What’s wrong with social media fundraising?

If you have a thick skin, do what The Agitator did recently and say something critical about the use of social media for fundraising: In Defense Of Serious Fundraising Dialogue.

What happens is this: A lot of 140-character shouting. You are an ignorant dinosaur.

Which is too bad, because, as the Agitator notes:

The solid, professional, serious advancement of our trade … is seriously diminished by those who flit about on the channels, all thumbs, no thought. Those who have little idea what fundraising is all about, often because they have minimal experiential grounding in what’s important and why.

Not long ago, I was held captive on a phone conference where a new media expert revealed his grand plan for a nonprofit organization’s bold new future in social media.

Beside the fact that the expert’s entire case for his grand plan was based on anecdotes about dissimilar situations, it also had several fatal flaws that anyone with even minimal fundraising experience would not have made:


  • The entire campaign was hidden under a puzzling new sub-brand.
  • There were no benefits — just features.
  • There was no specific call to action. If the first two problems don’t kill the campaign, this one will finish it off.

The campaign is probably going to fail.

And it’s going to fail because when social media and other new channels became the topic of conversation, everyone’s brain turned off. They willingly chose to be hypnotized by a Dangerously Ignorant Guru who doesn’t actually understand the basics of human motivation.

The end result: After the failure, this organization will likely decide social media “doesn’t work.” Which will only be half-right at best. A better conclusion: When you do it wrong, it doesn’t work. Who knows what might happen when you do it right?

Social media of some kind will probably eventually become important in fundraising. But that’s not going to happen until discussions and plans become based on facts, not noise, anecdotes, or ideology.


Comments

10 responses to “What’s wrong with social media fundraising?”

  1. Social Media fails for fundraising because so many charities, fundraisers and social media “experts” treat it like it is something special and separate, not just another part of the overall fundraising picture.
    Social Media is great for supporting fundraising – in the same way telephone calls are, or talking to people on the street, or websites, or posters, or networking..
    They are another communication channel – a really useful one that allows dialogue and engagement in a way that is different (not necessarily better, just different) to the other channels fundraisers use.
    You don’t need to be a social media “expert” to get it right, you need to be a fundraising expert.
    The best advice for including social media in your fundraising is to just forget about the platform and concentrate on the strategy. Once you know what you want to do, it should be obvious how social media can fit into the strategy to support it.
    Far to often, I see organisations treating technology like it is the starting point, rather than the means to an end. They make decisions driven by the perceived benefits of a platform, rather than fitting the right platform to a fundraising plan.

  2. Social Media fails for fundraising because so many charities, fundraisers and social media “experts” treat it like it is something special and separate, not just another part of the overall fundraising picture.
    Social Media is great for supporting fundraising – in the same way telephone calls are, or talking to people on the street, or websites, or posters, or networking..
    They are another communication channel – a really useful one that allows dialogue and engagement in a way that is different (not necessarily better, just different) to the other channels fundraisers use.
    You don’t need to be a social media “expert” to get it right, you need to be a fundraising expert.
    The best advice for including social media in your fundraising is to just forget about the platform and concentrate on the strategy. Once you know what you want to do, it should be obvious how social media can fit into the strategy to support it.
    Far to often, I see organisations treating technology like it is the starting point, rather than the means to an end. They make decisions driven by the perceived benefits of a platform, rather than fitting the right platform to a fundraising plan.

  3. It is risky business messing with social media and unfortunately it is so difficult to get around all the hype in order to have a productive conversation about its real value.

  4. It is risky business messing with social media and unfortunately it is so difficult to get around all the hype in order to have a productive conversation about its real value.

  5. Tom Ahern Avatar
    Tom Ahern

    I believe the headline we’re looking for is this, with all the varnish stripped off: “Social media exists. But if you think it will save your anemic, sup-par fundraising program, you are well and truly stupid.” Only the already-succeeding can afford to test this hyper-unproductive nonsense.

  6. Tom Ahern Avatar
    Tom Ahern

    I believe the headline we’re looking for is this, with all the varnish stripped off: “Social media exists. But if you think it will save your anemic, sup-par fundraising program, you are well and truly stupid.” Only the already-succeeding can afford to test this hyper-unproductive nonsense.

  7. I feel like crying. Well, it is because what this post is saying is really true. I can’t afford to pay for a domain for my fundraising website and so I am using a social media for fundraising. But so far, only helped me a little. People don’t get focused on our aim of fundraising. This posts here are indeed helpful. I just wish that I can get to apply these in my fundraising so that it will be successful. Because with all honesty, my fundraising cause is not starting to show success as of the moment. 🙁

  8. I feel like crying. Well, it is because what this post is saying is really true. I can’t afford to pay for a domain for my fundraising website and so I am using a social media for fundraising. But so far, only helped me a little. People don’t get focused on our aim of fundraising. This posts here are indeed helpful. I just wish that I can get to apply these in my fundraising so that it will be successful. Because with all honesty, my fundraising cause is not starting to show success as of the moment. 🙁

  9. This is why social media when it comes to charity should be well thought in order not to give a wrong impression. If it is in a good cause and a clear message, no problems will arise.

  10. This is why social media when it comes to charity should be well thought in order not to give a wrong impression. If it is in a good cause and a clear message, no problems will arise.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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