#donate: Social media fundraising 101 for nonprofits

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 14 August 2015

Dale Pfeifer, founder and CEO of GoodWorld. Photo by: TEDxAuckland / CC BY-NC-ND

This September, nonprofits could earn extra simply by leveraging Facebook and Twitter.

GoodWorld, a startup that aims to help nonprofits easily raise funds online, is launching Social Giving September, a monthlong fundraising event for nonprofits working on particular issues.

There will be one theme for each week of the month, and nonprofits can choose under which category they see fit to participate. The event will involve games, challenges and competitions, and prizes await top fundraisers — one nonprofit is guaranteed $1,000 each week — and the most generous donors.

The Social Giving September Generosity Movement. Photo from: GoodWorld

The idea is a good kick-starter for nonprofits that are new in the game and want to test the platform for fundraising, and a jump-off point to create a culture of “everyday giving” among individuals, particularly the “millennials and digital-savvy people” who spend roughly 25 percent of their time on social media.

That is what the people behind GoodWorld and Social Giving September are advocating for after all.

“Emergencies give people a rallying point and … a sense of urgency … to act quickly,” Dale Pfeifer, founder and CEO of GoodWorld, told Devex. “So I think people see [social media fundraising as] a channel more for emergencies [but] what we’re really advocating for is everyday giving.”

How to participate

The team is targeting to engage 500 nonprofits for Social Giving September. Interested organizations need only to sign up — and registration is free. GoodWorld takes 4.8 percent out of every donation to “help build our product,” according to Pfeifer. Each transaction would meanwhile entail a processing fee of 2.2 percent of the donated amount plus 30 cents.

That means that for a $30 donation, for example, $1.44 goes to GoodWorld and 96 cents for the processing fee.

There is no limit as to how high each donation can be, but a minimum of $1 is required. Further, anyone in any part of the globe can donate as long as they are on social media and have a major credit card — Visa, MasterCard or American Express. They can donate simply by responding or commenting on a charity's tweet or post with the hashtag #donate followed by the amount they want to contribute (#donate $25, for example), then completing their donation with a one-time sign up on the website via Twitter or Facebook.

At the moment, however, only charities based in the U.S. and their subsidiaries that have 501(c) status can participate.

“We hope and definitely do plan to extend it to other countries, we’re just not quite there yet,” Pfeifer said.

Works for everyone?

Pfeifer believes social media fundraising is the “next big frontier,” including for the nonprofit world.

“It’s one of the engines now [on] how nonprofits communicate, so it just makes a lot of sense that it will be the next big place where nonprofits will learn to get donations from their supporters,” she told Devex.

From the onset, it seems more advantageous for smaller charities, whose budgets don’t allow for much room to invest in fundraising efforts. But the GoodWorld CEO believes it can work for everyone, regardless of size, as long as the nonprofit has an active and engaged social media following.

Charities that have not just thousands of followers on social media, but also a community that actively shares their content — which is typical of the big development organizations — can run successful fundraising campaigns on Facebook or Twitter. Those that have high-profile people as supporters or endorsers, such as celebrities and sports superstars, can make social media fundraising work to their advantage as well.

Another key point is to have a “champion” or a dedicated person or team within the organization “who knows about social media, digital marketing and get this working,” Pfeifer said.

Lessons for starters

But knowing what works, and having a strategy and proactive “ask” culture can be a game changer. Some of the charities that have had high success rates in fundraising on social media are not always the most popular.

So what exactly should nonprofits keep in mind if they plan to go this route?

Pfeifer’s first piece of advice: Never be afraid to ask.

“Just willingness to ask for money on social media,” she said. “Nonprofits need to ask for people to know they should give.”

Nonprofits should also learn to do away with lengthy messages that, in the long run, discourage people from reading.

“You need to be short and sweet in the way you frame your pitches. You can just post an inspiring post in audio-visual format, and show directly where the money will be spent on, and show people how they can help,” she said.

For Facebook posts, the ideal message length is within six lines, making sure it does not reach the point where the “see more” button appears.

Third, don’t hesitate to follow up.

In some of GoodWorld’s partners’ experience, several donors failed to finalize their contributions for various reasons — there are those who #donate without signing up first, for instance, and then forget to register, but there are also instances when individuals changed their donations within the 12-hour processing period. Pfeifer advised nonprofits to not hesitate in getting back to donors to kindly remind them of their donation.

“You need to go back and write them notes like, ‘Thank you so much for your donation. Can you please complete those?’” she said.

Nonprofits could also keep in mind a few simple tips and tricks made by GoodWorld’s Social Giving School, such as knowing the best time of the day to “ask” for donations online. Based on GoodWorld’s own data through #donate, people are most generous between 8 and 10 a.m., and at or near midnight, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Incentivizing donors could also encourage them to give or get others in their network to join. It can be as simple as a giveaway shirt with their name on it or lunch with the CEO, if that is feasible.

But perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to say thank you — it can definitely go a long way.

Check out more funding trends analyses online, and subscribe to Money Matters to receive the latest contract award and shortlist announcements, and procurement and fundraising news.

About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.


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