Fundraising on Social Media? Not So Fast.

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We’re moving into the holiday season, and it’s crunch time for nonprofits who are working to meet their year-end goals. Amid the flurry of galas, benefits, fundraisers, and year-end appeals, many nonprofits are turning to social media to boost their bottom line. But is social media a feasible means of raising money?

Well, yes and no.

The relationship between fundraising and social media can be difficult to define. Social media is just that — it’s a social space intended to allow people to interact with each other. In the simplest terms, social media can help with fundraising but should not be a major part of a nonprofit’s fundraising strategies.

The beautiful thing about social media is that it gives nonprofits an unprecedented opportunity to engage with their fans. “Engage” is the key word here; social media is intended as a way to have conversations, ask questions, and interact with people from all walks of life. It’s a great platform for a nonprofit to share stories about its volunteers, show off what they’re accomplishing, and raise awareness about new programs and events. Nonprofits are using social media in inspiring ways that build a sense of community among their supporters and create strong emotional ties between charities and donors. That can certainly help boost fundraising! Donors are more likely to give when they feel an emotional connection to the nonprofit they support, and sharing stories about events and goals can help keep donors involved.

But because social channels are such powerful tools, it’s tempting to use them for donation appeals and giving campaigns. The occasional appeal for support on a Facebook post or a tweet is okay (and might even be encouraged!), but don’t fall into the trap of using social media as a primary means of fundraising. There are a few reasons for that, but the biggest is that fundraising on social media can actually hurt nonprofits’ engagement with fans.

People, as a general rule, follow nonprofits to keep up with their activities, hear about their progress, and feel like their involvement makes a difference. They want stories, anecdotes, pictures, videos… but not constant appeals for money. Social media followers want to feel like they’re a part of something special, not like they’re being pressed for donations every time they log in.

By all means, drive fundraising by building an interested, connected following on social media. But don’t sacrifice more traditional fundraising methods in favor of Facebook appeals or tweets. E-mail campaigns, organization websites, and direct mailings are still among the top ways to raise money. So build your community, talk with your followers, share your stories… and stick to other means for your major fundraising.

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