Analyzing the State of Social Media Fundraising: An Interview with Debra Askanase
Debra Askanase is one of the top thought leaders in online community building, and my #1 pick for bloggers in social fundraising. In reference to her recent blog post Has Social Media Fundraising Finally Arrived?, we talked about the state of the social fundraising sphere, and what nonprofits should be doing to take advantage of what’s available so they’ll be ready when social media fundraising explodes. Here’s what Debra had to say.
Social Media Fundraising Has Not Yet Arrived
Debra says that social media fundraising, being true to its definition, has not yet arrived.
“Real social media fundraising would live within a social networking platform, such as Facebook and Twitter, or the platform would be integrated with social media fundraising in such a way that it cannot work without the platform. Social media fundraising can’t be dependent upon social media platforms just as marketing tools,” she says. “For example, Causes no longer lives inside Facebook—it’s a third-party app—but it can’t work without Facebook. What’s now being called social media fundraising is more like peer-to-peer fundraising.”
She calls current practices for social fundraising (i.e. emailing friends and family, posting links to our Facebook page, and Tweeting about it) “peer-to-peer fundraising” because we’re still using the tools, the social networks, to market it.
We need to be clear when defining social media fundraising, she says. You can go down different paths: you can use social media tools to market your cause or you can actually raise money on the social networks.
We’re Starting to Draw Utopia
So what would it look like when social media fundraising reaches its fullest potential? Debra’s glimpse into the future painted a picture where anyone can proactively raise money seamlessly, maybe by recommending people on LinkedIn or using certain keywords on Twitter.
“If we could use a certain hashtag to donate to a cause, similar to how give-to-text works where you’re pledging tweets or updates for donations and not just awareness, we’ll truly be using social media fundraising,” she says. “These tools shouldn’t take you off the page you’re on to process the donation.”
Some Things Still Need to be Put Into Play
Before social media fundraising is ready to take off, a few things need to happen first:
- NPOs need to adopt the tools. It’s taken nonprofits a long time to truly engage in online fundraising past posting the typical donate button on their website. Average statistics say online fundraising is rising, around 20% a year across different platforms, but it’s still very small compared to total giving in the U.S.
- Create tools for various audiences. Most vendors don’t offer their tools in other languages and this isolates many communities.
- We need to see successes. People are still surprised when they see reports about how much can be raised online. Cause supporters are already interested in social fundraising and using the tools to market their fundraiser. So if vendors communicate these success stories to NPOs, they’ll help NPOs engage with their donor base online.
NPOs Can and Should Get Started Pronto
Nonprofits are beginning to have a different conversation, she says.
“Before, I’d hear nonprofits say they don’t have time to engage in a different fundraising activity. But recently, more nonprofits are looking at all sorts of fundraising channels.”
It’s a good thing for nonprofits to jump on the bandwagon and start engaging their donor base online. Debra offers a few tips:
- Develop your own social strategy first. Develop your base of supporters, your community, online by reaching out through social networks with useful content and information. Keep in mind Facebook is a powerful medium for shares, so create content that’s shareable, such as compelling stories.
- Leverage your email base. Email appeals to your supporters asking them to create a fundraising page; this is one of the most powerful ways a nonprofit can engage its community to fundraise. And give them the tools they need; you can also craft Tweets and Facebook updates ahead of time and ask your supporters to repost them.
- Know your audience and know your super fans! Super fans will share your info even when you don’t ask them to. Treat these guys like stars. Contact them ahead of time and solicit their advice about a campaign you’re going to launch and see if they’ll support you.
What thoughts do you have on the future of social media fundraising?