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Social Media for Professional Fundraisers - A 2013 Skill to Build!

Resource Center - Foundation

By Paul Nazareth

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In 2013 there is no shortage of “social media gurus” hitting us over the head with advice. AFP members involved in event and community fundraising jumped on board with social media right away. However, beyond the world of Facebook “likes,” professionally trained fundraisers who focus on relationship building still haven’t embraced social engagement and continue to feel confident that it’s better left to the marketing department.  

I’ve been studying and speaking about the use of social media for fundraising and have been told that it’s the lack of control that terrifies fundraisers. Like any opportunity, without strategy and a plan the results will be unpredictable. Who can help? Enter Scott Stratten of UnMarketing.

Having read several books and hundreds of blogs in my entry to social media, I have personally raved about Stratten’s first bestselling book, Unmarketing, which I often recommend to fundraisers as the best primer on answering the question, “why should I engage in social media?” His most recent book, The Book of Business Awesome, is for marketing and finance departments and addresses the benefits and pitfalls of ignoring the medium, citing real case studies of companies and charities doing it both right and wrong.

Stratten has also been giving keynotes around the world to Fortune 100 companies and was named by Forbes as one of the world’s top influencers on social media.

But he has a dark secret.

For over a decade, Stratten worked in and taught human resources.  While the creative set may think his origin in administration is a drawback, I personally think it has given him a rock-solid approach to this kind of marketing. In reading his case studies, you will see he is always asking the tough questions instead of just “was it cool, was it noticed?” He speaks about strategy, results, the dreaded ROI – but he doesn’t talk like all the other “social media as miracle” types.

When I recently got the chance to sit down with him (Stratten is crossing the U.S. on a book tour), I wanted to ask him specifically about tips for professional fundraisers in AFP. I was inspired by a quote he often mentions to sales professionals, “...we’re told business is built on relationships, and so I simply made building them my business.”  So what does that mean for fundraisers?

Stratten, who is no stranger to the fundraising sector, shared that charities who engage in bad fundraising offline are masters of “cyber-begging online.” You’ve seen them, twitter bombing celebrities with “Hey @ryanseacrest please RT” or “Will we see you at our bake sale @jodifoster?”

He reminds us that “social” media involves the same ask, same strategy and same need for a case online as offline. (Yes, 140 characters at a time too!)  In this podcast interview with Ted Hart and while at the Digital Leap fundraising conference in Toronto, Stratten further reminds charities that if you suck offline, you’ll suck 10,000 times more online.

Social media is not a cure for dropping donations. Online giving is different.  Text-to-give is different. Social media is a marketing channel. It’s an amplifier not an answer.

In 2013 we have a huge opportunity as charities to influence the “third circle” of our network and capture the power of the personal referral. This is something that nonprofits have done well in the past and that we have the power to own in a social media world. The great folks at re:charity explain it well in this online post.

In the next few years more people in North America will access internet via mobile web than desktops.  Social media is fluid and powerful. Would you wait 24 hours to return a donor’s voice mail or email? Why then a tweet? Corporations get it—when will fundraisers?

Reading Stratten’s books will help.  Following our own home-grown fundraising social media educators like Rosetta Thurman, Gail Perry, Pamela Grow, Mazarine Treyez and Michael Rosen ( a shout out to my gift planning peers. Yes, planned giving fundraisers should join the party too! ) will help more. I’ll continue to focus my efforts on LinkedIn, but in 2013 we all have to include social media in our skill set as we strive to raise money for the causes we fight for.

Paul Nazareth is a philanthropic advisor with Scotia Private Client Group. He spent 12 years working in planned giving with charities and speaks at AFP chapters all across Canada. He teaches planned giving with Georgian College and the Canadian Association of Gift Planners. He is a passionate advocate of social media for fundraisers and the power of networking in our work and lives. Visit him at on Linkedin or @UinvitedU on Twitter.

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