Could social media depress fundraising results?

Most fundraisers believe something like this: The more a person engages with an organization in a non-monetary way, the more likely that person is to make a financial gift.

This might not be true, or it might be true for some forms of engagement but not others. In fact, there may be some forms of engagement that actually reduce the chance of later giving.

Like social media.

Perhaps getting someone to like you on Facebook, retweet you on Twitter, or do any number of soft-touch forms of involvement on social media satisfies the “get involved” need and removes the inward pressure to get involved by donating.

That’s the finding of a recent study: The Nature of Slacktivism: How the Social Observability of an Initial Act of Token Support Affects Subsequent Prosocial Action.

In the study, people who interacted with a charity on social media were less likely to give subsequently.

Don’t take this as gospel! Studies of this type don’t necessarily have any relevance to your donors’ behavior.

But think about it. Are your social media efforts inadvertently short-circuiting actual philanthropy? Watch it and test it.

One of the most important qualities a professional fundraiser should cultivate is curiosity and open-mindedness.


Comments

2 responses to “Could social media depress fundraising results?”

  1. Jeff, I hope folks take heed of the part where you say “Don’t take this as gospel” and that this post doesn’t merely provide fodder for those who are completely missing the fact that the digital revolution has changed the way we do business. From inside/out to outside/in. Today, electronic communications – social, mobile, email, crowd funding, online donating — have permanently disrupted the traditional donor-engagement process. There are so many different ways for folks to find you and interact with you that it’s dizzying.
    Social media may stink for fundraising per se (thus far), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t essential to creating awareness, learning about your constituencies, generating interest and engagement and ultimately working towards investment.
    One must always take studies like this with a large shaker of salt. Who are the folks that aren’t subsequently donating? Maybe they’re the ones who never would’ve donated in the first place. And perhaps that means organizations need to do a more thoughtful job targeting who they’re reaching with social media. Or perhaps the organization needs to engage with folks in a less token way — actually responding and following up in relevant ways with the folks who share their updates and comment on their posts. If we don’t provide something of meaning to those who fan or follow us, why should they provide something of meaning to us?
    I agree that fundraisers need to be curious and open-minded. I’d add thoughtful and strategic. If the “strategy” is simply spray and pray, then it’s little wonder not much good comes from it.
    Always enjoy your posts!

  2. Jeff, I hope folks take heed of the part where you say “Don’t take this as gospel” and that this post doesn’t merely provide fodder for those who are completely missing the fact that the digital revolution has changed the way we do business. From inside/out to outside/in. Today, electronic communications – social, mobile, email, crowd funding, online donating — have permanently disrupted the traditional donor-engagement process. There are so many different ways for folks to find you and interact with you that it’s dizzying.
    Social media may stink for fundraising per se (thus far), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t essential to creating awareness, learning about your constituencies, generating interest and engagement and ultimately working towards investment.
    One must always take studies like this with a large shaker of salt. Who are the folks that aren’t subsequently donating? Maybe they’re the ones who never would’ve donated in the first place. And perhaps that means organizations need to do a more thoughtful job targeting who they’re reaching with social media. Or perhaps the organization needs to engage with folks in a less token way — actually responding and following up in relevant ways with the folks who share their updates and comment on their posts. If we don’t provide something of meaning to those who fan or follow us, why should they provide something of meaning to us?
    I agree that fundraisers need to be curious and open-minded. I’d add thoughtful and strategic. If the “strategy” is simply spray and pray, then it’s little wonder not much good comes from it.
    Always enjoy your posts!

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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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