Fundraising the SMART Way: Using Social Media Right, Part 1

• effective fundraising • manage fundraising performance • social media for nonprofits
Ellen Bristol

I usually focus on how nonprofits can manage and improve their fundraising performance, emphasizing strategic management, metrics, benchmarks and processes.  Why?  Because too many nonprofits ignore the strategic stuff and focus on tactics.  And when they do, fundraising suffers. Social media seems like a tactical issue, but when you look at it strategically, it can boost your fundraising performance in meaningful ways.  So I was ecstatic when Ken Okel agreed to write a series of guest posts for us.  Ken is a master of social-media strategy for nonprofits.  Here's the first of three articles.

Ken Okel’s 10 Tips On How To Use Social Media Right

Social media can no longer be considered a fad or something only kids use. It’s been embraced by big business as a powerful way to connect with audiences. Your nonprofit needs to be part of this movement.

The danger is that you’ll jump in the pool without learning how to swim first, become frustrated, and swear off social media forever. Let’s make sure that tumbleweed won’t soon be rolling through your Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts. Follow these tips to maximize your investment in online marketing:

Ellen’s comment:  If you’re not clear about your mission, your ideal funders, and the metrics you use for managing fundraising performance, your Social Media won’t build the following you want.   

    1. Don’t Expect Too Much, Too Soon.  Social media is not a bright, shiny object that will instantly solve all of your problems. It is a cost effective way to build ongoing relationships with donors and prospects. Make a long term commitment to explore and use the various social media platforms. See what works and adjust your strategy accordingly. It’s hard to predict what may resonate with your audience, so don’t become frustrated if one appeal doesn’t work very well. Try something else.

    While social media can lead to revenue (either directly or indirectly), it’s more like a slot machine than a weekly paycheck.  Don't let every post be an “ask.” Constantly begging people for money is a turnoff. Only one out of a dozen posts should have any mention of fundraising.

    When you do have an appeal, focus it strictly on a specific program or issue. Don’t just say, “Give us money. We’ll do good stuff with it.” That’s something any nonprofit can say.

    Ellen’s comment:  It takes time to build a following and create a brand.  Social Media will help you tell your story, your clients' success stories, testimonials, musings, history, and so on. That stuff drives the motivation to give.

      2. Be Consistent. Before you post anything, map out a schedule for social media interaction. Making a commitment doesn’t mean that it can’t be changed later but you need to have a plan.  You don’t have to post something every day. It’s more important to make sure that your posts are informative to your followers. So when your posts appear, people know you’re worth reading.

      You may also want to consider having a theme for your posts. Maybe, it’s something like, “Fact Friday” or “Snapshot Tuesday.” The idea is to train your readers to expect some predictable good content.

      Ellen’s comment:  Inconsistent marketing leads to inconsistent performance.  It’s tough to build a following, but easy to lose one.

      3. Think Visual.  It can be tempting to use a lot of words in yourThink Visual! updates. Resist the urge. People like to scan social media sites rather than do extensive reading. That’s why pictures can be so valuable to your online campaign.  Find a good picture that represents your organization’s mission, or take good pictures of your clients, activities or events. Add a caption to it if you have photo editing software or just put the caption in the social media site’s update window.

      This is your chance to be creative and conversational. You could say something like, “This is why we don’t mind working late,” or “Challenging times never go on vacation.” The goal is to stop people and make them think.

      Pictures can be unusual as well. For instance, can a weekly donation of a small amount of money (like 96 cents = $50/year) make a difference to your nonprofit? Lay out the money and take a picture of it. You get extra credit if you can put the coins in a creative shape.

      Ellen’s comment:  Your case for support is always stronger when you tell your story, stronger still when you SHOW it. That's how to build relationships with supporters, donors and clients.

      Ken Okel is a former TV journalist and a veteran of the nonprofit world who helps organizations harness the power of social media. For more on how to pump up your nonprofit’s online profile, visit or call Ken at 561-737-4321.

      Join us for Part 2 next week! 

      Begin Free Assessment

      More Posts