When Does Engagement Lead to Donations?

moneyNonprofit organizations need to raise funds constantly. Fact. They also have programs, mission and special activities that must be funded. Fact. There’s all this trendy talk about leveraging social media to raise money – and the question I get asked most often is

When does social media lead to more money?

That’s not the right question. The right question is:

When does engagement lead to more money?

Annual reports do not create a relationship. Email updates do not create a relationship. Alerts do not create a relationship. These are all examples of one-way communication. Relationships are about two-way communication.

I’ve also seen a lot of nonprofit organizations using social media fail to create relationships using these tools. Automatically feeding blog posts through a twitter feed does not create a relationship. Using your organization’s official icon and not associating a person’s name (in either the description or title) to the twitter account cuts short the possibility of a relationship. Publishing a blog but not commenting on other blogs or responding to comments on your blog…does not create a relationship. Consistent Facebook wall posts that do not engage or ask questions…stop conversation.

These methods of using social media are, quite honestly, no better than the old newsletter and annual report. If you are going to commit time and energy to social media, pick one or two platforms that make sense for your organization and act as if you want to meet people and learn from them. They want to talk to you, and you should want to listen to them. That’s why your fans and followers online are following your organization, after all. So talk. Yes, publish your newsy updates, but ask questions and listen…learn…engage…and respond.

Engagement leads to donations – really, it does – but you have to put the time into creating the relationship first. Or re-creating the relationship with your stakeholders. Social media is a great tool for doing this, as social media tools are merely platforms for creating conversation.

When you are listening, responding, and engaging –

then asking for money to support this great relationship is a natural extension of the conversation.

Debra Askanase has 20 years of experience working in nonprofit organizations, from Community Organizer to Executive Director. She is the founder and lead consultant at Community Organizer 2.0, a social media strategy firm for non-profit organizations and businesses. She blogs about the intersection of social media, nonprofits, and technology at communityorganizer20.com. Debra is an occasional contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.