In going through some of the resources available for starting up your own blog (including Heather Mansfield’s excellent book, Social Media for Social Good) I found myself grappling with the impression that many nonprofits are using blogging as little more than thinly veiled attempts to raise additional funds – not really considering the content they bring to the reader, much less the field. I know, this probably sounds completely jaded, but after looking around at various blogs, I really was overwhelmed by the feeling that for every well-written, thoughtfully-crafted blog produced by a nonprofit, there are two more that are simply going through the motions so that they can point you to the “Donate Now” button.
With that background, I became curious. Is this my cynical side winning out? Have I read too many “featured fundraiser” blog posts and “urgent call for donations” headlines for my own good? Is the tragedy of commons so impacting fundraising in social media, that there is no grass left on which the thoughtful fundraiser can graze? Okay, that’s a bit dramatic; I suppose my biggest question really was this: can a social media campaign tap into the nonprofit need to fundraise and still bring real value (emotional or informational) to the reader?
So I began to look around for information on top grossing nonprofit blogs. I suppose that is a crass way to say it, I mean to say that I began to look for successful social media based fundraising campaigns. My hope was that I would find substantive, thought provoking campaigns that lent depth of experience to the reader, inspired generosity and caring, and didn’t make me want to google heart-warming videos of puppies and babies when I was done just to get the smarmy fundraiser after-taste out of my mouth.
Here’s what I found:
- It is just as much about who is asking as it is the way you ask.
This probably comes as no surprise to the fundraisers out there. It is well known that you need to be mindful not only of what you ask, but how you ask and who does the asking. The difference I noticed with social media, is THE REACH. One child can raise tens of thousands of dollars through a creative project if they make a compelling story and you have a good network. Once again we see that the ability to reach many is a clear benefit of social media.
- Make a video.
Don’t feel like making a video? Make a video. No time to make a video? Make a video. Generally hate videos and secretly wish you could crash youtube indefinitely? MAKE A VIDEO. This trend had been developing in the days of the dinosaurs when I was a fundraiser (2012) and there was all of this talk about keeping the video short, raw cut footage and making it feel “real”, etc. What I’m seeing now is this: high production value or low, seven minutes or two, a well thought out video can go a long way!
Now you might be wondering about the meaningful and heartfelt side of things. Well, I found great information on that too!
- Inform people on issues that they care about. Give the inside scoop.
Share something in the blog that people didn’t know. Give them an inside scoop on a world they either only know a little bit about, or that they may barely remember. One example is the NeverSeconds blog put together by Martha Payne, a student who informed the world about the inadequate school lunches she was encountering. You can read more about this in an article by Jordan Harling. But don’t fret if you don’t have the insider scoop on your exact mission or idea. You can still give the inside scoop, check out this video from CharityWater and learn more about the touching fundraiser it was used for in this Reson Digital article.
- Match the tone of the blog with the campaign.
Now I suppose there are all sorts of questions about whether making something funny is actually contributing to people or the field, but I’m going to go with yes. But (and this is a big but) before I make some sweeping statement about being funny, I would say instead – match the tone. See the Charity Swear Box campaign in this Digital Media article. Funny cause, funny tone, fairly informative about how much people swear. On a more serious note, think about the case of Karen Klein whose story and subsequent social media campaign taught her community about bullying. The tone was serious, informative, and thoughtful. Not a humorous touch to be seen. Read more in the Jason Boies article.
Well that’s what I’ve got for now. Here are a few great resources I also found while poking around on this topic if you’re still interested:
- What is best practice?
5 Simple Tips For Fundraising with Social Media by Jason Boies
- What does best practice look like?
5 more social media campaigns that have boosted fundraising by Reason Digital
- A few extra examples of super great fundraisers that leveraged blogs and other social media:
Five Fundraising campaigns that over-achieved thanks to social media by Jordan Harling
So have I convinced you that there are heart-felt, informative social media fundraisers that replenish your joy for humanity? If not, check out this video of a puppy and baby, it should help cleanse the palate.
Featured Image by Stuart Miles via http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/