Facebook Live For Nonprofits: How Live Streaming Helped One Org Raise Almost 0K | npENGAGE

Facebook Live For Nonprofits: How Live Streaming Helped One Org Raise Almost $100K

By on Jun 27, 2017


How San Diego Humane Society Used Facebook Live for Nonprofits to Save Puppies and Raise $100K

There’s a lot of talk about the ways nonprofits can use Facebook to raise money— live streaming fundraising events, breaking news, impact stories, and more, directly from their Facebook Page. Facebook’s live streaming platform is empowering nonprofits to quickly engage supporters around the causes that matter most to them.

San Diego Humane Society recently used Facebook Live to document the rescue of #92Yorkies and kick-off a major digital fundraising campaign. Jennifer GranthamSenior Director of Annual Giving at San Diego Humane Society, outlines the story and the key components to their incredible success below.

In this blog post you will learn:

  1. How San Diego Humane Society mobilized supporters in a time of crisis
  2. How Facebook live helped keep their audience engaged (and raise $100K)
  3. 9 tips to help your nonprofit be successful with Facebook Live video streaming

Mobilizing Supporters During a Time of Crisis

It’s January 20, 2017. I am sitting at an off-site planning meeting with our Communications team when a call comes into our Chief of Staff. The hour is 3:30 p.m. Our Humane Law Enforcement team is heading to a home in North San Diego County, responding to a hoarding situation. At that moment, we were under the impression that there were about 35 Yorkies at this home. We were surely in for a surprise.

Our Communications team ended the planning meeting early and quickly mobilized to prepare for communicating the rescue to news media, staff, volunteers and our donors. Knowing that we were going to need to solicit our donors for support, I went back to the office to set up online donation forms and create a quick fundraising plan. Heavy rain and rush hour traffic made it difficult to send a photographer out to the home where the rescue was taking place so the Humane Law Enforcement Officers on site took a few pictures that could be used as we broke the news to the public. The hour was 7:30 p.m. What was supposed be a quick rescue, turned into hours as our Humane Officers realized there were not just 35 Yorkies at the home—there were more than 90.

Because of the storms in the area and the late evening hour, broadcast media were not going to cover this rescue. They were busy covering stories on flooding and snarled traffic. We decided to break the news ourselves via Facebook. As the first transport of Yorkies arrived at the shelter, our President and CEO Dr. Gary Weitzman, with one of the rescued pups in hand, went on Facebook Live to share the news of the rescue. With over 50,000 streaming viewers, Dr. Weitzman teased a video that would soon be posted to our Facebook page. Weather and our thick shelter walls prevented us from utilizing Facebook Live from inside of the exam rooms.  We posted the pre-recorded video on Facebook and immediately saw engagement from our social media followers. That evening, we continued to provide updates via social media, introduced the hashtag #92Yorkies and started our fundraising messaging.

How We Kept our Online Audience Engaged With Facebook Live

Just before midnight, we received word that the last transport of Yorkies had arrived. Our Chief of Staff whipped out her phone and started live streaming their arrival on Facebook. Over the next 15 minutes, she engaged our followers by conducting interviews with our Chief of Humane Law, our HLE first responders and various medical staff who were holding and comforting the smelly, terrified Yorkies. Comments rolled in as the livestream continued. Our viewers were engaged and felt as if they were a part of the rescue efforts. Donations started rolling in as well! This was the start of a major digital fundraising campaign in which nearly $100,000 was raised online through various platforms.

Without the use of live streaming, this campaign would never have taken off the way it did. In the days following the rescue, our Communications and Philanthropy teams continued to keep our online community engaged in this developing story by posting a perfect mix of web updates, fundraising email appeals, and live streams on social media. Our Marketing Communications Specialist recorded live streams of simple things like bottle feeding of two neonate Yorkie puppies, updates on the adoption process and the first Yorkie to go to a new home. The community was engaged and several of our Facebook followers started Facebook Peer to Peer fundraising campaigns to raise money for the Yorkies.

Days of live streaming turned into weeks of news media coverage and outpouring of public support. Professional groomers donated hours to bathe and remove gobs of matted fur. School children made special gift packages of dog treats and delivered them to the Yorkies. Today there is a #92Yorkie Facebook community where members continue to share stories about their new furry family members.

Just to think it all started with an attempt to live stream our own news. You can do this too.

9 Live Streaming Tips for Nonprofits:

  • Make sure you have a strong Internet connection and/or wireless signal: Dropping your signal during a livestream can be extremely frustrating for your viewers and spokespersons. If you are using a cell phone to do your live stream, consider using a hotspot or a wireless network to ensure you have the bandwidth needed to conduct your live stream. Also, invest in a mic for your phone. It will make all the difference in the world.
  • Be authentic: Viewers want to connect with you and your organization. Be genuine in your delivery. Don’t act or overact during live streams, just be you!
  • Break your own news: Let’s face it, the news media is not going to cover all the details of what’s happening or even gain access to the areas that you can. Livestreaming makes it possible for telling your organization’s news stories – but use it sparingly and only for truly big news.
  • Identify special moments that could be live streamed: Whether it’s puppies being bottlefed, cancer survivors kicking off the start of a fundraising walk or a client testimonial, identify those special moments that might resonate with your viewers. Remember, even moments that may be ordinary for us can be awe-inspiring for our viewers who don’t see it every day!
  • Have a charismatic leader give organizational updates: Identify which organizational leaders should be designated as your spokespersons. Do a Q&A session or have them give an update on a program or service.
  • Pre-promote when you will be going “live”: Promoting your live streams ahead of time allows your social media followers to plan to tune in. This will no doubt increase your viewership.
  • Respond to comments during the live stream: This is really important. Many users, especially on Facebook Live, are used to commenting during live streams and many ask questions looking for immediate answers. It’s also fun for the viewers when the person on screen is responding to their question live, so I highly recommend doing this when possible.
  • Continue to engage: It’s not always possible to answer all questions during the live video, and more questions and comments will continue to come in after the video has ended, so be sure to have a dedicated person available to monitor the online activity and respond to questions to keep engagement high.
  • Promote the recording: After the livestream share your recording on your social media channels or if warranted, purchase advertising to promote the recording to social media followers outside of your network.

Now back to the Yorkies. After all was said and done, our Humane Officers revisited the home several times rescuing nearly 200 Yorkies over a period of three months. The owners had been hiding additional Yorkies at various locations, and even fled to Las Vegas in an RV packed with dogs. Fortunately, thanks to this fundraising effort and community support, we were able to get each one the care they needed – which we estimate was upwards of $300,000. The owners are now facing criminal charges, but most importantly, these animals received the second chance they so deserve.

The moral of this story: get some practice with live streaming today, before a significant opportunity crops up suddenly.

See How the Story Unfolded by Watching the Facebook Live Streams Below:


Jennifer Grantham brings over 16 years of experience in fundraising, working for a wide-range of organizations including the YWCA of Riverside County, American Cancer Society, and USO San Diego. She currently serves as the senior director of annual giving for San Diego Humane Society, where she is responsible for the strategic direction and management of the Humane Society’s Annual Giving Program, which includes a robust direct mail program, online giving program, third party fundraisers, and four signature Special Events: Fur Ball Gala, Walk for Animals-San Diego, Walk for Animals-North County, and the Day of Giving. Throughout her six years with San Diego Humane Society, Jennifer has led her special events and annual giving teams in raising more than $15 million. Under her leadership, Online Fundraising has grown threefold and is on track to raise over $1.5 million in FY16-17.

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