fundraising, Online organizing, social media campaign

Principles of Social Media Fundraising

18 Comments 10 March 2010

2009 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study

I had the pleasure of presenting to the Israel Venture Network Fellows today about social media strategy, campaigns, and fundraising. I am really struck me how much of online fundraising comes down to a combination of social media basics plus community organizing principles. The slide show (below) captures why online campaigns are the social proof of these concepts.

Amy Sample Ward, Ivan Boothe, and myself created a slide show for the workshop that we’ll be giving at the Nonprofit Technology Conference. As part of the workshop Bringing Community Organizing Into Online Campaigns, we debated the essential elements of a good online campaign (fundraising or otherwise), the basic tenets of community organizing, and the nature of community organizing. We came up with five basic community organizing concepts. These concepts apply perfectly to any fundraising campaign. They are:

  • movement-building
  • power analysis
  • community accountability (transparency)
  • being where the stakeholders are
  • leadership development

With any online fundraising campaign, your organization will be speaking about the project and asking others to influence their online ties to do the same. Take the basic principles of social media and continue to use them to raise funds: have shareable content and share utility, utilize the power of influence marketing and the power of weak ties, offer a great product/content, recognize people who give, and thank them profusely. Allow others to have the conversation about you publicly. (And use this opportunity to recruit new stakeholders to your social spaces.) Now mix that with community organizing and this is what you get:

  • Link your fundraising project to the larger cause movement to give it emphasis and compelling context
  • Power mapping: ID influencers, key donors, and how the donors will share and influence
  • Develop online influencers and key online donors into organizational leaders
  • Be where the people are: make sure that online activity within the campaign occurs where your stakeholders are
  • Transparency means: broadcast as much about the campaign, on the campaign site and social media, as it happens

I think of this presentation as a starting point: what else would you consider the “fundamental principles” of social network fundraising? What have I missed? What have I mentioned that’s essential?

(Thanks to Amy Sample Ward for providing the screen shots of the Tweetsgiving campaign example in the slide show, below.)


Epic Change (the folks who bring you Tweetsgiving)

How Social Media Can Engage New Donors – slideshare presentation by Steve Drake

Bringing Community Organizing Into Online Campaigns – presentation developed for the upcoming NTC workshop April 9, 2010

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  • Debra: great post!

    As I gave my presentation at the ASAE Great Ideas Conference, I realized I jumped into “how” before explaining “why” an organization should consider organization Tweetups.

    My Tweetup Mantra: Engage. Support. Have fun!

    , let’s consider WHY your organization could benefit from a TweetUp strategy. You should consider Tweetup-style fundraising …
    * If you are a trade association or professional society, a Tweetup lets you engage your members, support a cause and have fun.
    * If you are a nonprofit foundation or charitable organization, a Tweetup lets you engage your donors, generate support and have fun
    * If your organization seeks younger members, a Tweetup helps you engage them, support a cause and have fun.

    By looking at the “why,” organizations can determine “if” a Tweetup strategy works for them.

    By the way, thanks to crowdsourcing at the ASAE Great Ideas Conference, the Top 10 Tips, Tactics and Techniques can be found here …

    Thanks for sharing our thoughts on this important topic!


  • Debra:

    Thanks for a great post and for sharing your NTC and Israel Venture Network presentations.

    I think your focus on social media fundraising as community organizing is right on target. In fact, I would argue that all good fundraising — online or offline — uses the principles of community organizing/community building.

    Too often, I find that when we fail at fundraising it is because we have moved too quickly to the “ask”. We have not built a solid community of supporters first, and so we might raise money initially, but donors will not stay with us and support us for years to come if we haven't done the hard work of community organizing first.

    Community organizing engages supporters and involves them in responding to social problems and needs. In so doing, the organization and its donors become partners in change. This builds a much stronger pool of longterm donors and advocates for the nonprofit and its cause.

    I follow and watch a lot of nonprofits online (especially on Twitter), and I regularly find myself wondering if they know who is following and retweeting them and who among these followers is one of the “super activists” you cite above.

    Many nonprofits are relatively new to social media and your post and presentations give them some concrete strategies on which to focus when venturing into social media fundraising. It is very helpful. I plan to share it with my clients, and with the organizations for which I volunteer!

    Thanks much,

    Laura Kaufman


  • Hi Laura,
    Thanks so much for the confirmation of the community organizing principles plus social media. I will say that it's not so hard to identify super activists from past activities, but you never know which one of your online social media followers will become one. One thought I had about that (after I wrote the post) was to poll the members and ask about their level of interest in becoming an influencer of sorts. What do you think about that idea?

    By the way, I whole-heartedly agree with you that moving for the ask before engaging is a mistake. I really appreciate my nonprofit clients that understand that issue – we need to create relationships first online (just like offline) before we approach them for money. It's a hard concept for cash-strapped organizations that need many more donors, and I sympathize with that predicament, but I think the longer-term payoff from waiting for the ask is greater.

    Thanks for taking the time to create this conversation here, Laura.


  • Hi Steve,
    I loved your slide show, and of course that's why I linked to it. Thanks for extending your slideshow through your comments. I really appreciate that you put the ideas from the crowd together and remixed a new slide show. I'll clarify your link and encourage people to view it here:


  • Laura Kaufman

    Debra: My pleasure. I like your idea about polling social media followers and inquiring about their interest in becoming influencers. I would also recommend polling current organizational supporters to find out which social media channels they use (if an organization does not already know this) and asking if they would like to be influencers as well.

    All the best,



  • Laura Kaufman

    Debra: My pleasure. I like your idea about polling social media followers and inquiring about their interest in becoming influencers. I would also recommend polling current organizational supporters to find out which social media channels they use (if an organization does not already know this) and asking if they would like to be influencers as well.

    All the best,



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  • bethkanter

    This is terrific! Praying that I'm not schedule to be on a panel when you are!


  • Would love to have you in the crowd, Beth! Sure you'll be able to contribute – and be ready to get your hands dirty and plan an online campaign during the workshop. It's going to be fun 🙂


  • Finally have a window of time to catch up on some reading. Debra, another great post (Yes I am a fan). I'm looking forward to your session at NTC.

    Really like the connections shared here and in Laura Kaufman's comment as well. Consistent with other posts of yours that I have read, the importance on engagement and connection as a guiding principal and foundational criterion for success comes through clearly and something that resonates with me as well.

    Reminds me of quote I liked shared by Geoff Livingston I believe that speaks to focusing on relationships not transactions.

    – Seth


  • Thanks, Seth. Wow – a real fan? 🙂
    I am pretty consistent in my messaging that it's all about engagement first, asking second. I think that's how it works in life: I'll pay a lot more attention to whatever you're asking me about if we have a strong tie or a personal connection than I will if you're contacting me through a cold email. I like the quote by Geoff Livingston, too, which really does sum up my philosophy. Thanks for sharing it.


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  • Familiarize yourself with the basics of social media to boost your local online advertising. It’s not enough that your company has its presence in various social media sites, thats a true chart analysis.


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  • Ehren Foss

    Even though this post is 14 months old, there are still lots of different people trying lots of different things.  I think that the more we can do as a sector to figure out giving mechanisms that are well integrated with the experience of the network itself (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).

    Our model is that donors pledge a small amount of money for each update they make – no need to RT, tag, or send any specific message.  Just tying a habit of giving to the habit of social media.



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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