Commentary: How social media fundraising compares to email fundraising

Ehren Foss, HelpAttack blog, 2/7/12

During the Social Media 4 Nonprofits conference in New York last week, Sarah Durham of Big Duck included a most fabulous slide in her presentation (slide 15). I'm excited about this because I still didn't really know what "average" numbers looked like. Every organization, online community, and campaign is different. Wildly different response rates. These reports average responses across many organizations, and many campaigns. According to the study, the average conversion rateof a donation form, linked to from a fundraising email, is 13%. [By comparison,] a recent campaign by Free Arts NYC drove 291 unique visitors to their HelpAttack! page, resulting in 26 pledges. 26 / 291 = 8.9%. Lower than 13%, but it's important to remember that most people are unfamiliar with how HelpAttack! works (versus a regular donation form), and need an additional step to add an app on Twitter or Facebook. What happens if we compare the response rates? Free Arts NYC has around 1,200 Facebook fans and 500 Twitter followers. Let's assume these communities are equivalent (they aren't!), for a total of 1,700. 291 unique visitors / 1,700 in their community = 17%! That's around28 times betterthan the response rate of email. I think one big reason for the jump is thatsocial media content is more easily shared. You can forward a fundraising email to your friends - but do you? The total response rate, then, is 26 pledges / 1,700 community members, or 1.5% - 19 times better than the email overall response rate of 0.08%. Email fundraising doesn't work every time, and neither does social media fundraising. But when it does work, the results can be spectacular.


Commentary: 4 reasons why NOT to use social media...and why to use it anyway   Christine Durand and Kristen Cici, The Nonprofit Quarterly, 12/20/11

Nonprofit communicators are often skeptical -- and rightly so -- of the new tools out there. Why should organizations shift resources away from what has proven to be successful to this vague concept of the social web? Below are the four most frequent points raised as to why organizations should think twice before heading down the social media path...and reasons why those points don't necessarily hold up.

1. It's a fad -- it's going away soon anyway. Tools come and go. That said, social media is here to stay. Nonprofits should invest in the concept of being social organizations rather than becoming stuck on a single tool -- or even group of tools -- that they use to make that happen. Be open to engaging in online conversation, whatever the tool may be. Be flexible.

2. What's the ROI? I can't see that it's worth it. It is becoming more difficult to determine cause and effect of particular messages and methods. If a [nonprofit] posts a photo and a link to donate on Facebook, sends an e-mail, and sends a direct mail appeal, it becomes difficult to determine which method will have motivated donors who received all three campaign methods. A return on investment may also be skewed during the building period of a social media strategy.

3. People will say bad things about us.Some companies have fared better in social media than others, but one thing they all learn is that people -- donors, volunteers, supporters -- are already talking about them. In other words, the social media tools are not the issue. While negative comments are a concern, a bigger concern is lack of participation.
4. Our supporters don't use social media. Really? Currently, Facebook has more than 800 million active users. The smallest group of Facebook users, those between the ages of 55 and 64, is also one of the fastest growing. So though an organization's audience may not at first use social media, they very well may later on-something that is worth reassessing every year.


Commentary: 5 ways to leverage social media for donor prospect research

Brady Hahn,, 1/18/12

It's easy to get lost while researching prospective donors and advocates. So what should you be looking for? Value! Not just the monetary kind, but what people and companies care about. We as fundraisers are people connecting with people. If you know what a person cares about and they understand what you are working toward, you can build something great together! Take a look at your action plan. Based on the rating system, chances are you have a lot of people you need to "get to know" and some you would like to approach in a new way. Here are 5 easy ways:

1. Start With Your Internal Resources: Yes, email is a social media tool, so always check your "list"! If someone has ever interacted with your organization (even if it was 5 years ago when they subscribed to your mailing list), you have common ground to start a conversation. While you're in there, take some time to segment your database.

2. Go Where the Information Is Most Obvious: A company or an individual's website / blog is the first layer of many in getting to know your prospect and should give you a good sense of whether they're a brand match for you or not.

3. Identify Professional Values: LinkedIn is more than a resume holder! Follow companies you want to learn about, join conversation groups they are connected to and look through people's bios. Want more on leveraging LinkedIn? Watch "Top 5 FAQs on LinkedIn".

4. Identify "Personal" Values: Many companies have Facebook pages now, so be sure to like them and see what they are up to! When it comes to researching people, don't go on a "friending" spree. Often times, people list where they're from, their school, marital status, etc., in their public profile. That's all you need since you should have collected a large amount of professional information by now!

5. Starting a Conversation: Twitter is a great causal forum to form a relationship and engage as "you" on behalf of your organization. The flow of information is like being at a dinner party, you can stand back and listen to the group as a follower, but you'll get more out of the experience if you join the conversation and tweet-up! 

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