In a post last week, I noted that Social Media Fundraising is
a) not sustainable
b) scarcity-based vs. strength-based
c) counterproductive if we want to create a better future for our communities
In that post, I addressed the last item – the counterproductive nature of Social Media Fundraising vs. creating real impact. Today let’s tackle the other two reasons Social Media Fundraising is a sirens’ song.
Social Media Fundraising is Not Sustainable
Two of the more common ways of raising money on Twitter and Facebook are
1) Birthday and other one-time asks: “In honor of my birthday, please give to this cause”
2) The Twitter Low-Dollar Ask: Such posts typically start with the Twitter abbreviation RT for “Please Pass this On” (re-tweet), asking folks to give just $5 – and quickly raising $5,000 or more.
Why are these harmful? First, those who donate their $5 based on a Twitter ask are impulse buyers, transforming our causes into tic-tacs and trash magazines on the supermarket check-out line of charitable giving. Just like I wouldn’t head to the store specifically for tic-tacs, most of these impulse donors will not be back to give again, and are especially unlikely to give larger, more meaningful gifts (a whole case of tic-tacs!). More likely, they will “impulse buy” the next cause that comes along, giving their $5 and then moving on again – until they get burned out and stop altogether.
That leads to the second scenario – the “in honor of my birthday” ask (common on Facebook). These asks more quickly lead to donor burnout. How many of these asks will be successful before we see the diminishing returns that accompany people saying, “Enough, already – if all my Facebook friends get $25 for their favorite cause, I’ll be as broke as the people they are trying to help!”
Lastly, my largest concern is the same concern I have when board members are encouraged to ask their friends for money. History shows that when that board member stops asking (i.e. is no longer on the board), the friend stops giving. The donor was never a friend of the organization; they were only giving because their friend asked. So the organization must then replace those donors, and way too often do so by repeating the same routine – having the new board members ask for a whole new crop of short-term, fair-weather friends.
Like a gala or a golf tournament, these online donations have little residual after the one-time gift. They are not building a large bank of donors; they are building one-time money, and a pretty dead mailing list. With only so many hours in a day, don’t we want to use our limited time investing in income streams that are more renewable?
Pollyanna Principle #4: Strength Builds Upon Strength
More important to me even than the lack of sustainability is the sense of scarcity that surrounds Social Media Fundraising. I saw someone on Twitter describe a “begging bowl” spirit in all the asks. Others mention the non-stop pleading that goes on with campaigns to “please put us over the top” until everyone is sick of hearing about it.
The asking becomes less about the cause and more about the money. And that speaks to a scarcity mindset – the desperate sense that this will be found money, like winning the lottery.
Strength builds upon strength, not our weaknesses. So how can we use social media to build upon what is strong, rather than reinforce the sense of weakness that comes with these “begging bowl” campaigns? Start by shying away from asking for money, and instead using social media for what it is best for – raising awareness and engaging people in your mission and vision.
I’ve seen some terrific campaigns that use social media to (for example) encourage several bloggers to all blog about the same issue, changing up issues monthly for a year. Isn’t that a terrific use of social media? It’s primary use is not fundraising (although money is indeed raised) but raising awareness and generating engaged dialogue. Instead of focusing on fast money, these campaigns focus on building solid, strong support for their vision of what is possible in the world.
That’s what it means to build upon strength – the strength we all have together to address the real issues (the point of my post last week).
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That’s it for my reasons. How do you feel about the “begging bowl” mentality and one-time gifts that are raised on social networks? How do those campaigns make you feel? (Comment button is at the top of this post.)
Do you use a matrix for determining which fundraising strategies will be the most effective (and cost-effective)? If not, the Magic Matrix can help!