Social Media & Fundraising Round Table at the 2010 AFP Northwest Arkansas Chapter Summit

If you haven’t heard yet then it is with great pride that I got to attend the 2010 Association of Fundraising Professionals Northwest Arkansas Chapter Summit this year on September 9, 2010 at the Jones Center for Families in Springdale. I was invited back again this year to talk about “Social Media” and how it can be useful for fundraising professionals.

However, this year there was a slight switch with how the discussions happened as the planning committee wanted to try out “round table” discussions. Since this was my first time facilitating a round table discussion I must say it truly was an amazing and exciting experience. I actually got to facilitate three tables on “social media & fundraising” each one only lasting 25 minutes (kind of like speed dating). Therefore, since 25 minutes is not much time to discuss social media (I mean you could spend days on the topics) I promised my participants this article to recap and follow up on all the unanswered topics that came up.

If you’ve got additional questions just leave me a comment at the bottom or shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss it in a more one-to-one setting.

The Most Popular Topic was “Time”

Many participants expressed a concern over how social media pretty much requires having a dedicated staff member to just update and maintain a social presence. Although I will agree that having someone responsible for coordinating social media efforts for an office is a good idea, I’m not totally sold on having one person be responsible for maintaining the whole thing.

Although it appears to be the simplest solution and avoids adding additional workload to anyone on staff currently I really don’t think you could hire or promote someone and expect them to know the answers to all the questions that come up for an organization. We all work on parts and only together can we have all the needed answers.  Thus, I suggest a two step option instead.

First off is to create coordinator/monitor positions. Having people responsible for listening to social networks and sharing that information back with the appropriate staff person internally allows answers to come quicker without taking double the time (it becomes just another email to respond to). Although this method does require that everyone in customer service positions in an office be comfortable (able to use it at a basic level) it does seem to be best customer service model currently in social media (i.e. @Twelpforce or ATTCustomerCare).

Secondly I recommend integrating social media into organizational procedures rather than seeing social media as its own area (department, unit, etc) in an organization. We used the idea of how it fits into a press release process. It only adds one step to the process of writing an article and sending it to media outlets (papers, magazines, etc.) by adding in your own social outlets as a media stream. You’ll find out that it saves time and is easier to change a preexisting process than making new ones. More importantly you will eventually not need to send out to the media outlets as they’ll pick up on your Twitter/Facebook posts and start using that as their source thus eliminating that work load and switching it for social media instead.

Our Second Popular Topic was “Updating & Standing Out”

Although very similar to that of time the key parts that were different in this topic were frequency and making sure to stand out from “white noise”. This is probably one of the trickiest aspects of social media to understand. To me the biggest issue is to make sure you are not just using social media to shout about your message.

We took a look at this topic by starting from the beginning. Yep, I actually asked people if they could tell me “how, why or what” was the original purpose behind Facebook (as Facebook seemed to be the most popular network at each table). I’m glad to say that everyone got it right as they said “college students connecting with each other – friend to friend”. To the extent of using it as a way to share photos, important updates (I’m getting coffee at Starbucks) and events that they wanted their friends to attend. Low and behold every group came to the concept that social media was never about pushing a message out to the masses but believe it or not all about building and extending friendships beyond the physical (face-to-face) realm.

Thus, what we find is that frequency is less important then the context of the message. If the message is of value within context to those that are your friends then you’ll stand out and you won’t need to repeat yourself over and over (aka shout). But can business actually have friends on Facebook? Some of you may be say he’s about to say it’s the customers and you are correct. If you look at what you are in business to do (let’s say you put on functions for children while the parents cannot be around) then you’d better believe the parents want to know and see what they are doing, the same as grandma wants to see photos from the grand kids on vacation. Therefore we don’t need to worry as much about making sure we update once every 2 hours but rather focus on what is important – our cause – and then people will be looking and waiting for us to post something.

It’s also important to try and match up what you are sharing with the appropriate social networking platform. Although you could put everything everywhere that is almost like the spray-and-pray mass print model which we know is no longer functional. Instead we should make sure to put fun activities and photos on Facebook as that is what they expect there and news announcements and last minute updates on Twitter as it’s built around to the point (80 to 90 characters) instant communications.

The Last Big Topic was “Fundraising – what do you mean”

That’s right I totally throw some people off with the concept of “social media & fundraising” in the round tables. I actually had someone say that she came to the table simply because the time included what they thought was polar opposites and just didn’t see how they would fit together. Which when you think of fundraising in the normal sense (campaigns & asks for money) she was totally right as they are polar opposites and don’t work together well that way. However, if we shift our way of thinking just a little and remember what social media is all about “a community of friends” then we’ll see they really do fit together perfectly.

Shift the way we think about fundraising? This was actually my exact presentation last year at the conference talking about how we are going from fundraising in the traditional sense to friendraising instead and social media is a great place for that. Here is where I love to use the Susan G. Komen for the Cure as an example as it really does show how come fundraising is actually friendraising. Think about why someone supports the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and let’s take out the traditional marketing options like campaigns & advertising. Why are they supporting it? Yep, it has to do with knowing someone that has been affected by cancer (your family, friend or even the friend of a friend). Thus we are not supporting just because we care but because we care about Jane Doe or John Smith in particular. My support efforts are making a difference for someone that I know.

So where does social media fit into this? Social media is a community of people and within that community is a “group of your friends” or those that find your cause important because they know someone impacted by your efforts. Their stories are our message and all we need to do is have them share those stories with us & their friends (a basic premise behind social media) and then we’ll get more friends for our cause. More importantly though we’ll be able to focus on our key evangelists and they’ll help get us all the others.

Another example that I shared was the Earthquake in New Zealand that Chris Brogan wrote about on his blog because of his friends that were in New Zealand. This is a great example of having someone’s friend relationships turn into a true evangelization for the support of a good cause (all because he was a friend of a victim). Notice that a friend is even given the credit for why he wrote the blog article.

Friendraisers Are Tomorrow’s Successful Fundraisers

It was interesting to see a theme throughout the conference this year about this idea of Friendraising and treating donors as people and not pocketbooks. A shift in the way of thinking about fundraising seems to be happening, moving us away from “asking for money” and working more on creating long lasting “friendships” to make a better part of the world tomorrow.

Although not an entirely new concept (as I was talking about this concept last year) there is new data to support the idea and an ever increasing interest by people (fundraisers and donors) to be treated as people.

However for me I don’t think it can ever be said better than:
“A friend is ___________________.”

photos/icons credit, Aleksandra Wolska

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