Will social media help you if you’re failing in traditional media?

If your organization is bad at direct mail fundraising, you are in a tough spot, as you probably know. But it’s worse than you might have thought, because you don’t have a lot of options. If you’re bad at direct mail, don’t think you’ll find a refuge from your shortcomings by focusing on social media marketing.

Both are about being interesting. Both are about putting your audience first. Both are about give and take. If you aren’t getting those things right in direct mail fundraising, you won’t be magically good at it in a new medium.

In fact, if your direct mail is ineffective, your social media will likely fail even more spectacularly than your mail does.

Let me show you how not to do social media marketing with this tweet that came up in my Twitter feed recently (revised to protect the tweeter’s identity):

It’s 50 years since we were founded, and we’re tweeting 50 of our top achievements.

(There was a goofy #hashtag that no human will ever search, even if we continue to exist for the next trillion years.)

Then, over the course of a couple days, they actually tweeted fifty accomplishments. None of them had anything to do with donors. All of them were about the heroism of the organization and its insiders.

That’s crappy, boring, self-centered, and tone-deaf. It would fail badly in the mail, and it will fail on Twitter.

Social media can’t rescue that organization from its inability to connect meaningfully with donors. It won’t rescue you either.

The smart way to learn social media marketing is to learn traditional marketing first. Then transfer what you know to the new situation.


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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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About the blogger

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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