The explosion in the popularity of social media channels like Facebook and Twitter has also opened questions from nonprofits: how can I use these tools to raise money? So far, social media hasn't been very successful for direct fundraising; people go to these sites to interact with their friends, meet new people, or learn new things. That said, social media can certainly be leveraged to enhance your organization's fundraising efforts. For example, in 2011, URJ Eisner Camp live-streamed their phone-a-thon online and asked their supporters to share their gift and love of camp with their Friends on Facebook and Followers on Twitter.
Like Eisner Camp, URJ Camp George embraced social media in their June annual Scholarship phone-a-thon. For the first time, Camp George included social media in their communications strategy and planning from the start. They teased the phone-a-thon in advance and used various channels to engage their audience. They built up hype over time and over channels to spread the word.
For example, Camp George's Development Director blogged about the campaign, letting everyone know about the importance of the campaign and that their alumni would be called soon. And they sent emails out to their constituents telling them about the Scholarship campaign and to connect with them online. At the end of the campaign they sent out an eNewsletter thanking everyone for their support...with one more link to give to the Campaign online.
On Twitter, where Camp George has been trying lots of fun content to connect with their audience, they started a hashtag to go along with the campaign: #getonthebus2013. And they live-tweeted the phone-a-thon; they thanked donors by name (with permissions) and kept their Followers up to date about the progress of the campaign. One caller reported that campers could be heard in the background of a phone call asking excitedly if it was Camp George on the phone. They had been following along on Twitter and were ecstatic that their home had finally been called!
And on Facebook, the team interspersed their regular content with fun promos of the campaign and reminders that the phone-a-thon (which lasted a few days) was ongoing. Their posts included fun pictures of callers on the phone for Camp George as well as a photo of campers getting on the bus for the ride to camp (to continue the #getonthebus theme started on Twitter).
The result? They doubled the amount of giving from 2012 (when social media wasn't planned in conjunction with the campaign) - from $5000 to over $10,000. Nearly 20% of this total was raised online, rather than direct pledges on the phone. The $10,000 included a total of 100 gifts. The average online gift was $102; the average gift given via phone was $93.
Keys to Success
A key part of this was Camp George's strategic focus on online communications over the past year and a half. They developed a strong following for their Blog, Facebook Page, and Twitter account, giving them a larger, more engaged audience to respond to requests online.
In addition, the staff and volunteers focused on communications worked closely with the development team to create a joint communications calendar to ensure consistent and timely messaging.
As URJ Camp George continues to devote strategic effort via their online communications, they will be set up well to run more multi-channel fundraising campaigns in the future.