Jason Falls

Jason Falls

The Social Media Club Louisville recently partnered with the National Safe Place for a series of social media webinars for their locations around the country. The organization is headquartered in Louisville and started as a program of the YMCA here in 1983. They now have 140 Safe Place programs and almost 17,000 Safe Place sites around the country. Safe Place sites are locations like libraries, restaurants and grocery stores that carry the recognizable, yellow Safe Place sign seen below. The locations are places at-risk or in-crisis children can come to and be connected with safe harbors (shelters and programs) that provide protection, food and other social services. Social Media Club Louisville partnered with NSP to provide some social media training for their 140 program locations.

The latest of our webinars for National Safe Place focused on using social media to raise money. While I would always defer to experts in non-profit social media work like Beth Kanter on the subject, I was able to provide some thought starters for the group on building online influence with social media outreach and channels to cultivate communities of both advocates and supporters which ultimately grows your network of financial giving as well. We also discussed some of the fund-raising mechanisms than can be used to put simple donation widgets and other money-taking functionality on your own website.
National Safe Place Logo
When it came time to deliver the payoff of the presentation, I told them raising money online has two main components: Building a mechanism to accept donations and developing a strategy to drive people to donate. In my opinion, most non-profits get the first one done and think that’s all there is to it. Leaving the strategic communications out of the equation, though, is like building a McDonald’s in the middle of the Sahara and not advertising that it’s there. This isn’t Field of Dreams. Building it alone does not make people come.

I then shared my thoughts on building that call-to-action strategy. In my opinion, a good non-profit strategy must include three important components. And keep in mind, these aren’t just components for social media exclusively, but for a successful non-profit strategy off-line as well. The three keys to non-profit success, in my opinion, are:

  1. Have a compelling story to tell.
  2. Make a specific ask or establish a specific goal to reach.
  3. Make it astonishingly easy to give.

The first of these is most important. I’ve listened to some of the most seasoned, well-spoken and intelligent advocates talk for hours about the importance of supporting the cause in question. They are passionate about the subject matter, cross off every possible objection and supply you with fact after fact to convince you to donate to their cause. Then they wonder why people don’t immediately pull out their check books.

It’s because their passion, knowledge and facts don’t include a compelling story.

A non-profit organization needs to find an emotional connection to the audience at hand. When I see starving children in Africa on my television, I want badly to write a check to help them. I can see the desperation in their eyes. That is compelling. When someone talks about breast cancer and holds up a picture of their deceased relative, or persuades me to think about my wife, mother or other relatives as potential victims, I want to support the cause. The thought of losing someone real is compelling. When my friends at the National Center for Family Literacy introduced me to Robert Long, a native American from New Mexico who, 18 years after dropping out of school, went back, learned to read and write and is now pursuing a master’s degree, I was overwhelmed with pride in someone seeing the value of literacy. That is compelling.

I’m sure each non-profit out there has a compelling story to tell. I just don’t think they tell them enough or at least well enough to drive that call to action.

The second on my list is also a key driver in successful fundraising. If your goal is to, “Raise money,” then I have nothing tangible to see as a result of my contribution. If your goal is to, “Purchase new bunk beds for the Safe Place shelter that serves 20 new young people per month in your community,” I feel like my $25 is going somewhere useful.

The third point is where the tools come into play. By using easy widgets like those available at ChipIn or JustGive, you’re allowing people to donate with a couple of clicks and a few keystrokes. If you need to capture their email addresses, fine, but don’t make people fill out forms, put in credit card numbers (PayPal is really simple to use) or sign over their first born just to help you.

Please know that I’m obviously not a fund-raising or non-profit expert. These are just thoughts I had that I thought useful for the National Safe Place program coordinators. I’m sure there are plenty of others out there who can help fine-tune a fundraising effort. And I’m sure you might have thoughts of your own that could be of use. That, my friends, is what the comments are for. Please chime in with your advice on making non-profit drives through social media successful.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • chrisbrown

    Jason:
    Thanks for the link to my blog. I also saw a really great example of this when Denise Wakeman (The Blog Squad) celebrated her 50th birthday by asking for donations to Kiva (an organization that loans funds to people to help them build a business and get out of poverty). She used Twitter and other social media to build awareness.
    Thanks again,
    Chris Brown

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Chris. Good to get another tool out there for folks to consider. Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.digitalcapitalism.com Kbodnar32

    Jason,

    I completely agree with your three points. We were discussing this topic at Triangle Social Media Club last night and we also made a point to say that it is important to have someone within the organization that encourages and helps members/recipients share their stories with others as an add-on to your first point.

    ie. Make it easy for people to talk about themselves…

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Well said, Kip. Thanks for the thought!

  • http://www.sametz.com/roundthesquare/ Tamsen McMahon (@Sametz)

    Here's the thing about good stories: you can see yourself in them.

    That's where a lot of nonprofits (and other organizations) fail: they either don't tell a story, or more often, they tell a story that doesn't have an obvious place for the donor. The passion, the facts, the importance of the cause mean nothing to a potential donor if that potential donor doesn't see how *their* gift, however large or small, can make a difference.

    Nonprofits love success stories–but those stories, for all intents and purposes, are over. Done. No opportunity for change.

    Pair that success story with another story, this time where the ending is unclear, and you make it nearly impossible for someone not to give.

    So perhaps the real key to storytelling, is to start the story “in medias res.”

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Excellent additional thoughts, Tamsen. Thank you!

