Right on the Money: Four Tips to Simplify Social-Media Fundraising

Images of social media logos, with a bucket of coins pouring over them.

Five values. Five weeks of giving. That’s how Volunteers of America Chesapeake, a human services agency whose work stretches from Baltimore, MD, to Virginia Beach, conceives its year-end giving campaign each December. Each week, the campaign focuses on one of VOA Chesapeake’s core values—caring, quality, trust, faith and respect—and highlights the successes of the organization’s many programs and experts, says communication specialist Danielle Milner.

This past year, the campaign brought in $188,000, nearly two-thirds more than the previous December. Though traditional direct mail and face-to-face marketing played a role, the results wouldn’t have been possible without social media, Milner says. The campaign used Facebook, Twitter, a WordPress blog, YouTube videos, texting, email and the organization’s website to get people interested and convince them to make donations.

“The dynamic of donors is changing,” Milner says, explaining why incorporating social media and mobile technology into the campaign made sense to VOA Chesapeake’s fundraising staff. “They’re becoming younger and they’re becoming more mobile.”

Here are four tips for running a short-term social media fundraising campaign:

1. Simplify your editorial calendar

Choosing weekly and daily themes can make it easier to come up with blog posts, status updates and tweets. In addition to designating each week with one of the five core values, VOA Chesapeake named each day of the week: Motivational Monday, Text Tuesday, Wednesday’s Word, Thank You Thursday and Fun Friday.

Come up with your themes well before the campaign’s launch. That way you can prepare more time-intensive products, like videos, podcasts and staff interviews, ahead of time.

2. Divide the work

A social media fundraising campaign can take up a lot of staff time. VOA Chesapeake divided the work among the five-person fundraising and communication team, assigning each person a day of the week. Even if you don’t have a fundraising or communication department, you can recruit and train social-media savvy volunteers to help out. It’s also a good idea to get influential and inspirational people from your organization to write a few blog posts, status updates or tweets. Milner says some of VOA Chesapeake’s most popular tweets came from their chaplain.

3. More photos, less text

If you have an organizational or personal Facebook page, you may have noticed that photos get more people clicking than other types of posts. “Folks are connected to pictures,” Milner says. “Find pictures that tell a story and show what you’re doing.”

4. Connect your online “channels”

Milner cautions against dumping every bit of information into a newsletter article or status update. Instead, she says, share a photo. Link the photo to a blog post that tells a little bit more of the story. Link the blog post to a Web page where people can read about your program in depth. Spreading information out in that way can turn casual browsers into ambassadors for the cause, she says.

"We want to draw you in,” she says. “Once you’re interested, we want to keep you. And that’s the kind of thing that you tell a friend about.”

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