5 Ways To Increase Donations To Non-Profits Through Social Media

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In the US alone there are more than 1.5 million non-profits, each one with a specific mission and vision, and a plan to promote a positive change. Today, many non-profits (NPO) are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to grow their organization through social media.

Currently, email and websites are the leading digital marketing mediums for NPOs. According to Non-Profit Quarterly, 88% of non-profit’s said that email was their most important form of marketing communication. Think about that. How many email newsletters are sitting in your inbox right now, just waiting to get deleted? Now ask yourself this – how much time did you spend on a social network in the last hour? Chances are, this article reached you through a social media channel. The reality of the market is that there is more customer/donor attention on social platforms than any other medium; therefore it is crucial for organizations to learn how to use social sites as a marketing tool to boost donations. So without further ado, here are my 5 tips for increasing donations through social media.

1. Choose the right social media platforms for your business

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Social Media Adoption by Non-Profits. (Photo Credit)

In order to increase donations for your NPO, it’s important to make sure you choose the right social platform(s). The goal of marketing is to get the attention of your audience and influence them toward an actionable result – like a donation or a sale. Facebook has over 1 billion active users, a growing video platform and a very accurate ad platform and Twitter is historically the number two social network with over 304 million users. According to a recent Hubspot poll, 98% of NPO’s surveyed are on Facebook, and 70% had a presence on Twitter, but if your organization has stopped there, you are missing out. Here are other the platforms you need to consider and why:

  • LinkedIn
    By producing content on this platform, you can find like-minded professionals who believe in your organization and have the financial means to donate. This platform will also help you to identify potential new hires that are the right fit for your growing NPO.
  • YouTube
    Only 45% of non-profits think that YouTube is a valuable platform (Hubspot). This is the leading online video platform and more people are consuming videos online than ever and the number of brands creating branded content has skyrocketed in the past years. It’s definitely an opportunity for NPO’s to create content and drive donations. (Remember the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge.)
  • Instagram
    If you haven’t considered Instagram for your NPO marketing then its time look around because you’re missing and opportunity to creatively tell your brand story to over 400 million highly engaged users.
  • Pinterest
    Take a look at the demographic of Pinterest users in this infographic. If your organization sees any value in marketing to females with children and an above average household income, then Pinterest is a must. (Tip: You absolutely should care significantly about this demographic)
  • Google+
    Let’s face it, this Facebook want-to-be was a total flop, but Google+ should not be ruled out. It’s a platform to share your content to another audience. Plus, the fact that it is a Google product, it may help with your search results. And remember, people need to find your organization if they want to give.

This list is not all-inclusive; changes in technology occur rapidly, so it’s important to consider where attention may be shifting. Depending on your organization, platforms such as Snapchat, Periscope and Vine could be very important to increase brand exposure and leverage for donations. Every time that a new social platform is launched, there is an opportunity to grab attention for your brand. When a platform first launches, there are fewer users putting out content on that platform, therefore if you are able to produce valuable content early on, you open yourself up to tremendous growth as the platform becomes more popular. Simply put, it’s a supply and demand curve for attention – there is demand for content producers on new platforms and therefore, it is easier to grab your audience’s attention.

2. Give, Give, Give, and then Ask

So now that you have set up a presence on all of the relevant social platforms, all that’s left to do is guilt your audience into giving to your cause, right? WRONG. This is the biggest mistake that Non-Profits are making in social. Many NPO’s have a content strategy for social that closely resembles this short scene with Bill Murray from What About Bob? “Give me, Give me, Give me, I need” is the message that people are getting from many NPOs on social, but the best way to increase donations is to take the reverse approach: Give, Give, Give and then Ask.

The most effective form of marketing is not intrusive, but it is useful. By working hard to provide significant value for your audience, you open yourself up to the ask.  There are two main ways that you can add value to your audience: information and entertainment. Creating and curating content that informs and appeals to your audience who want to be in-the-know. Through entertaining content, you give your audience a laugh or an escape from reality.

