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How Does Your Organization Define “Success” in Social Media Fundraising?

Resource Center - Foundation

Claire Kerr is the Director of Digital Philanthropy at Artez Interactive and author of the "Mobile Matters" and "Fundraising with Facebook" whitepapers.

Have you ever struggled to explain the impact social networking had on one of your fundraising campaigns?

It’s not too long ago that development professionals were collecting anecdotes, tracking “likes”, and counting retweets as an indicator of “success” on social media. Do you remember how cumbersome that process was? And to be honest, it wasn’t always useful!

Fortunately for those of us who love social channels, it’s now much simpler to prove that platforms like Facebook or Twitter (or even Pinterest!) have a measurable impact on your fundraising projects.

Here are three different ways you can assess the real impact of your activities on social media:

1. Dive right into your existing donation data

Every organization collecting online donations should be tracking the referred source of the gift to determine how donors found your website. Recent social fundraising research at Artez Interactive found that 14 percent of online donations in client campaigns were referred directly from Facebook!

What are your numbers? Are you noticing that certain campaign activities drive more donations from Twitter or more purchasers from Pinterest?

It’s important to know how successful each social network is in converting visitors to donors. After all, not all platforms are the same for every charity or every campaign.

For example, we looked at a marathon event to see how social media was specifically affecting pledges raised by participants. We found that visitors from Facebook who viewed a donation form after a peer-driven or crowdsourced “ask” subsequently converted to a donation 23 percent of the time. Comparatively, traffic from Twitter converted to a donation only 1 percent of the time.

The numbers make sense when you consider this particular campaign: participants were using Facebook to ask people they genuinely know (friends and family) for donations. The relationship between the person asking for support and the person reading the “ask” is much stronger on Facebook than on Twitter, where we often don’t know those we’re following.

Be sure to round-up and examine these data points shortly after a major campaign so that you can adjust and improve your social activities for the next big launch. Every organization should be able to track the referral source of a donation to measure how social networks are involved. If your donation vendor does not provide this information, advocate for it, or find a better vendor!

Question to ask to define success: Which social networks were most effective at converting visitors to donors at various stages in our campaign?

2. Credit social media when it finds supporters

Another measure of fundraising success involves looking at the role social networks had in prompting supporters to sign-up to fundraise for your campaign or event—even if the subsequent donations don’t come directly from a site like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Many organizations are running sophisticated social ads, NOT with a call-to-action to donate, but with a call-to-action to register for an event or enter contact details to hear more about the cause. Have you noticed these ads in Facebook or while searching for something on Google?

There’s a significant return on investment when using social media to recruit supporters that you eventually convert to fundraisers. Make sure you know the original referral source of new event participants, contacts in your database, or newsletter subscribers. It’s crucial to quantify the role social media played in acquiring new friends of your organization who go on to help you raise money online.

Websites with “Social Login” built-in are another exciting innovation for people who want to fundraise for your cause. Social Login (or Social Sign-On) allows a user to register for a website using an existing social network username and password, instead of creating (and probably forgetting!) a new one. If you have ever registered for a website like Pinterest, Indiegogo or FirstGiving by using your Google, Twitter or Facebook profile, you’ve used Social Login!

As Social Login integrates your website with social platforms, it’s a natural fit for charities who want to make it easy for their supporters to ask friends and family for donations. Our research in 2013 proved that people who registered to fundraise for a charity by using their Facebook credentials raised, on average, 40 percent more than those who used a username and password to sign up for a campaign.

Question to ask to define success: Which social tools helped our supporters raise more money in our campaign?

3. Got a donor profile? Think about how you targeted it!

Your organization has probably extensively researched your typical online donor to create a demographic profile of the type of individual most likely to support your campaign. Don’t forget to consider how social media fits in!

Social platforms help you effectively segment and reach different audiences online. For instance, Twitter allows you to target promoted tweets by user interest, keywords used in a timeline, geography and more. Facebook posts (or ads) can be similarly targeted by location, gender, age, and even relationship status!

Using tactics like these can help you reach the audience you’ve identified as most likely to respond to your campaign.

This year we looked at the results of Facebook donation apps built for a large fundraising event and found that the largest group of users were in the 25 to 44 age range. The apps were also more popular with women (63 percent of users) than men (35 percent).  

The organization had already identified that professional women were more likely than men to donate to their health-related cause. We also knew that many industry research reports show women are more active on Facebook than men. In this case, there was a natural overlap between the organization’s most passionate supporters in the campaign, and those who were likely to be most active on Facebook.

When you look at the results of your next online fundraising project, think about which social networks can deliver users who closely match your supporter profile.

Question to ask to define success: Which social network was most effective at reaching our most active audience in this campaign?

If you love social fundraising and want to go even deeper into these insights, be sure to check out AFP’s archived webinar “90 Minutes to Social & Mobile Fundraising Success”! (!)

Claire works with charities and nonprofit organizations as they fundraise through web, social and mobile channels. Claire will be sharing more data-driven insights about fundraising in digital spaces at AFP Congress 2013 in Toronto and the 2014 AFP International Conference on Fundraising in San Antonio. Follow her on Twitter at @snotforprofit. 

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