The majority of nonprofits are not paying enough attention to social media. This may have been understandable five years ago. Today, it’s just plain dumb.
If You’re Absent No one Can See You
Nonprofits constantly talk about their need to “build awareness.” In our digital world, it should be patently obvious that if you want to be found you need a strong online presence – and particularly a social media presence. You can’t raise money from folks who don’t know you exist.
It wasn’t that long ago that the primary ways people found each other was through offline networking. Face-to-face encounters. Word-of-mouth. Broadcast media. Mailings. It was a lot harder for marketers to find their target audiences because everything was very broad brush.
Today, that’s no longer the case. The model for bringing donors in and moving them up the donor pyramid is changing. You can find people – and they can find you – anywhere in the world, any day of the week and any time of day. And what is the number one way people find a new brand (yes, your nonprofit is a brand) these days? Online!
Digital media consumption has increased by nearly 50% in the last three years, which means people are turning to online sources for content more and more. 65% of adults now use social networking sites– a nearly tenfold jump in the past decade. They’re there; you need to be there too.
How Social Media Helps Nonprofits Find Donors
Social media has made it possible for folks to find and connect with other folks who share their interests and values. They can easily share articles, photos, graphics, cartoons and videos that provoke or inspire. They can engage in ongoing discussions. And as they form into niche groups around areas of interest, these are groups you can easily tap into
What makes me think you’ll find folks who will convert into donors?
According to UNC School of Government, one in five adults in the U.S. has donated online in the last five years – that’s 49.1 million people!
According to Waggener Edstrom survey, more than 55% of those who engage with a nonprofit via social media take an action. Of those who take actions, a whopping 59% donate money.
Plus, you’ll find there are all sorts of other beneficial actions you can expect those folks who care about your cause to take, including volunteering, attending a fundraising event, purchasing a product to support your cause, donating in-kind goods, and so on.
If you’re thinking you can still survive with just a website and email as your online strategy, think again. You may have been right a year ago. Email and websites, according to a 2015 Social Media Benchmark study, remain the most used audience engagement tools among non-profit organizations. However, according to the same report, social media is catching up fast. Facebook and Twitter followers grew 42% and 37% percent respectively for nonprofits last year, while email lists grew by only 11%.
We’re in a social zeitgeist. Things are changing. Outbound marketing is yesterday’s news. Inbound marketing is where it’s at. People, increasingly, want to be part of the conversation.
You can’t control information anymore. “Business as usual” is different today, and it’s something you must accept if you want to raise more money. You can’t beat ‘em. You must join ‘em.
Where Potential Donors Hang Out
1- Facebook (98%)
2- Twitter (70%)
3- LinkedIn (55%)
4- YouTube (45%)
5- Pinterest (25%)
6- Instagram (15%)
7- Google+ (15%)
8- Flickr (10%)
9- Tumblr (5%)
10- SlideShare (<5%)
What Does “Owning it” Mean for Small and Medium Nonprofits?
Do you have to be on all 10 of these social platforms? Absolutely not! That’s looking at the trees, rather than the forest.
Start slowly and evolve. Learn to walk before you start to run. It’s better to do one thing well than half a dozen things poorly.
In fact, one of the biggest mistakes I see nonprofits making is reactive strategy that results in setting up every social media account a board member or volunteer suggests; then having a very half-baked presence there. If you haven’t posted on Facebook or Twitter for two weeks, you may as well not be there. The same holds true with a Pinterest presence that has only three boards, with two to four pins each. Or a Google+ account that no one monitors. If you’re going to be there, BE there!
Like every other strategy worth doing, social media must be done proactively and strategically.
The best way to approach this is “digital first.”
“Real digital transformation involves the entire organization. It involves people and culture as much as—or perhaps more than—it involves technology.” (Information Week)
Recognize that people today get their information over multiple channels. They expect a seamless digital experience with personalized, interactions where they are recognized across multiple channels. It’s no longer simply about acknowledging you know their name; people expect to be treated as individuals. If you can learn to do this, you’ll not only engage more supporters; you’ll keep them loyal longer.
You say you’re too short-staffed to dedicate person power to digital strategy? That’s like saying you’re too short-staffed to exist. Join the crowd. Stop whining, and figure out a way to work around this. You can download a free report from NTEN which includes case studies from a variety of nonprofits who’ve figured this out, and seven steps for digital strategy success.
It’s pretty nutty to ignore modern technology in a world that’s changing at such a rapid pace. There’s nothing you can do to change the fact your supporters’ expectations have been shaped by for-profit companies with big budgets and sophisticated technology. So commit to doing what you can, slowly but surely, to enter the stream under your own power. Otherwise, you’re likely to be swept away with the current.
