To raise money with social media, start with social data | npENGAGE

To raise money with social media, start with social data

By on Mar 1, 2013


Fundraisers see great successes like Charity:Water, their eyes get wide, and they inevitably ask me the question: “How can we use social media to raise more money?”

The problem is that – while social media is powerful, and can be evocative and engaging and often a necessary component of every marketing campaign – these kind of fundraising successes aren’t the norm. Campaigns like those Charity:Water and Kiva have done are unpredictable, and simply aren’t replicable by smaller or less-agile organizations.

So I’m sorry to say it, but…your social media presence is not the key to fundraising. However, that being said, data acquired through social media holds the key to dramatically improved fundraising. You can gather all kinds of critical information through social media — information you can’t get anywhere else — that can amp up your fundraising to the next level and help you achieve your goals.

How can you raise money with the help of social media?

Where do the fundraising opportunities lie? They’re at the intersection between the unstructured “fire hose” of social media and the structured rigor of traditional fundraising and databasing.

Picture social media as a gateway for building relationships and learning about your constituents. That insight then fuels the existing financial machinery (integrated and multichannel communications) to perform at new levels of efficiency.

So, rather than posting more content on social media, or having different departments post separately, consider how information gained through social media can work throughout your organization. Below are just a couple of examples to think about.

  • Inform your direct marketing campaigns with information learned about constituents from social media. For example, Canadian or international nonprofits can discover their constituents’ preferred languages, and can then craft more effective communications geared toward their preferences. Or, if you have a relay event coming up, you can use social media to find runners who are also passionate about your cause — your ideal target market for participants.
  • Provide a clearer picture to major gift officers about the passions and interests of the person they’re talking to, helping their donation request calls and visits go smoother and giving them the opportunity to tie the charity’s mission in with what that person cares about.
  • Spot potential sustainers. People who are more active on social media tend to buy things online frequently as well, which makes them ideal targets to ask for smaller, more frequent gifts.

What CARE learned about their constituents through social data

Now, let’s take a look at and example from our recent work with CARE, the international relief organization. CARE asked us to find out how to use social media insights to target, segment, and modify traditional methods of fundraising.

To start, we asked, “Are the people already donating to CARE on social media?” In our data analysis, we found the answer was a resounding yes!

Why did we ask that question first? Many people worry that social media won’t help their organizations because “it’s just for the younger generations.” Maybe it was true in 2006 that older generations weren’t on social media, but that’s just not the case anymore.

As you can see in the chart below from CARE’s SocialData Analysis Report, no matter how people supported CARE (direct mail, online donations, and otherwise), well over a third in almost every category were engaged in social media. Even if people on their list prefer to donate money through offline channels, they are still consuming information and making decisions with the help of social media, which means that there is a huge amount to learn about a significant portion of their (and your) constituents through social media.

NPEngage - Small Act - Aggregate Social Networks by Giving Medium

Tactics for using social data to raise money

And while I see use cases continuing to grow every day, below are just a few of the ways our clients are using social data to power other multichannel campaigns:

  • Discover high potential constituents: The Nature Conservancy is using social data to find and target high level executives (CEOs, presidents, VPs, etc.) not found in traditional screening.
  • Identify team leaders and brand ambassadors: Find the people in your network who are clearly gifted at engaging people online and ask them to serve as team captains for events or community leaders and organizers for advocacy efforts.
  • Know who can give you more money: Typically, donors who have profiles on LinkedIn have higher than average incomes and higher discretionary spending, and as a result, they donate more (see CARE examples below). So ask them for more! (Note: We’re speaking in general terms here. Based on the studies we’ve done, people with higher incomes and more discretionary spending tend to be drawn to LinkedIn. Simply existing on LinkedIn doesn’t automatically put you in this category.)
    NPEngage - Small Act - Average Lifetime Gifts
    NPEngage - Small Act - Average Single Gift
  • Know their primary interests and what they’re passionate about right now: Here’s an example. One of the major gift officers of the National Wildlife Federation was going to meet a prospect up in New York City. Before going, she looked at his social profile and saw that two of his last 10 posts on Twitter were about climate change. he knew exactly what would be top of mind and most relevant for this prospect when she met with him.
  • Improve email open and click-thru rates: By segmenting the constituents into different social types or platform memberships, you can better target your communications and use words and action requests that resonate with each specific group, thereby driving up the response rate and results

This is just the beginning of how to enrich standard CRM data sets with social media through integration with existing multichannel communications.

How do I get started using social data?

First, you and your organization need to decide that social media has a place in terms of supporter cultivation and stewardship. Are you willing to embrace this new insight to improve what you already are doing?

Please remember social media intelligence should be done in addition to, not as a replacement for, traditional means of fundraising.

Next consider screening your active and lapsed supporter file with social data and insight. There are several companies who provide this service, Small Act being one of them.

Once you have that, you can begin segmenting your audience accordingly in ways that match up your organization’s priorities. The two categories I would suggest starting with are “Existing Campaign Growth” and “New Segments for Targeting.” Below are a couple starters for you:

Existing Campaign Growth

Identify new targets for sustainer giving programs: People on your list who participate moderately or frequently on social media are great candidates for sustainer programs. You can even break this list down further into two sub-groups (those on LinkedIn and those who are not), so that you can ask the LinkedIn members for more money (say, $20 a month instead of the $10 a month you’ll ask everyone else for). If they have given previously, these historical giving levels should also be used to guide the ask for this segment. This is both an effective way to convert non-donors to donors as well as increase the giving level and lifetime value for those who are in the small- to mid-gift range.

New Segments for Targeting

Increase email open/click-thru rates – Once you know which portion of your audience is on Facebook, you can create a new segment for these individuals to increase open and click-thru rates on your email campaigns. You can use specific terminology, tone and targeting to do so and can even give them action steps to take within Facebook. A good example here is what WGBH (PBS Affiliate in Boston) did, where they embedded the same picture, headline and description text that was in their Facebook post in their email. As a result, the number of click-thru’s was dramatically higher than previous attempts.

Keep testing and modifying with an open mind to find that magic blend of new and existing data that performs the very best for you. There’s no doubt that there will be an improvement. It’s just a matter of how much.

And if you learn anything interesting from your social data, I’d love to hear about it!


Casey-GoldenA lifetime entrepreneur, Casey Golden started his first business at the age of 11, where he received two patents, and has since started many successful web-based software companies, including the most recent, Parature, a Customer Relationship Management software company, where he led product vision and sales, helping the company grow to over 120 employees. His current venture, Small Act, helps nonprofits, associations and Higher Ed identify and nurture key relationships through its social data, SocialCRM software and social intelligence platform. 


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