It wasn’t that long ago that social media was considered the whipping boy for specialists in all fields. Its rise served as a perpetual bugbear for such commentators, who saw it as a reflection of the new century’s greatest faults: Frivolity, superficiality and self-absorption.
How times have changed. Nowadays, social media isn’t simply a distraction used to fritter away idle hours. It’s a medium – some might say the medium – through which we engage with others and consume information.
Consider the findings of last year’s Yellow Social Media Report:
- 69 per cent of Australians use social media.
- 30 per cent of people use it to research brands, businesses and purchases.
- 63 per cent of those that used it to research a purchase went on to make that purchase.
While cranky commentators may continue to rail against it for narrow reasons, forward-thinking organisations and businesses have taken advantage of social media’s potential to grow their operations and maximise their results. This is particularly true of charitable organisations, a number of which have cottoned on to the power of social media in fundraising.
The power of social
There are several key advantages for charities using social media. For one, for most charities it will nicely slot into – and enhance – their existing strategies and operations. A large part of running a successful charity is simply broadcasting your message, and promoting either your fundraising efforts or a particular cause.
When it comes down to it, it’s about awareness. There are not only thousands of charities out there, there is a myriad of different causes that donors have to choose from. Bringing your particular angle to a potential donor’s attention and educating them about it is often half the battle.
This is where social media can be invaluable. According to a survey conducted by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and published in their Winter 2013 edition, 47 per cent of respondents said they learnt about causes and social issues through social media and other online channels. More importantly, 55 per cent of respondents in a Waggener Edstrom survey who said they engaged with causes on social media went on to take further action. This included donating money (68 per cent), giving away food, clothes and other items (52 per cent), and volunteering (53 per cent).
There many more benefits to social media, such as allowing you to find potential donors more easily by connecting with individuals sharing your particular goals and values. It creates a great opportunity for creating a story and message, allowing you to engage and grow your donor base. Perhaps most importantly, it’s the simplest medium through which you can demonstrate to donors the results of their donations, by posting images, videos and updates. They are, after all, more likely to give if they feel tangibly connected to what they’re funding.
Savvy charities have already jumped on these opportunities. The online fundraising platform JustGiving identified several examples in its guide for social media fundraising. Cancer Research UK, for instance, took advantage of the organic #NoMakeUpSelfie social trend to make a push for text donations through their Twitter handle. They raised £8 million in a week. Meanwhile, Cystic Fibrosis Ireland used its Facebook page to publicly acknowledge donors and volunteers, cementing the donor-charity relationship. By increasing their profile, they brought in over £2 million in 2013. By offering the option of making donations available online they have also maximised the power of social media fundraising by keeping it all digital.
Making use of different platformsIn order to make social media part of your fundraising strategy, you’ve got to find the right medium through which to do it. Sometimes it seems like there are as many social media platforms as there are charitable causes.
According to JustGiving’s survey of UK charities and social enterprises in September-October 2014, the top three most popular platforms were what you might expect: Facebook (used by 94 per cent of organisations), Twitter (94 per cent) and YouTube (66 per cent).
In fourth place was LinkedIn. Despite the fact that it was used by 64 per cent of respondents, LinkedIn generally gets less attention than these other social juggernauts, possibly because some still view it as solely a recruitment network. In fact, LinkedIn has so many more possibilities – and having surpassed the 300 million member mark in April last year, it has a wide reach.
Here are a few tips to making the most out of this specific platform:
1. Create an eye-catching profile
Just as with jobseekers, your profile or company page will be what initially draws attention to your organisation on the site. It’s important to make it stand out with an interesting description, a striking photo and your brand placed prominently on the page. Just as you would with a Facebook account, use it to post updates and other information to get the engagement ball rolling.
2. Create or join a group
Your can either make your own group or join one of the many that already exist. Being part of a group will allow you to share knowledge, spark discussions with other charities and debate best practices. Note that if you make your own group, you should be prepared to put in the time and effort it takes to manage one.
3. Network and connect
LinkedIn was originally made to allow professionals to network, so why not make use of this? Connect with the firms and individuals you want to turn into donors and supporters, such as high net-worth individuals and the heads of particular companies. LinkedIn will help you nurture relationships with them – as long as you don’t start soliciting donations straight away. It can also be a great way to advertise for and recruit volunteers.LinkedIn and other social media platforms are not going away any time soon. In fact, it’s more accurate to say they’re a firmly established part of our lives that discerning charities will need to adapt to if they want to thrive. There’s no better time to start than now.