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How to raise funds for your nonprofit using social media

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Social Media

This post is by Kaukab Jhumra Smith.

Put a bunch of nonprofit professionals in a room, ask them how to use social media to raise money for their organization, and you’re likely to get a fair amount of uncertainty and disagreement. If you were at the recent Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference in Washington,  D.C., however, you’d also have snagged these useful nuggets from their shared experiences.

Figure out where your prospective donors are. It comes back to the same basic social-media commandment: Listen first to find your people, said a man who identified himself as a social media manager at an association.

Bring it down to one person’s story. “Fundraising is essentially an emotional thing and maybe that’s one reason why stories work,” said Colin Delany of, a site examining the art of online advocacy. Roger Carr, who runs the blog Everyday Giving, went even further. “If the issue you’re dealing with is so big that people can’t get their arms around it, you’re not going to sell it,” Carr said.

Demonstrate your impact. Use your tweets, blog posts and Facebook updates to forward this narrative and reinforce the effects of your programs. You’ll be more successful asking for donations if you’ve cultivated a relationship with potential donors, said one attendant.

Create a personal connection through video. Join YouTube’s nonprofit program to make use of extended video functionality, including improved branding, greater upload capacity, the ability to add video overlays linked to a direct action and the ability to accept donations.

Appeal to donors’ egos. Personalize messages to donors on online videos and other social-media messages so that others are motivated to donate and get acknowledged, too, one attendant said.

Customize your Facebook page. Facebook presents an interesting paradox for many nonprofits. “I wonder if one reason why Facebook doesn’t feel like the right place for an ask is because it’s supposed to be a back and forth,” mused Delany.

On one hand, the Facebook Causes application has been a disappointment, raising money only when a contest between organizations rolls around, a couple of participants pointed out. After all, you’re not supposed to hit up your friends all the time for cash, said Kristine Quinio of the National Academy of Social Insurance.

On the other hand, Facebook fan pages present a huge opportunity for nonprofits to reach potential donors. It’s not a well-known fact, but organizations can use FBML, Facebook’s markup language, to create customized landing pages to raise funds, several participants said. Oxfam’s Facebook page is a good example.

Facebook doesn’t make the customization easy, however. “It’s fairly opaque,” warned Delany.

Use mobile messaging. Your nonprofit can set up its own low-cost code to raise funds through mobile texts, just like the Red Cross did after the Haiti earthquake. Texted donations work best when your donors are already primed to act because of all the work you’d done beforehand through e-mail and other communication, Delany said.

Try something new. “Experiment, get the best data you can and test, test, test,” Delany said.

Image credit, Franck-Boston, via iStock Photo