Online Giving and Social Media Marketing: Useful Info for Nonprofits

According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 72% of online adults use social networking sites. With so many adults using social media, this marketing platform is critical for nonprofit organizations to connect with their fans, donors, volunteers, and prospects.

VerticalResponse found that 61% of nonprofits are spending more time on social media compared to a year ago. They also found that 37% of these nonprofits spend six or more hours per week on social media. That’s a large chunk of time for a nonprofit staff already overwhelVerticalResponse Infographic imagemed with projects. Leadership within the nonprofit must see the ROI.

ROI for nonprofits is often seen in two places: increased donations and volunteers. For this post I’ll focus on donations.

Today’s donors are seeking greater transparency from the nonprofit sector and they want to feel connected to a cause. Blackbaud reports that 55% of Gen Y and 47% of Gen X follow charities through social media. Also, 20-29% of these generations report that social media is an extremely or very important way to stay in touch. Don’t discount more mature donors. Pew reports that adults ages 65 and older have almost tripled their presence on social networking sites in the last four years from 13% in 2009 to 43% in 2013.

Along with this increase in social media activity, the nonprofit sector has seen a significant increase in online giving. According to Network for Good, 65% of people surveyed gave online. This is up dramatically from 4% in 2002.

Social media and online giving, as with all marketing efforts, is an extension of nonprofit donor relations. It includes stewardship, acknowledgement, and cultivation. It’s no longer about solving the “can we accept credit card transactions online” question.  It’s about casting a wider net and hopefully gaining new donors to replace those lost through attrition while increasing overall donations from existing donors.

Blackbaud reports that in August 2013, online giving has increased 12% while overall giving has only increased 3.3% compared to August of 2012.  That could tell us that some donors might not be mailing in a donation as a result of a direct mail piece, but when prompted through direct mail, email, and posts on social media, they are more likely to go to a website and give than write a check.

Branding is critical to the online giving experience. Gifts made by going to a generic giving page (does not visually match the charity’s website) averaged $75 and counted for 8% of an organization’s overall giving. However, those with a branded giving page (integrated with the charity’s website) saw larger gifts that averaged $127 and counted for 59% of the organization’s overall giving.

So, what can a nonprofit marketing or fundraising professional do?Network For Good Digital Giving Index image

Hopefully you know that posting “Donate Today” with a link to your site on social media alone won’t magically generate gifts. Every piece of your marketing strategy and your website services need to work together to provide a seamless, safe, and rewarding experience to garner donors.  Here’s a couple ideas:

  • Make your donation tool a regular part of communications.
  • Give supporters information on how their donations are being used.
  • Feature peer-to-peer tools on your website like social media sharing buttons.
  • Give existing donors simple tools to help fundraise (i.e. suggested social media updates and email templates).
  • Remember, the easier it is to do, the more likely your donors will spread your information to their social networks.

What social media offers nonprofits is the ability to access current and potential supporters.  It’s not a silver bullet for quick gifts. Cultivating these relationships for the long-term will help ensure your organization continues to meet its goals. This requires being responsive and adapting to changes – and in social media land, changes happen every day.

Cynthia Pacia headshot 2013By Cynthia Pacia, Owner of Orange Hummingbird Consulting and Development Operations Manager at Hochstein School of Music & Dance.  Twitter handle: @O_Hummingbird

Editor’s Note:  On October 29, Cynthia will be presenting at an Ad Council of Rochester Academy session titled, “Online Giving: Donations Could Be Just a Click Away