engagement, fundraising, social media strategy

When Does Engagement Lead to Donations?

12 Comments 18 September 2009

image courtesy of Le Petit Poulaillare

Nonprofit organizations need to raise funds constantly. Fact. They also have programs, mission and special activities that must be funded. Fact. There’s all this trendy talk about leveraging social media to raise money – and the question I get asked most often is

When does social media lead to more money?

That’s not the right question. The right question is:

When does engagement lead to more money?

Annual reports do not create a relationship. Email updates do not create a relationship. Alerts do not create a relationship. These are all examples of one-way communication. Relationships are about two-way communication.

I’ve also seen a lot of nonprofit organizations using social media fail to create relationships using these tools. Automatically feeding blog posts through a twitter feed does not create a relationship. Using your organization’s official icon and not associating a person’s name (in either the description or title) to the twitter account cuts short the possibility of a relationship. Publishing a blog but not commenting on other blogs or responding to comments on your blog…does not create a relationship. Consistent Facebook wall posts that do not engage or ask questions…stop conversation.

These methods of using social media are, quite honestly, no better than the old newsletter and annual report. If you are going to commit time and energy to social media, pick one or two platforms that make sense for your organization and act as if you want to meet people and learn from them. They want to talk to you, and you should want to listen to them. That’s why your fans and followers online are following your organization, after all. So talk. Yes, publish your newsy updates, but ask questions and listen…learn…engage…and respond.

Engagement leads to donations – really, it does – but you have to put the time into creating the relationship first. Or re-creating the relationship with your stakeholders. Social media is a great tool for doing this, as social media tools are merely platforms for creating conversation.

When you are listening, responding, and engaging –

then asking for money to support this great relationship is a natural extension of the conversation.

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  • It’s good you have shared this important principle here. Many are not aware of this simple truth. They just thought that social media tools would take care of building a relationship; they do not undertand the human approach inherent in it.

    To make a connection, we have to put the human aspect first. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Walter – I think you said it right – “make a connection.” After all, we do things for people (and companies, and organizations) because we truly feel like we are moved to do that. Doesn’t connecting and engaging on a human aspect do that? It’s a great start, I think. I really appreciate your comment!

    [Reply]

  • It’s good you have shared this important principle here. Many are not aware of this simple truth. They just thought that social media tools would take care of building a relationship; they do not undertand the human approach inherent in it.

    To make a connection, we have to put the human aspect first. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Walter – I think you said it right – “make a connection.” After all, we do things for people (and companies, and organizations) because we truly feel like we are moved to do that. Doesn’t connecting and engaging on a human aspect do that? It’s a great start, I think. I really appreciate your comment!

    [Reply]

  • Thanks Debra. I’m with you and enjoyed the directness of your post.

    Tools like Twitter and Facebook have a focus on promoting sharing and connections making through their feature sets but don’t provide the emotional or cognitive magic that you or Walter above detail. The magic comes from people using tools like these well to create the conditions for engagement, connection, and inspiration that might lead to commitments like donating or volunteering.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Yes! Seth, I absolutely agree! In further thinking about this there, I think organizations may also face the challenge of moving organizational culture from “news oriented” to “customer engagement oriented.” Any organization that is used to the one-way conversation may have to entirely re-think their organizational image in order to utilize these tools for engagement. So, it’s two-fold: making sure the feature sets on platforms like Twitter and Facebook are utilized with engagement purposes in mind, and overcoming corporate cultural issues too. This is challenging, but I believe it is what will move people from “followers” to “donors” and from “donors” to “evangelists.” How do you suggest people use these tools to create conditions for engagement and connection?
    Thanks so much for offering your comments and broadening this conversation!

    [Reply]

  • Thanks Debra. I’m with you and enjoyed the directness of your post.

    Tools like Twitter and Facebook have a focus on promoting sharing and connections making through their feature sets but don’t provide the emotional or cognitive magic that you or Walter above detail. The magic comes from people using tools like these well to create the conditions for engagement, connection, and inspiration that might lead to commitments like donating or volunteering.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Yes! Seth, I absolutely agree! In further thinking about this there, I think organizations may also face the challenge of moving organizational culture from “news oriented” to “customer engagement oriented.” Any organization that is used to the one-way conversation may have to entirely re-think their organizational image in order to utilize these tools for engagement. So, it’s two-fold: making sure the feature sets on platforms like Twitter and Facebook are utilized with engagement purposes in mind, and overcoming corporate cultural issues too. This is challenging, but I believe it is what will move people from “followers” to “donors” and from “donors” to “evangelists.” How do you suggest people use these tools to create conditions for engagement and connection?
    Thanks so much for offering your comments and broadening this conversation!

    [Reply]

  • Debra, here are some thoughts.

    Creating conditions for engagement and connection:

    * Beginner’s mind
    * Inspiration through mission/impact
    * Authentic voice that inspires trust

    Organizations must approach use of social networking tools with a beginner’s mind open to learning and exploration. They should extend and apply concepts that have been around for a long time. Networking is networking in a way. You put yourself out their and the way you handle yourself inspires trust and connection. Organizations are generally made up of passionate fabrics, so authenticity of expression should come from that passion driven by the organization’s mission and impactful results of their efforts.

    Those, I believe are some key conditions for using social network tools well, and notably they don’t have anything to do with the tools themselves. Specifics come when organizations and partners think on those conditions and explore and create recipes to employ them.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Seth-
    What wonderful thoughts! These are great rules of thumb for every organization to use in all of its communications. I agree that passion, authenticity and openness are keys to “real” engagement with your community or stakeholders, online and offline. Thank you so much for coming back and looking at this discussion from a new viewpoint. I think you added a lot!

    [Reply]

  • Debra, here are some thoughts.

    Creating conditions for engagement and connection:

    * Beginner’s mind
    * Inspiration through mission/impact
    * Authentic voice that inspires trust

    Organizations must approach use of social networking tools with a beginner’s mind open to learning and exploration. They should extend and apply concepts that have been around for a long time. Networking is networking in a way. You put yourself out their and the way you handle yourself inspires trust and connection. Organizations are generally made up of passionate fabrics, so authenticity of expression should come from that passion driven by the organization’s mission and impactful results of their efforts.

    Those, I believe are some key conditions for using social network tools well, and notably they don’t have anything to do with the tools themselves. Specifics come when organizations and partners think on those conditions and explore and create recipes to employ them.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Seth-
    What wonderful thoughts! These are great rules of thumb for every organization to use in all of its communications. I agree that passion, authenticity and openness are keys to “real” engagement with your community or stakeholders, online and offline. Thank you so much for coming back and looking at this discussion from a new viewpoint. I think you added a lot!

    [Reply]

About

Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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