I currently run social media for a non-profit client that provides faith-based humanitarian aid around the world. I would say around 80% of the content that I produce for that client has to do with interesting facts about the region, information on religions in the area and news stories that come out of these regions. By producing this type of content you give your audience a reason to follow and stay engaged with your brand. Begin to think of your NPO as a media company. Just as media companies create and curate news and information in order to leverage this content against advertisement space, your NPO should create content that draws people in and leverage this against a donation.

This method has been successfully used by many business and business savvy non-profits, and it is clear that content marketing is the future of the industry. In my estimation, many non-profits think that because they are a charity or cause-related organization, they are immune to this principle.But this could not be further from the truth. The first step to increasing donations through the social media is to grow your audience, and this happens when you provide value through great content.CM-blog-asset

3. Engage with your audience

Once you begin to amass an audience by giving value, then it is critical to engage with them. People love to feel special and well connected; when a celebrity, business, or organization takes the time and effort to reply to someone in their audience, it creates an emotional connection. Having that emotional connection with your audience is an important prerequisite to receiving a donation. Human beings make decisions off of emotions.

In a world where marketing can be very invasive and gimmicky, the majority of people are immediately drawn to authenticity. Unique replies to your audience are a great way to boost your brand and connect them with your organization’s vision. Try replying to individual tweets, commenting on Facebook posts, calling users by their first name, and being personal.

Another helpful tip is to use the Facebook and Twitter search function to search the relevant terms that relate to your organization; then join the conversation with people who are talking about these topics. Don’t be afraid to reinvent the game, check out what social media expert Gary Vaynerchuck is doing with Twitter video. By taking the time to reply to an individual it shows authenticity and builds trust between you and your audience. For this reason, I don’t believe in scheduling tweets or Facebook posts; while it may be convenient for your marketing team, it creates a phony feeling for your audience. Imagine if a natural disaster strikes a country where your non-profit works, yet your scheduled tweet goes out on the Internet talking about the latest new hire or the company picnic; it immediately gives users the sense that you’re inauthentic or worse, out of touch with the world. The convenience of brand scheduling is not worth the adverse effects it can have on your brand equity and your online donations.

4. Tell stories

Any salesperson, fundraiser or ad man throughout history can tell you the power of telling stories to reach an audience. So why has the narrative gotten lost for so many on social? Stories are the emotional superglue that binds you to your audience.  So when it comes time to ask, start with a story. Tell the story of an individual who was deeply affected by your charity and the way their life was changed, and then explain that there is more work to be done and ask for the donation. Stories are the catalysts that motivate people into action.

Stories aren’t just told in text, they can be illustrated through pictures, videos, info graphics and much more. Utilize every means available to tell your story to your audience and connect with them on an emotional level.

5. Play the long-term game

Shortsightedness is a crippling mistake made by so many great NPO’s. Social media is not for a marketing team that is looking for a quick fix, there are quicker ways to raise funds, but the long-term brand and financial upside of social media is unmatched.

Social networks allow you to reach the world with your message and connect on a deep level with many people, allowing you to create a network of brand ambassadors. People who have been impacted by the story of your organization that they not only give a gift themselves, but they make a point to get others involved.

Playing a long-term game means saying thank you and reporting back with the results of past donations. If a person shares your post, thank them! If a group of people donates to your campaign, then follow up with them with exactly what was accomplished through their generosity. Following these two tips on social media sets your organization up for long-term financial growth and repetitive giving.

Social media has allowed business and NPOs to connect on scale with millions of people who are passionate about the mission of that organization. Targeting advertisements on social are one of the most effective marketing tools available today, hands down. As the great Wayne Gretsky famously said “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been”. This quote has been used in countless business settings in the past, but it is 100% relevant for social media marketing. In 2015, the Internet isn’t even old enough to buy a beer and social media is still in its infancy. Social media is going to become even more relevant in the decades to come and it is crucial for non-profits to have an active presence on social media and to understand these 5 keys for increasing donations.

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Andrew Chiricosta

Andrew Chiricosta is an entrepreneur, marketing strategist, and founder of Costa Media Company. He is passionate about helping brands, businesses, and non-profits grow their revenue through innovative marketing strategies. Andrew's Blog features news on tech, small business management, marketing and more. In his free time, you can find him on the golf course, riding motorcycles, or on the beach.