Beyond Like to Engage

Measuring success using social media is complicated. Many Millennials and nonprofits mistake activity on social channels as successful engagement and support of a cause. Some nonprofits take advantage of small immediate donations instead of building strong relationships leading to larger donations and new leaders. Clearly nonprofits need to educate young leaders and change their own perceptions. How does a nonprofit engage a potential leader beyond the “like”?

It turns out social itself struggles with engaging users. 11% of 2012 new Twitter users are still tweeting today while 25% of those that signed up in 2008 continue to tweet.  Additionally, a recent report studied the lack of connection between social activity and leadership development and financial support.

One of the biggest misconceptions is the belief that people give to causes. Often a potential leader is attracted to a cause or need first. This attraction may lead to a donation, but it is usually not a memorable gift. Nonprofits receive larger donation, once the potential leader build a relationship with current leaders. A couple of examples: often after a major disaster, nonprofits set up Text to Give opportunities encouraging donors to give $10 by texting to a specific number. Although this tool can lead to a gift, the act has only limited potential. Nonprofits rarely get the donor’s contact information from these types of gifts leaving the nonprofit without a way to follow up and build toward a more substantial gift. Further the nonprofit usually pays transaction costs on top of set up costs further decreasing an already small donation.

A second example is Facebook’s “Donate Now” button. The offer places an ask after each nonprofit’s post. Although the offer initially sounds good, it also fails to deliver larger donations or engage leaders. Currently, the button appears after each and every message without a way for the nonprofit to limit its use. Adding an “ask” as part of each conversation is rarely productive. More often it leaves donors annoyed or wondering if all the nonprofit is interested in is money. Adding insult to injury, any contact or credit card information received from a gift using the Donate Now button is not passed on to the nonprofit. Rather, Facebook uses these transactions as a way to develop customer information for its own marketing efforts.

Nonprofits should focus on building relationships with donors to encourage future larger gifts and engagement. The organization begins by reaching out and starting a conversation rather than asking for a donation. To reach the donor, the organization needs to connect with him using the tools he uses frequently, whether that’s social or traditional. Nonprofits achieve these connections by tailoring the message to the donor’s passions and interests.

Keeping track of where the donor frequents and what he finds interesting requires actively maintaining this information in a database. There are many types of databases, none are perfect. In the end, the database is only as good as how often it is updated and the information kept.

Once a new prospect is added to the database, the organization continues to connect with them by sending newsletters and other educational messages. Sending an immediate ask for money is counterproductive and does not build a relationship. If the potential leader appreciates the materials and information they receive, they will share it and look for it. If the nonprofit ask for and receive their feedback or participation, they begin to build a community.

Creating a connection and a community of potential leaders is an important first step but it is only a first step.  The second step is to engage and ask for a donation. We will discuss this outcome in our next post.


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