Raising Funds Through Social Media and Crowdfunding

We are asked all the time, “How can we capitalize on all the money being raised on social media?”

Like any consultant worth their salt, we answer that question with a question: “What organization are you talking about that raised a lot of money on social media?”

What usually follows is silence.

And then something like, “Well, I don’t have a specific example, I just hear there is a lot of money being raised on social media.”

There is a great deal of misinformation, and just plain wrong information, out there when it comes to raising money using social media. In fact, if you Google “raising money on Facebook”, you will find dozens of results with “tips for raising money on Facebook”.  Most of them start with “create a Facebook page”.

Really? Talk about starting with the basics. 

Most of these, like the Wikihow post on the issue, are more about the mechanics of using social media than about strategies for raising money.  And, while GiveForward has some practical advice in its How to Raise Money on Facebook article, two of their four recommendations – find a matching gift and ask for a specific gift amount – are just basic principles of sound fundraising, regardless of the medium.

The truth of the matter is that lots of people are raising money using social media – they are just not raising lots of money – and not all of them are nonprofits.  There are a great many people raising donations for friends or relatives who need medical treatments or supplies, but nobody is raising millions of dollars by way of clicks on a Facebook, Google+ or Twitter page.

But, nobody has really cracked the code yet on how to raise substantial money on social media. That does not mean that social media does not have an important role to play in the fundraising process – as long as you understand what that role is.

The great thing about social media is it allows you an easy and nearly real-time vehicle for communicating with your constituents – people who have already self-identified with you by “liking” your page.  This gives you a great tool to strategically and proactively advance your brand awareness, broadcast your successes, demonstrate your needs in a very visual way (using photos, video, audio), and stay connected – on a daily basis – with prospective donors.

In short, social media is a tool that can increase people’s awareness of your organization and, thereby, pave the way for a successful solicitation, which will probably be most effectively done through another tool (face to face, telephone, letter, email).

So don’t ignore social media as part of the development office toolbox, but don’t expect it to deliver buckets of money in and of itself.

One of the recent advancements that has promise as a tool for more effectively raising money using social media – and the internet in general – is in crowdfunding.

Traditionally, crowdfunding has been a tool that entrepreneurs used to fund small projects or startup businesses. Some have also used these tools to raise money for nonprofits.

A new player in this space, URUUT has built a crowdfunding platform specifically for nonprofits and other “community benefit” projects. From dog parks, to school playgrounds, to medical equipment, organizations can use URUUT to leverage their social networks and the social networks of everyone in their social network. URUUT allows you to make your case online, with graphics, text and even video, and it provides and easy secure portal for people to make contributions and monitor the progress of your project.

But, what really gives this potential is how it is integrated with social media. The site has buttons everywhere so that you can easily share the projects that interest you with your social networks.  When you make a gift, the acknowledgment page has buttons inviting you to tell your friends that you just supported XYZ project and invite them to join you.

The potential in this is its ability to capitalize on the famed “six degrees of separation”, by having your social network share with their social networks, and so on, and so on, and so on (as the old shampoo commercial used to say).

In this way, you are not limited to your own contacts as prospects, but potentially the contacts of all your contacts.

The ideal model for effective use of this tool is still being worked out, but we envision that our clients might use it during the public phase of their campaigns to focus donors on funding very specific items or aspects of their campaign so that they can really see how their gifts move the needle.

If you – like me – spent the first few years of this decade poo-pooing the impact of social media and its ability to be a tool for development, I invite you to join me in reassessing and reconsidering.

There might just be something to this internet thing.