Social Media for Social Good: 3 Secrets to Raising Big Bucks Online

Submitted on Thu, 2/16/2012 - 4:24pm
What's the thing that separates the top 1% social fundraisers from the rest of the pack, and how can any nonprofit, large or small, put big numbers on the board? 

According to a study by Blackbaud, NTEN and Common Knowledge, over 92% of nonprofit organizations have a presence on at least one social networking site, but most raise very little money through their social activity.

In fact, 87% have raised under $1000 on Facebook since they began using the platform.

A big part of what holds nonprofit organizations back is the fact that they can't risk full-fledged social media adoption because they're short staffed must focus on creating revenue and running programs (as in helping real people in the real world).

Yet despite the lack of wide spread fundraising success, social media is clearly a hot topic in the nonprofit space.  Conferences dedicated to helping nonprofits learn how to leverage social media for social good are popping up. Big social fundraising days coupled with workshops and other training events are taking advantage of the groundswell of social fundraising activity.  And large online publications like Mashable are even covering social media for social good.

Every person I talk to seems to have social media on the brain.

According to Darian Rodriguez Heyman, author of Nonprofit Management 101 and creator of the Social Media for Nonprofits conference, "In a world where Facebook is the equivalent of the third largest country on the planet, we have to ask ourselves, 'how can nonprofits leverage the immense word-of-mouth potential that social media makes available to causes both large and small?' and nonprofit leaders need practical tips and tools for fundraising, marketing, and advocacy if they are to maximize impact online and in general."

So what holding nonprofit organizations back and how are the top 1% succeeding? It's clear from the data below that three big things contribute to the lack of fundraising success: 1) Lack of budget. 2) Lack of staffing, and 3) Lack of focus on raising money.

Social media adoption by platform

Heading in to 2011 most nonprofits (92%), regardless of organization size are using at least one commercial social network (CSN) like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

The industry giant, with 89% adoption among nonprofits is Facebook. Twitter is the second most popular, used by 57% of organizations, with YouTube, LinkedIn and Flickr rounding out the top five.

Nonprofit Usage: Social Media Platforms


Social media adoption by budget

More than half (52%) of nonprofits have no formal budgets for social networks with just 4% allocating more than $50,000 annually.

Nonprofit Usage: Social Media Budget


Social media adoption by staffing

On the staffing side, 86% of nonprofits commit some employee time to social networks, with the majority (61%) allocating a quarter (1/4) of a full-time employee equivalent (FTE), and nearly 15% dedicating three-quarters or more (3/4 +) of an FTE.

But if you look closely you'll notice that 86% of nonprofits commit ½ or less of an FTE.

Nonprofit Usage: Social Media Staffing


Social media adoption by fundraising

 58% of nonprofits report measuring at least the soft benefits (e.g. increased awareness, education, non-financial supporter participation) of their commercial social networks, with just 9% measuring hard return on investment (ROI)— revenue received from donors, sponsors, advertisers, etc.

It is important to note that 35% have raised less than $1,000, and a very thin slice of less than 1% of all nonprofits have raised more than $100,000 via Facebook in the last 12 months.

Nonprofit Usage: Social Media Fundraising


How are the top 1% achieving success?

The numbers are interesting and all, but what's the thing that separates those top 1% performers from the rest of the pack, and how can any nonprofit, large or small, put big numbers on the board? 

The answer's as simple as 1, 2, 3.

1) Hire or assign someone currently on staff

Nothing good can happen if no one's working on it.

It's a pretty logical bit of reasoning, but judging by the data nonprofits don't allocate much staff time to social media.

Take a look at organizations like Make-a-Wish Foundation, Best Friends Animal Society, Chris and Dana Reeve Foundation, American Red Cross, National Wildlife Federation, Humane Society and March of Dimes. Every one of these nonprofits has at least one person on staff that owns their social media program. Some even have full-blown teams.

If you're trying to leverage the social web and all it has to offer, at some point you're going to have to put resources on the job.

2) Allocate budget

We all know you have to spend money to make money.

Nonprofits spend money on direct mail, email, websites, big events, and much more as part of their fundraising strategy. None of it is free so why would the effective use of social media be any different?

Those that are finding social media to be an effective fundraising channel spend money on things like custom Facebook pages, Facebook ad's, Facebook apps, promoted tweets, professional social media engagement platforms, blogs, content creation, campaign integration and much more.

It doesn't have to be an enormous amount of money, but if you want to raise significant dollars you're have to invest.

3) Add social media components to your fundraising appeals

Now that you've put someone in charge of your social media use and allocated some budget it's time to get to work, but instead of blowing things way out of proportion, start thinking of ways to incorporate social media into your existing fundraising efforts.

You probably have an end of year fundraising appeal that you distribute through direct mail, email and your website, right?

Why not get creative this time around and use Facebook to generate two way engagement in the form of people sharing why they support your organization, Twitter to tell the masses and YouTube to create a personalized thank you video for all those who donate?

The key is to infuse your current fundraising activity with social media rather than try to dream up a totally new way of raising money.

Conclusion - do these three things and thrive!

This article was orginially published at and is reprinted with permission of the author.

Frank Barry blogs about social media for social good, works for Blackbaud - the largest tech. company in the world exclusively serving nonprofits, and loves connecting with new folks in the industry. Say Hi on Twitter: @franswaa