Spend time figuring out who your target audiences are. What do they care about? Where do they get their information? Where do they interact? Build personas to help you to visualize who you’re talking with. Then use what you learn to tailor your strategies so that you’re offering a customer-centered experience.
Use your social communications channels as places to experiment and see what resonates. Track what works/what doesn’t, and adjust accordingly. Do this as a team – one that universally values the perspectives of its supporters.
Embrace Holistic Online Socializing
The very best thing, in my opinion, is to eliminate siloes.
“Digital first” is a team sport.
Your constituents expect consistent messaging and ongoing responsiveness from your entire organization. They only know one you. They don’t care if the message originated in development or marketing. Or if your strategy is managed by your online communications specialist, social media manager or donor relations coordinator. If you keep everything separate internally, this will show in your external relations with constituents. As one astute writer wrote recently for NTEN, “Instead of showing the forest, they engage their supporters with the trees.”
So… don’t agonize over whether you need Instagram or Snapchat or…
Instead of brainstorming which channels you need, begin with the overarching purpose of your communications strategy. I like to think of it as “delivering happiness and meaning.” The more of both you can offer folks, the more likely they are to become interested in and engaged with you. Then your job is simply to keep them engaged; then to move them along the communications continuum – from awareness to interest, to involvement and, ultimately, to investment. What your constituents need and want will evolve over time – and you’ll want to be agile enough to adapt.
My recommendation is to begin with a limited number of social channels. Even one is okay to begin with. As you evolve, measure your engagement and conversions and begin to hone in on those channels that give you the most bang for your buck.
Integrate your communications across all your channels. The whole is definitely bigger than the sum of its parts
What Strategies Get Results?
There are endless things you can do to drive awareness, engagement and investment using social media. Let’s take a look at a number of them, grouped into categories based on different purposes.
- Reach Your Audience and Build Community
As already noted, the nature of social media is such that it’s already organized into communities. These may be Facebook Groups, Twitter lists, Google+ forums and LinkedIn discussion groups. It could be simply hashtags such as #cleanwater, #ALSIceBucketChallenge, #cancercure, #globalwarming and so forth. All of these are based on specific topics which only attract specific types of people.
All you need to do is target the folks who are already demonstrating they’re interested in –even passionate about – one or more subjects that align with your nonprofit’s interests and values. Check out this video by Neal Schaffer to see how to build a LinkedIn tribe.
Some of the things you can do are:
- Tap into already existing communities by adding value with your thought leadership,
- Build your own niche communities around topics that relate directly to your mission.
- Create your own hashtags to help people find your organization and your issues
- Include social media buttons on your emails, and in all email signatures, to get existing supporters to open up their social networks to you.
- Engage Your Audience
The whole point of finding your community is to build relationships with them. This means frequent engagement. And offering gifts of relevant content. And making nice. If you treat your supporters right they will spread your message through their messages and comments to their network. If you ignore them when they engage with you, the opposite – or worse – will happen. Here are some tips:
- Give shout-outs to say thank you and/or publicly recognize donors so they shine in front of your community and within their networks.
- Follow, fan, retweet and respond.
- Reach out to influencers in your community, and inspire them to become a part of your mission.
- Participate in ongoing conversations such as Twitter Chats, LinkedIn discussions, and Google hang-outs.
- Become a trusted, valuable resource; don’t just talk about yourself.
- Be human; don’t automate everything or you’ll come across as a robot.
- Raise funds
The trend is to more and more giving online. The Blackbaud Index found that while overall giving was down .5% in March, 2016, online giving was actually up 6.5%. According to the M+R 2016 Benchmark Study, online giving increased 19% from the previous year. Here are some things you can do to encourage your social media followers to invest in your cause:
- Share stories of people you help. This is the type of emotional content that makes people feel – happy, sad, angry, inspired, proud, or… whatever you want. Include a link back to the fuller story on your website, where folks will find an easy-to-use donation button. You can do the same thing by sharing stories of success on Facebook. Or pinning stories of people helped to your Pinterest boards. And so on.
- Enlist folks in crowdfunding campaigns. Or use challenges. This creates a sense of urgency that increases your odds of turning folks into donors.
- Tap into the power of peer-to-peer fundraising. Charity: Water is brilliant at this. Check out their birthday campaigns. Get more tips on how to strengthen donor relationships using social media here.
- Promote fundraising events. Here’s a tutorial explaining how to promote events on Facebook.
- Use social media to drive folks back to your website so they’ll sign up for your email list. Email is still the #1 way nonprofits raise money online.
Social media isn’t going away. While growth in usage and engagement varies by sector, the M+R 2016 Benchmark Study found that, on average, nonprofit Facebook fans increased by 29% over the previous year. Twitter followers increased by 25%. Did you know the average person worldwide has five social media accounts and spends an average of 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day? The time to own social media, for donor acquisition, engagement, retention and upgrading, is now!