fundraising, presentations

Turning Traditional Donors into Online Evangelists

1 Comment 28 June 2013

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This blog post was co-written with Sara Steele-Rogers, Eventbrite Boston’s Senior Marketing Manager.

On Monday, the Boston 501 Tech Club and Eventbrite hosted the workshop “Turning Traditional Donors Into Online Evangelists.” The presentation and discussion focused on strategies for moving those donors who are traditionally more comfortable supporting an organization offline to becoming online supporters and evangelists. My co-presenter, Sara Steele-Rogers, writes that she was inspired to develop this presentation after listening to the needs of nonprofit event organizers and development professionals in the Boston area.

Sara writes:

One of the most fulfilling parts of my job as Eventbrite’s Boston Senior Marketing Manager is working with Boston’s nonprofit community. I often hear how Eventbrite saves nonprofit organizations hours in event management (say goodbye to spreadsheets and paper checks!) and how Eventbrite’s built-in marketing helps drive more traffic and in turn, more ticket sales.

In listening to many nonprofit event organizers and development professionals, I learned of two profound struggles they often face: creating fundraising events appealing to a younger donor base, and helping traditional donors understand the value of digital and social media.

In October, I hosted From Invitation to Instagram: Modernizing Your Fundraising, a panel discussion featuring experts in the social media, event production, and nonprofit community which addressed how to create unique and buzz-worthy fundraising events that would appeal to young professionals. It was a raging success! Riding the momentum of that event, I decided to develop an event focused on addressing the second issue; not only helping traditional donors understand the value of social media, but also leveraging their deep pockets and loyalty to advocate for causes online!

Partnerships are one of the best ways I’ve found to create better content and reach a larger audience than I would have one my own. Enter Debra, a co-organizer of the Boston 501 Tech Club and founder of Community Organizer 2.0. Though collaboration, we created Turning Traditional Donors Into Online Evangelists.

I mentioned to Sara that I’d had experience with a local nonprofit organization that wanted to bring its traditional donors online. In preparation for their largest annual fundraising event, the nonprofit staff wanted to train the planning committee (composed of traditional, older donors) on leveraging Facebook friendships to sell event tickets. I offered a hands-on training workshop for the event committee, where we discussed how to use Facebook personally. During the workshop, committee members began friending each other on the spot, posting about the event to their own their Facebook profiles, and posting comments to the organization’s Facebook Page. It was a wonderful way to get them comfortable using social media for a cause, and the participants had a blast as well!

That successful training informed the core message of our 501 Tech Club/Eventbrite presentation:

Moving traditional donors online means walking with them side-by-side in the beginning, and providing continuing support.

We applied Beth Kanter’s “Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly” model to this scenario, and pulled data from the informational report entitled “Digital Persuasion: How Social Media Motivates Action and Drives Support for Causes.” In particular, we expanded our conceit of a traditional donor to also include the “Mainstreeter.” Mainstreeters are loyal to the organization and present on social networks, but have not yet advocated for their favorite causes or donated to them online.

The core of the strategy for turning traditional donors into online evangelists revolves around creating and supporting a Digital Support Squad, illustrated both in the header image and explained in detail within the presentation below. Ideally, the Squad members support each other as they grow and learn, and ultimately invite others into the Digital Support Squad.

The full presentation is embedded below. If you have thoughts or experiences you’d like to share about how you’ve brought traditional donors online, or moved Mainstreeters to become online advocates for your cause, we’d love to hear them!

Sara Steele-Rogers avatar Sara Steele-Rogers is Eventbrite’s Senior Boston Marketing Manager. She loves the power of events and bringing people together through live experiences! You can tweet to her @BriteBoston.



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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