. It helps to get people familiar with the organization and its work.

NTEN recently published this post: http://nten.org/blog/2009/09/24/online-donors-why-they-leave-and-how-win-them-back - from that I found this:

"Donors who give on a nonprofit's website are more loyal than those who give through social networks. We find nearly 50% of donors give more than once in a year on a nonprofit's website, while only about 15% do through social networks. That said, actual repeat giving from donors via a social network is likely understated because many of these donors have been introduced to this channel of giving less than 12 months ago."

Direct mail is still the big winner for fundraising, but getting the message out there to new audiences is huge for social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube). Getting the message out can led to further involvement, which can lead to contributions. Spreading the word (and making it easy for others to spread the word) is the first step, and that's what social media does. When people are familiar with an organization, they go back to it when they look for a place to volunteer or to donate, in-kind or financially.

On a very related note: remember that viral YouTube video that showed a MN couple dancing down the aisle? The couple turned that into a fundraiser (the song they used was by Chris Brown, accused of beating up Rihanna, his then-girlfriend) for Wellstone Action's Sheila Wellstone Institute and raised $23,000+. Without social media, would that have happened?

I have been using social media to promote various opportunities, expanding business and sharing ideas. I definitely have come across people with similarities. It definitely is a good idea.

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