In traditional fundraising, having great name recognition and devoted fans can generate increased awareness and raise funds if a celebrity cares about the cause and invests time. Yet, online celebrity fundraising efforts are hit and miss, and often get outpaced by lesser known web-based personalities – weblebrities – who have deep ties to their communities.
Research across a wide range of PayPal users, from Network for Good and Operation Smile to DonorsChoose.org and TwitChange, reveals three key reasons that weblebrities succeed:
- They have a personal story to tell about the cause;
- They are willing to engage a pre-existing tight knit community that interacts with the spokesperson on behalf of the cause; and
- They have an authentic tie to the cause that resonates with that community’s knowledge of the weblebrity.
The paper includes multiple stories highlighting this phenomena. From Stephen Colbert’s interaction with the Reddit Community, to Paddy O’Brien’s stunning story that won the UCSF fundraising challenge on Causes.
One thing that stands out from these case studies, are the uncanny similarities that social media fundraising best practices share with traditional fundraising best practices. In fact, recruiting effective social media champions is a lot like recruiting terrific board members or major donors: First and foremost is finding someone who will become truly engaged in your work, and who is deeply connected to a community.
What do you think? Has your organization had experiences with celebrities and social media appeals?
Clam Lorenz manages the nonprofit engagement strategy for Convio partner, PayPal. You can learn more about social media fundraising with PayPal’s white paper and by exploring our Common Ground Social Fundraising feature.
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