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Tips for using Social Media to increase donations

I attended the excellent CHASE 2011 (The Charities and Associations Exhibition) conference this week. The first two sessions I attended were both about harnessing the power of Social Media.

The first session was discussing how to help raise donations online and the second was on how to bring your community onto your website with private social networking. It is clear why these are hot topics for charities. Research by Web Analytics Demystified states that most non-profits only convert 1-2% of their visitors to donors. Fundraising and communication teams in the audience acknowledged that they are facing a challenge to increase this amount.

They discussed the below model showing contributors as the main driver for the organisation. However, but it was suggested that this needs to be turned on its head, to put the cause at the centre of the organisation, not the contributors.

Cause model

By doing this, the organisation can help to focus on creating trust and build on the "donate now" button. Whilst a call to action is required, the charity also needs to give something in return for donations. The charity needs to build trust that will maintain the "donor promise" on what will be delivered. i.e. what you promise to do with a supporters donation.

It was proposed that the web should be used as an enabling platform where you can understand people's needs and behaviour. The website is, or will become, the main focal point for all charities; for its staff, members, donors, volunteers, services, projects. And as such, it should be at the heart of everything a charity does. Once this philosophy is adopted, other marketing tools can be used to drive donations including Social Media.

Social Media is surprisingly still not adopted by all charities. According to SocialMediaWorks 10 reasons to use Social Media are:

  1. Ignoring Social Media can hurt your brand and reputation
  2. To gain recommendations and referrals
  3. As a channel to provide service
  4. To promotion special campaign engagement
  5. For Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  6. To promote and run events
  7. For easy market research and insight into donor trends
  8. For targeting specific demographics/communities
  9. As a lead generation and donor acquisition tool
  10. To brand you charity as an expert/thought leader

Harness the power of Social Media

Charities should develop and implement a plan to harness the power of Social Media.

Social Media was built for individuals not organisations, so charities need to get individuals to do the work building relationships. This can result in the creation of a substantial donor/member base via high networked individuals.

Social Media goals for charities

When developing your Social Media plan, make sure you set objectives that can be measured. In addition here are some goals that can be included.

  1. Aim to get three times extra per donor. i.e. three times what they are currently donating.
  2. Once you have got the full net worth from a donor you should be able to convert them to advocates as well as their network.
  3. Ensure advocates, and the best fundraisers, share their knowledge with other fundraisers online, so that they can maximise their networks.

Gaining advocates using Social Media

Social Media is best used to build relationships. By bring Social Media on to your website with Facebook connect or open graph you can facilitate interaction on your site where all your marketing messages are. You are then more likely to convert users to perform an action. The online actions that count include: donations, subscriptions, supporting events, and volunteering. Once you have more than three times of a donor's initial net worth they can be converted to advocates to ensure you gain the sum of their network is also targeted.

Who to target

You don't need to target every contact you have. Be selective and target individuals, those that already raise/donate well and use their communities that already exist to extend your reach (schools, churches, campus, neighbourhoods etc). You don't need to create new communities. The communities already exist on Social Networks and your donors will already be a part of them and can influence them.

Extend Social Networking

Private Social Networks on your site can extend and enhance your donation collection to gain further advantages. Functionality such as member areas, blogs, events calendars and polls will all help build a Social Network on your site. This will help you to:

  1. Grow member numbers, improve retention and acquisition with improved member profiles and added personalisation, plus integrating with blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
  2. Permit knowledge sharing between experts, staff, members, volunteers and donors.
  3. Extend value and research for conferences/events, using members' network to bring in more contacts.
  4. Gain member insight and feedback, getting people to tell you what's hot and using statistical evidence to track activity.


It is vital that charities maximise their use of Social Media in a planned way and leverage the best fundraisers' networks for extended reach. By doing this successfully, conversion rates over 2% can be achieved, the cause message can be spread wider and individuals will want to engage with you more

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