Anna Rickman, Director of Product & Marketing at Lightful, discusses why digital, and particularly social media, can provide some of the most efficient and effective ways to achieve relationship-based fundraising
A report out this week by influential fundraising think tank Rogare
revealed that senior charity staff are not providing enough support for relationship-based fundraising, choosing instead to focus on short-term targets. This reminded me of the recent report from New Philanthropy Capital
, “Charities Taking Charge
”, outlining how the sector has not fully grasped the opportunity to use digital to deliver greater impact, often bringing up the rear behind other sectors when it comes to technology and digital tools.
The same challenge lies behind both these issues. The pain points that all charities share – lack of time, money and resources – particularly for non-front-line services, has meant that the sector struggles to invest for the future, whether this be long-term relationship building, or harnessing the potential of new technologies.
The inherent up-front cost, investment in capacity building, and perceived risk or uncertainty, does not align well with aid or grant dependent business models. The understandable (but not always helpful) public pressure for grant funding to go direct to beneficiaries also causes its own set of problems. This paradigm is based on a false economy (for a powerful exploration of this paradigm, Dan Pallotta has done a brilliant Ted Talk
). This is holding the sector back from fully grasping the upside of long-term relationship building in terms of financial sustainability, and harnessing the great value that digital and technology offers in both cost saving and revenue generation.
Relationship-based fundraising doesn’t have to be costly or complex. Ironically it is digital, and particularly social media, that can provide some of the most efficient and effective ways to achieve this, whether you’re a small or large charity.
Traditional, offline methods of revenue generation, such as door-to-door, on the street, by telephone or direct mail can cost on average upwards of £140 to recruit a new supporter, and this number is rising. It can take four years to recoup the value of this acquisition, and increasingly charities are not breaking even. It has become a necessity that the sector adapts to and invests in digital, social and relationship-based fundraising, or face being left behind.
At the more advanced end of the spectrum, social network analysis, social listening and demographic analysis based on public social data allows deep psychographic insight into supporter personas and communities, from which to build tailored communications strategies.
More advanced CRM systems such as Salesforce can manage these segmented, tailored and integrated supporter journeys across integrated platforms, email, direct mail and social media. Despite the initial upfront cost and resource a project like this might require, the long-term cost savings gained by moving away from legacy tech solutions which are no longer fit for purpose, and the financial sustainability this enables through increased donor retention and loyalty, pays dividends.
However, for smaller or medium sized charities, little to no investment beyond some time and energy is required to start harnessing the value of social for long-term relationship fundraising. By following simple, best practice and organic storytelling method, it is possible to reduce the cost of donor acquisition by 50% to 80%, and demonstrate impressive returns on investment.
The primary relational paradigm of social networks is one to one. This offers a unique opportunity to communicate with your supporters in the same space where they share and connect with friends and family. It’s important you communicate on social media as if you are talking to a single person even if your audience runs to the thousands. It seems obvious but is often hard to maintain in practice. And make sure you tell each one a story. Let the plot be your cause, your appeal, or your next event, but let them be the protagonist. Let it have a beginning, middle, and end, but let the end be the impact that their support has created.
The best part about this is that charities actually have an untapped advantage when it comes to raising awareness on social channels. Today’s consumer wants their brands to have human stories at their heart. Think of the Heineken ad
promoting beer as a way of overcoming political differences. Brands like Toms and Ben and Jerry’s make their CSR a core part of their brand strategy. Inspirational, meaningful, powerful stories with human hearts lie at the core of the very operations of our sector.
Furthermore, these one-to-one relationships work both ways, in a way that traditional channels do not. Allowing and encouraging your supporters to share or contribute to your messages through their own networks rewards the basic human needs of altruism, participation and recognition. It deepens their relationship with your organisation, and exponentially increases the reach of your campaigns, all through simply engaging with your charity on social.
People crave meaningful connection, to be part of a community in which they can be proud to participate. Social media for social good offers a uniquely powerful opportunity to reach and connect people all over the world around a shared purpose; creating communities who want to proactively engage in raising awareness around good causes, promoting their inspirational content, supporting advocacy campaigns and petitions, and raising much needed funds both online and offline.
Harnessing the power of social media for your charity need not take great skill, time or resource, after all, you have a natural advantage! From the smallest organisation getting started on organic social strategies, to more ambitious ones embarking on social media advertising campaigns, everyone can start to harness the ROI of social media for relationship-based fundraising.