Social networking sites have morphed beyond just keeping people informed about who broke up with who and have tried to adopt more socially conscious applications such as Facebook Causes. But, there is an important to question to ask--does this work? The Associated Press recently considered the effect of social media on nonprofits:
With millions of users worldwide, the sites would seem fertile ground for fundraising experiments — especially ones where users aren't asked to make direct contributions.It is true that there is an abundance of irrelevant information brought forth by these sites (If I receive one more invitation to guess my own date of death or one more notification that someone threw a rubber chicken at me on Facebook, I might just poke my eye out!) but for the sake of argument, this is the type of awareness and publicity that can be extremely helpful to organizations.
But it's far from certain that social networking will prove as effective as more traditional fundraising methods such as direct mail, telephone solicitation and even e-mails to past donors.
One hurdle to overcome is the sheer deluge of information online.
Already working on tight budgets, nonprofits need publicity which can come at a costly price. In tough economies--such as the one we're in right now--the first thing to be cut back on or cut out completely is the communication, public relations and marketing efforts, which seems a bit counterproductive. If people are not aware of what you're organization is doing, or better yet, that your organization even exists, then how are you to maintain donors or bring in prospective ones?
Enter in social media--a.k.a free publicity.
So, while it is perhaps over zealous to say that social networking sites are going to completely revolutionize fundraising and bring in droves of donors, it is accurate to say that it will strongly influence fundraising.
It is an easy route for organizations to take advantage of but it is necessary to understand what social media tools work best for each individual cause. A critical question is who is your donor audience and where are they most likely to spend their time online?
Awareness is the key factor to bring in money. The more exposure given, the more likely people will be aware of the cause. It is just a matter of being strategic and smart about it, which is another obstacle for nonprofits as they are tight on human capacity and it takes time and research to understand these tools.
Here are some other recent articles that explore social media's effects on fundraising:
How Charities Harness Social Media to Raise Awareness, Money
New York Times:
Charities Reap Benefits of Contests on Internet