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What Fundraisers Need to Know About Social Media

Social media platforms play an enormous role in the way people communicate, gather information, attend events, and make purchases. Many university fundraisers are wondering if the power of social media can help them find new donors and secure more donations. In response, most fundraising shops have a social media strategy that plays into their overall campaign strategy. Is your social media strategy actually helping you reach your overall fundraising goals?   

Can Social Media Reach Your Donors?

Social media usage and platform preference varies widely by age and by demographics. It can be extraordinarily challenging to find the medium your constituents use, tailor a message, ensure the message actually ends up in front of them, and then have the sophisticated tracking in place to provide accurate reporting. Even if your constituents are responding to you online and interacting with your posts, is this activity translating into actions that increase your donors and dollars?

Many institutions are still struggling to meet dollar and donor goals with their current social strategy. Others are unsure of what they need to do to leverage their strong social media presence into a successful fundraising tool. We wanted to know if social media engagement translated into strong fundraising opportunities, so we dug into the data.

Related: Energize Your Annual Giving Program With a Person-to-Person Giving Strategy

Designing an Experiment

Does social media engagement with your institution demonstrate an increased inclination to give to your institution? Are social media users the same people as your donors? Here’s how we used Facebook to find the answers to these questions:  

  • Using Facebook’s open API, we analyzed Facebook interactions with a set of university websites 
  • We looked for “likes,” “comments,” and “shares” 
  • The time period was for the history of these sites and included nearly 1 million interactions by more than 135,000 people 
  • 36,207 individuals were matched to the universities’ records in the Reeher Platform  
  • Anyone with duplicate names was eliminated from the analysis 
  • We mapped constituents’ Facebook engagement against their probability to donate as calculated by Reeher’s custom predictive modeling tool    

Results: Even among donors with the greatest probability to donate, only 13% of them interacted with their institution on Facebook. This means Facebook misses contact with 85% of your most likely donors.

To reiteratethis means that the most successful, robust Facebook campaigns will never reach the vast majority of your most likely donors. Across all constituents, regardless of their probability to donate, only 11.2% had any Facebook interactions at all. While Facebook offers another way to reach your constituents, it lacks coverage. This suggests that like other outreach channels, Facebook is not a silver bullet and presents significant limitations.  

What We Know About Channel-Based Fundraising Strategies

Focus on technology-driven and social-based strategies have biases that exclude engageable constituents. Over-reliance on your social media outreach strategy can contribute to a decline in your ability to reach donors and raise money. Whether you reach a donor by direct mail, phone, email, or Facebook, we know that people give to people, not channels. It’s important to focus on relationship-building across a variety of channels to promote effectiveness and protect against risk.  

You should use social media as a part of your overall engagement strategy in conjunction with other outreach channels.  

Accounting for Volatility

As you’re developing a more sophisticated social media strategy that reaches the people you want to reach, you’ve got to keep the channel’s instability in mind. Even enormously successful platforms are at the whim of user preference, which shifts with the changing windFacebook is a prime example. The company has unprecedented reach into its users’ lives, but increasingly younger users are migrating to different social media channels. Privacy concerns related to legal and illegal data harvesting, changes in advertising algorithm, and the rise of bot and fake accounts have driven users and advertisers away in some cases.   

The Takeaway

Social media is like any other strategy you use to find donors and dollars: it’s important to diversify your investment and effort. A multi-channel strategy is the best way to reach the donors you need through the medium they use.  

Want to know more about how and why you should pursue a multi-channel approach to fundraising? Download our whitepaper: A Multi-Channel Strategy to Save Your Annual Giving Program to learn more.  


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