Has Social Media Fundraising Finally Arrived?

I’ve been looking forward to the promise of “social media+fundraising” for a while now. There are plenty of fundraising solutions that leverage social media, relying on fundraisers to tweet, share, and post their fundraising pages to their social networks. There are also fundraising solutions that fully rely on and live within a social platform, such as a Facebook fundraising application or a fundraising widget you place on your blog. Then there is the newest evolution: fundraising that innately utilizes the social media platform. In the slide presentation (above), I describe in more detail the three categories of social media fundraising, along with my thoughts about how social media fundraising has finally “arrived.”

Sharing is huge

A Share This report states that sharing generates more than 10% of all internet traffic. In order of frequency, most people click on links shared within Facebook, followed by “other” (blogs, social bookmarking, etc.), email, and Twitter. Facebook is the largest sharing channel, at 38%, which is why so many online fundraising pages are shared – and shared again – on Facebook.

Social fundraising is growing

By all definitions, online fundraising is growing. Social fundraising is also growing. Network for Good’s online giving study’s quarterly giving index illustrates that, despite the current poor economic outlook, social giving is still rising. In Q1 and Q2 of 2011, social giving increased (though Q1 giving may have been skewed by Japan tsunami relief fundraising). The 2011 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report on US nonprofit social media use has some fascinating stats showing that Facebook is the social media platform most nonprofits are using if they are participating in social media fundraising. The catch? A very small percentage of US nonprofits have raised significant money using Facebook.

Social sharing of fundraising pages yields results: Social media fundraising that leverages social networks

When fundraisers share their fundraising pages to their social networks, giving increases. Blackbaud recently issued a report and created an infographic about the power of peer-to-peer sharing. Blackbaud found that Twitter and Facebook posts convert 0.25% of impressions into donations. It also found that Twitter users increased donations nearly 10x more than those who did not use Twitter. FirstGiving found that for every share to Facebook, 5 people returned to a fundraising page. FirstGiving also found that the value of a share to Facebook was worth $10.87 in donations.

Peer to peer online donation solutions (such as FirstGiving, Razoo, Crowdrise, Donors Choose), where a fundraiser creates a fundraising page and shares that page, are increasingly used by nonprofit organizations. It is clear from all the data that the culture of online donations is growing. Sometimes these solutions are also called social media fundraising, because they rely so heavily on social media for amplification. These solutions are ideal for leveraging an organization’s base, and increasing donations through personal social network sharing. However, it’s just as important that the nonprofit also have a vibrant social media presence to amplify these efforts and engage with fundraisers.

Giving that relies on or lives exclusively within a social network

Social media fundraising can also be defined as fundraising that happens within a social network, rather than shared to the network. Most examples of these fundraising solutions live within Facebook. Examples include Causes, fundraising tabs that you can add to a Facebook page or profile (such as the What Gives and FirstGiving solutions), as well as fundraising applications developed for a Facebook Page. These fundraising solutions rely on Facebook to thrive: you have to connect using Facebook, and they count on fundraisers sharing with their Facebook friends for amplification. Other examples include Google checkout for nonprofits on YouTube or fundraising widgets placed on a blog. This type of fundraising is growing, but certainly is not mainstream, and best used where you have the most supporters and know you can energize them.

Innately utilizing a social platform for donations

This is the promise of social media fundraising. What if someone could donate just by tweeting, posting an update, Liking a comment on Facebook, giving a Linkedin recommendation, or writing a blog post? This is the true convergence of social media and fundraising. A few companies are offering these types of social media fundraising solutions: Help Attack!, Twitpay, and Givey.co.uk.

As Ehren Foss, CEO of With Help Attack! explains, “we wanted to make the message itself a donation. We wanted to figure out methods for giving that are contextual to each specific platform, so that the very act of being online could be a donation.” With Help Attack!, for example, fundraisers can choose to give by assigning tweets, Facebook posts, using certain key words or hashtags, etc, until they reach their pledge amount. Ehren writes that “HelpAttack! donors frequently tell us they make more updates than fewer, hoping to reach a certain level of giving (“three more Tweets to $25!”). In addition, many donors choose to share their pledges with their networks on Twitter and Facebook. ”

Givey and Twitpay offer similar services, but neither are as developed or offer as many ways to give as Help Attack! A fundraising solution like these are great to use during an online or fundraising campaign to raise awareness, increase donations within a limited amount of time, and energize your base. I suspect that you will also need to educate your fundraisers about this brand new way of fundraising merely by tweeting or posting.

I think the future of social media fundraising has just arrived. I can’t wait to see how it matures.