Get the Word Out: Event Fundraising Using Social Networking
October 28, 2011 – by Stacy Dyer
Fundraisers know the key to successful special events is good attendance. A well-attended event garners not only more revenue from registration fees or ticket sales, but also broader exposure for your cause to your community and its networks.
But, event fundraisers are on a hard deadline. Unlike an annual campaign or endowment drive — which can be ongoing throughout the year — in order for supporters to participate in your special event, they must be aware and take action before the big day.
How can you best spread awareness to as many potential supporters as possible when you have limited budget and resources? Leverage social media to get the word out quickly and efficiently throughout your nonprofit’s network.
In “The Networked NonprofitOpens in a new window,” authors Beth KanterOpens in a new window and Allison FineOpens in a new window write, “Networked Nonprofits work as social networks, not just in them.” According to Kanter and Fine, by connecting individuals with common interests and goals, nonprofits create an ecosystem of organizations and people eager to help.
And, by utilizing “free agents” — individuals working outside the organization who can organize and raise funds — nonprofits can capitalize on the power of social media to get the message out.
Social networks disseminate information Individuals are more likely to support a cause when asked by someone they know, even if it is not a cause they would have otherwise supported. This is especially true if the audience you are trying to reach is millennials.
According to the 2011 Millennial Donor SurveyOpens in a new window, a recent study from Johnson, Grossnickle + AssociatesOpens in a new window and AchieveOpens in a new window, 56 percent of donors ages 20 to 35 report they get information about organizations to support from their peers.
The same study found that 33 percent of donors in the same age group learn about organizations to support from FacebookOpens in a new window. Ninety-three percent of those surveyed report giving to nonprofits in 2010. The power of social networks to disseminate information and motivate supporters to act is clear.
Case study: Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg While using social networks to maximize event fundraising may seem like a new concept, it actually is not. Habitat for Humanity WinnipegOpens in a new window is a nonprofit utilizing a team-based fundraising structure. Since 1993, the organization has organized an annual special event called Cycle of HopeOpens in a new window.
“Riders journey 1,600 kilometers and raise enough money to enable Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg to build a new, affordable home for a very deserving family,” says Heather Scott, the organization’s database and administration supervisor.
Each Cycle of Hope rider is required to raise a minimum of $2,500 to participate. Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg encourages team members to tap in to their own social networks for support.
“The cyclists said the easy-to-use, peer-to-peer fundraising tool we put in place made it easier for them to reach out to more people they knew,” Scott explains. “We also host about four meet-and-greets in the office, so new riders can talk to and learn from experienced riders. They discuss fundraising and other tips and techniques.”
The above-mentioned team members function as Kanter and Fine’s “free agents” for the nonprofit.
Enabling supporters with online fundraising tools they can share through their various personal social networks (e-mail, Facebook, TwitterOpens in a new window) is critical to Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg’s success.
“Using an online fundraising and event-management tool made it very easy during the postal strike that occurred during this year’s Cycle of Hope,” Scott says. “Some supporters who would have normally mailed in checks used the online system, and I’m hoping they now see how effortless and quick it is to give in that way.”
Cycle of Hope participants can even embed special fundraising forms directly on their own blogs or websites, allowing them to capitalize on people’s tendency to donate to causes their friends ask them to support.
“We raised $60,000 more this year over what we had hoped,” Scott says. “We received donations from all over Canada, the U.S. and Europe. In the past, I had only seen one donation come from overseas. Next year, I’m looking forward to seeing that market grow even more.”
The donors reached by these “free agents” may not have any particular affinity for Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg itself, or may not even live in the same country, but they have a great affinity to support their friends, so they contribute.
Social media is a contact sport As you can see, using social networks to increase support for an organization’s special events is quite powerful. If your organization has been sitting on the sidelines, now is the time to stand up and start engaging. As Kanter and Fine say in “The Networked Nonprofit,” “Social media is a contact sport, not a spectator sport.”