Local nonprofits are increasingly turning to social media, but not just to get the word out about their organization. More and more, creative fundraising efforts are being conducted largely—or entirely—in the social media arena, helping the organizations to raise more money in a shorter period of time than ever before.
Sustainable Food Center, for example, is a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the local food system and improving access to nutritious, affordable food. They recently raised money using a new Groupon initiative called G-Team, a program that helps Groupon followers give back to their communities. Sustainable Food Center (or SFC) didn’t have a physical product they could offer to Groupon buyers, as local nonprofit Urban Roots did when they recently offered a discount on community supported agriculture boxes. Instead, G-Team provided a way for SFC to benefit from a straight give—Groupon followers could purchase a $10 Groupon that would go directly to an SFC program.
“It was an opportunity to get creative as far as how we’re messaging people,” says Susan Leibrock, community relations director for SFC. The organization has been without a traditional development director for over two years now, so other staff members and the organization’s board have had to take the lead on fundraising initiatives that normally would be handled by a full-time staffer.
“What we’ve decided to spend our time and effort on is the community relations piece,” says Leibrock—which means a lot of social media work. “I’ve been looking at all these partnerships with the new technologies. We’ve had a Twitter and Facebook presence for two years now, and we’ve tried to watch what other nonprofits have been doing.”
These sort of outreach efforts are not only successful at raising funds, but also at diversifying where the money is coming from. In fact, Leibrock reports that an astounding 50 percent of the donors who gave to the organization through their Groupon cause had never given to them before. She believes that Groupon was able to reach a new demographic of existing users who may not have heard of the organization previously. It may also have provided Groupon users an easy way to put nonprofit donations in perspective, by comparing these donations to other items and services they (probably already) spend their money on.
In the spring, other social media marketing efforts helped Leibrock raise $50,000 for the organization in record time. This effort came to fruition when the Central Texas Still Water Foundation challenged SFC to raise $25,000 primarily using social media, promising to match them another $25,000 if they met the goal. $10,000 of that money came to them from Dell through a campaign that required tracking Twitter hashtags, and much of the rest also came through social media outreach and the organization’s newsletter.
All in all, it took SFC just over two months to reach their goal. Could Leibrock have done it without social media?
“No,” she asserts. “I couldn’t have raised it if it were a traditional campaign because my skill set is marketing and in particular online communication, and I’m not a trained fundraiser. [Social media] is the perfect tool for organizations that may not have fundraising staff.”
Another local organization, Any Baby Can, which provides services for families with a special needs or at-risk child, has also seen the effect that social media can have. On July 26, Any Baby Can won a new car from Toyota that will help staff reach clients in their homes. The organization participated in a competition called 100 Cars for Good, in which Toyota gave away (you guessed it) 100 cars to 100 nonprofits over 100 days. Each day, five different groups competed for one of the cars, and the winning nonprofit was the one that had received most votes on Facebook at the end of the day.
Any Baby Can was assigned to the July 26 competition, so staff worked in advance to build up the organization’s Facebook followers and to promote voting.
“We tell our story on Facebook and Twitter,” says Allison Daskam, communications manager for Any Baby Can. But, “this was unique in that we hadn’t been involved in a competition of this sort, where social media was the only way to participate.”
Social media played a large role in the promotion of the competition too, though the organization also promoted voting through face-to-face conversations, appearances on local morning shows and other methods.
“We used a multi-channel approach, but the campaign was only on Facebook, so it was important to tell [potential voters] not just to vote, but why it mattered,” says Daskam.
Any Baby Can provides client services primarily in clients’ homes, and the organization’s Central Texas staff drive 20,000 miles every month. “That’s like driving around the world 10 times every year,” Daskam explained, “which gives you an idea of how much this car means to us.” And as with the funds SFC raised earlier in the year, the competition was only possible through social media.
“It was a lot of fun to have participated in a campaign where votes could only be garnered through social media,” said Daskam, “and to be involved in a competition that supports our mission that way is a really big deal.”