Three Lessons in Social Media Fundraising

Submitted by Holly on Mon, 07/06/2009 - 1:24pm

Now that the warm days of summer have finally graced us with their presence, January seems like a distant memory. But for those of you who participated in the Case Foundation Giving Challenge, it probably feels like yesterday. We hate to bring up all those sleepless nights and the constant campaigning, but now we've got a great write up about the Challenge from Beth Kanter and Allison Fine.

A total of nearly 2 million dollars raised from nearly 75,000 people means there were a few lessons learned. Many align nicely with some of the principles of We Are Media. Here are a few tidbits I found particularly compelling:

1. The Big Guys Don't Always Win. It's the Right Culture that Prevails.

When it comes to fundraising in the nonprofit sector, it's most often the case that bigger is better. Bigger organizations have bigger lists and bigger staff to cultivate those lists, amounting in bigger fundraising. In this case, smaller orgs had a much better showing than anticipated:

"Indeed, larger organizations with slower-moving hierarchies and professional development staffs were less successful in this fast-paced effort." (Page 12)

The key here is another point from the report: Social media tends to work best for organizations in an "Action-reflection-revision-action" model (page 15). That model requires that decision making happen quickly and iteratively. That happens best in organizations with a culture that values both learning and entrepreneurialism.

Those values aren't just for small orgs, though. They can be embraced and implemented in any size organization.

2. There's No Such Thing as Social Media Fundraising

I get a lot of speaking requests, and most of those have to do with social media and fundraising. What the Case Foundation experiment makes clear is that social media is a great mechanism for collecting donations for a variety of reasons. But, to borrow a cliche, social media doesn't raise money, people raise money.  

In fact, the most successful tactic for raising money in the Challenge was not Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media outlet. No, the most effective technique cited in the report is House Parties (page 16). You remember those, right? Where real people get together face-to-face in someone's living room? They're the original "social media".

This underscores a very important point: social media is just another channel. The other channels aren't going away any time soon. Make them work together.

3. New Media Can Mean New Donors

When the report authors interviewed the people who led the efforts for their organizations, they reported that the majority of donors to their causes were new donors (page 18). That's good stuff, right? But the question remains, will those donors stick around? Only time will tell.

Did you participate in the Challenge?  What did you learn?