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Ideas that Work: Empower event participants with social-media tools

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[Publisher’s note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]

Mark Davis

Mark Davis

Mark Davis

In 1999, the innovation of the personal fundraising webpage and personal email solicitation revolutionized the event fundraising marketplace.

Since then, online events donations have grown about 50 percent annually and now account for an estimated 30 percent of most major US events.

The original personal webpages were Web 2.0 before there was Web 2.0, allowing people to build online networks around a personal fundraising goal.

The recent explosion of social media, namely Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, may just revolutionize the industry yet again.

Each of these sites offers a unique opportunity to the participant.

Facebook, being the most successful so far, allows participants to extend their fundraising efforts directly to their friends and networks through badges and wall feeds.

Twitter extends a participant’s message to a broad audience of followers through “tweeting” and “re-tweeting”.

YouTube can make a participant’s fundraising appeal more attractive and personal to prospective donors.

Event staff looking to speed adoption of these tools should target both their most committed participants (not surprisingly) and their least committed participants.

The coolness factor for these new tools compels these participants into fundraising.

Greater reach, lower conversions

According to a recent Nielsen report, people now spend more time on social networking sites than on email, and as such, these sites may just yet become as important as the personal email solicitation.

Participants typically send 22 solicitation emails to people from their address book, with about 25 percent of those people converting into supporters.

Facebook users have an average of 120 friends and each Twitter account averages 70 followers.

The potential for Facebook and Twitter rests on the potential number of impressions.

However, greater reach yields lower conversion rates. While the personal email has historically converted approximately 25 percent of recipients, Twitter tweets and Facebook feeds convert closer to 0.2 percent of impressions.

While these conversion rates are significantly lower than those for the personalized email, they actually are in line with values for nonprofits delivered email campaigns, according to an NTEN and M&R Strategies study.

Affect on gift size

Average gift sizes also vary based on the communication channel used by participants.

Nonprofits should expect lower gift averages from Facebook and Twitter appeals than those from email appeals, as the relationships between the donor and the participant are typically more casual.

Conversely, the impact of a participant personalizing their appeal with their own YouTube video will mean higher donor conversions and even higher gift averages.

Who should implement these tools

Many event fundraising tools now provide integrated applications for participants to link their Twitter, Facebook and YouTube videos with their fundraising activities.

According to a joint Blackbaud and Charity Dynamics study, participants can raise between 15 and 40 percent more after adopting many of these tools.

Every organization that holds events should activate these tools and promote their use to all event participants through their website and other training methods.

If your event is becoming a growing and considerable part of your online fundraising efforts, you may want to consider investing in a more full-featured third-party tool for integration and developing a more comprehensive strategy.

Now that you have the “why,” there are many places to learn the “how.”

Industry blogs including NetWits Think Tank, and Beth’s Blog, and NTEN’s We Are Media Project can help you learn more about how you can use social media to engage your supporters.


Mark Davis is director of technical solutions at Blackbaud.

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