Jay Frost has been living and breathing philanthropy for 25 years, most recently as President and CEO of FundraisingInfo.com. He’s also a speaker, consultant and author on philanthropy, fundraising and social media working out of Washington D.C.
He has a strong message for nonprofits: learn how to ask for money on social media. He tells us why.
We’ve heard a lot about ‘friendraising’ not fundraising. Nonprofits are not getting in as much revenue as they could.
Absolutely! Social media is a great fundraising tool but – is it being used as one? Many of those responsible for social media at nonprofits believe it is a tool mainly for engagement, not solicitation. But the bottom line is, you cannot do fundraising if you don’t ask for money.
The general perception is that fundraising is a by-product of a natural propensity to give, to help your neighbour. I do believe we have a natural desire to help one another, but to get money you have to ask!
How did we get to this situation?
The problem is that the big gurus of social media who came along first, the early adopters, have been spreading their message that social media is for engagement. Yes, engagement is important and tools like Paper.li, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ allow us to have wonderful conversations and tell people they can take action on a cause that matters. But if organisations don’t pull in money they can’t get things done.
Why is it so difficult for nonprofts to actually ask for money?
There is a universal stigma attached to asking for money. It feels like selling. The thing is, sales and fundraising are very similar. But if you asked a fundraiser whether they were in sales, they would rail at the idea! They see themselves as working for a charity, not selling.
So charitable organisations – with some exceptions – have this perception that they can’t ask their online community for money.
How can fundraisers learn to feel good about selling?
Remember you’re selling something you believe in. Every good salesperson who is really successful is selling something they really believe in. Why not charities too?
The Red Cross sells its services to the public – the service of providing support for communities in need. Because we trust the brand we are happy to provide resources to fulfill that need.
We need to take the view that asking people to invest in something they believe in is not asking for a handout. It’s about saying, “Are you seriously interested in making this happen?”
This is the disconnect with social media, in that many people in nonprofits are only interested in having conversations and reluctant to ask .
Is it easier to ask for money for a good cause via more traditional methods, such as direct mail?
I think so. But that will change as we become more comfortable with social media.
About 10 years ago the same was true for email. We couldn’t have imagined asking for money in an email. Now we can’t imagine not using email to talk to people about the things that matter to them – the causes they might want to support.
Does social media fundraising have a future?
It has enormous potential! Charitable organisations can now access the entire planet.
They find potential contributors, sponsors, donors often by reaching out to those who have given to other charities, or come to an event, or whose names are on a list they have purchased. But that is limited, because they only have a certain number of names available.
The great thing about social media is that it’s not bound by geography or any other limitations.
Anyone, anywhere, of any demographic, can be welcomed to do two things:
- carry on the mission by spreading the word
- ask other people for money. Those who are already giving can be empowered to solicit donations from others.
People in charities are very excited about social media, but with a combination of exhilaration and desperation. They can’t see how to take on more activity with limited resources, and also there are people who say we have to do things how we’ve always done them. The nonprofit world is in transition right now.
Who’s doing it right?
Many organizations are starting to invite their social media audiences to invest in their work. Charity:Water has raised over $45m largely by empowering supporters to raise money in place of accepting gifts for their birthday and promoting their individual fundraising efforts on social networks. The Humane Society of the United States uses a combination of strategies and tools to grow their audience and raise money for the organization. Fundamentally, the most successful efforts today are those which empower donors to carry the brand, promote the mission and raise money for the organization. But even in these efforts, the organization must ask their constituents to take on that role. It doesn’t just happen by itself.
Do you see a brighter future for the amount that can be raised online?
Absolutely. If organisations get comfortable with
- asking people for money and
- giving them the authority to solicit their friends.
If I post on a matter of concern – such as the poverty of children in Nepal – that’s good. If I post in a way that lets my friends carry the message on, that’s better. And if I post in a way that invites them to support the cause, and carry the message, and solicit…that’s the best.
Have you raised funds for a nonprofit? How did you go about it? Share your experiences in the comments.
Cat photo: Gloson on flickr