  • http://www.onebyonemedia.com Jim "Genuine" Turner

    I think we need to capitalize on the 140 number. Sort of a “Tweet your safety in 140 characters and locations”.

    This is excellent Jason and I commend you for helping out. We all cannot help with our checkbook, but we can help in other ways. Bravo.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Jim. I'm sure Josh and the folks at NSP will love the Tweet your safety idea. Good thinkin'!

  • joshabner

    On behalf of National Safe Place I want to say thanks to Jim, Tamsen, Chris and all others who commented, and an obvious thanks to Jason and Social Media Club Louisville for their time and talent. The three-part training series have been among our most attended and highest rated online trainings so I know they feel better equipped to reach young people and other audiences in their community using social media.

    Jim — I love the 140/140 connection between the number of Safe Place programs and the Twitter count. We're always looking to grow and I know we have some potential new programs in the pipeline but I'll talk with our team and see if we can't capitalize.

    As Jason points out, outreach through social media doesn't change the key factors in cultivating relationships; it provides a tool to more efficiently do so. Hammering home the message of crafting a compelling story and sharing tangible outcomes that result from your supporters' efforts is a message nonprofits can not hear often enough.

  • Sara

    Great points. I do feel that PayPal is not a good choice for nonprofits, because they do not vet the claims of organizations or individuals who “accept donations” through PayPal. Post-Katrina there were a lot of people who wanted to help, who got rooked by sham companies that set up PayPal accounts and took their money and ran.

    I really wish that Guidestar would get its act together and make it easier to give donations online in a more “Web 2.0″ fashion. Guidestar is impeccable in its vetting of nonprofit organizations and they provide a lot of good research tools online, but they could be so much more for nonprofits if they wanted to be.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good perspective, Sara. There are several widget and donation options that do vet the claims. PayPal certainly has its flaws for this purpose, but is insanely easy to use. It depends upon how thorough you need or care to be with the donation functionality. Whatever the choice, however, I would always recommend a solution that makes it as easy as possible without putting the donor through a process just to give.

      Thanks for the insight.

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  • Erin McMahon

    Jason,

    These strike me as three great keys to nonprofit ~fundraising~ success. But I think that there is an important distinction to make. Nonprofit success with social media does not always entail fundraising. You didn't say it did, but the title of your post could be a little misleading. Sometimes nonprofit success in social media means recruiting volunteers, or getting action on advocacy efforts, etc.

    Just thought I'd throw that out there.

    ;)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Excellent thoughts and a valid differentiation, Erin. Thanks for throwing that out there. Obviously, the post was meant to focus on fundraising, but you're right – there are lots of other magnificent uses for social media beyond just that. Strike up a post about them on the United Way blog and we'll make sure people come see it!

  • storyboarding

    I don't think raising funds from social media would work, in my point of view, it just doesn't add up and it sounds out of tune.

    Signature: Telling stories with right storyboarding presentation together with PowerPoint presentation is like owning a printing press and printing your own currency.

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  • http://www.jackthedonkey.com/ David Katz

    Hi Jason,

    You probably haven't heard about the social network I have recently launched called JackTheDonkey.com as we are still relatively new and working to get up to speed. JackTheDonkey.com is the community where your time online supports the charity of your choice…and it's FREE!

    Jack is what some call a socially responsible social network, as we donate more than 1/2 of all ad revenue generated by an individual's time on…line to their choice of more than 20 charities from across Canada, the US, and now the UK (1.1 cents every impression paid at par depending where the charity is registered).

    To help make this an even more effective tool for non profits to stay top of mind among existing supporters, while trickling onto the radar of potential supporters….we have recently incorporated the charity's twitter feeds onto the profile pages of their supporters (viewable to everyone in the community).

    Please join us: http://www.jackthedonkey.com/Register1.html (and remember to check your spam folder for the activation email).

    If you are free to chat further, I'd greatly appreciate that.

    Thanks,

    David

    (twitter.com/inyourfacebook)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, David. Probably more appropriate to pitch via email but thanks
      for sharing. I'll check it out.

      ———————
      Jason Falls
      jason@jasonfalls.com
      Twitter: @JasonFalls
      C: 502.619.3285

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    The networking portion of social media is a great boost to recognition in itself. Using social media as a way to engage donors/members is just another tool in the bag for nonprofits/associations. I have recently noticed more and more activity from nonprofits/associations via twitter, facebook, and linkedin. The updates are regular and the content is informative.

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  • Mzm4infinity

    great article – with straightforward, vital and often overlooked advice in the np world….passion is not enough.

  • http://www.miratelinc.com/blog Desi Cabrera

    Some very good point!  I have written about 3 key basic points for nonprofits to keep in mind when developing their social media plans.  You’re welcome to stop by when you get a chance: http://www.miratelinc.com/blog/3-tips-for-using-social-media-to-engage-supporters-and-optimize-nonprofit-fundraising/

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  • http://www.socialmediamarketingmall.com/linkedin-contacts Nathan Kuneda

    Most thoughtful post i’ve read for quite awhile. Thanks for this Jason.

  • Jig Bax

     Have been looking forward to reading articles on Non-profits.  Thanks so much for this, Jason! 

  • Donna

    I am a fundraising professional and I found your article right on target!  Reminds me what my nfp needs to stay focused on as we incorporate social media into our fundraising.  Your three keys are great — thanks, Jason!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thank you, Donna. Glad to be useful. Or at least in line with what the actual pros like you see!

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