If you have been following me on Twitter, Facebook, this blog or other social media channels, you know that my father passed away several weeks ago. I decided to metabolize my grief by doing an online fundraiser in his memory to raise money for Surf Rider Foundation for ocean conservation as well as do a virtual online memorial event where I asked people to tweet with the hashtag #OceanLoveEarl on July 3rd and share their favorite ocean stories. The outpouring of support from friends, colleagues, and even strangers has been heartwarming – thank you.
This post summarizes the results and a few insights about social media fundraising and network strategies as a way to share back what I learned and to help bring some closure. If I have learned anything from co-writing a book about measurement, that it is not only important to collect your data, but leave space for reflection at the end of a campaign to harvest insights for the next campaign. I try to do this with any project I work on, whether it is a social media campaign as well as a training workshops.
With that said, it is difficult to make time for learning when you have a big, hairy to do list breathing facing you or in this case when grief is involved. Reflection is also hard to do when you get pulled into the fast moving, forward current of digital channels or when you’re chipping away at your email or scheduled for back-to-back meetings. What inspires me is that any time invested in learning and measurement definitely pays you back.
I used simple measurement tools to collect data and further analyzed it in Excel spreadsheets. For the donation information, I pulled an excel spreadsheet from Razoo platform and analyzed donation amounts, sources, and weak/strong ties. For the event, I used the Facebook Insights, Rowfeeder, and Storify.
- Total raise $5563 or 10% over goal of $5,000 in 2 weeks
- 80% of the goal was raised before the Online Memorial Event on July 3rd
- 128 donors with 45% giving at the suggested minimum donation of $25, 43% gave more than $25 minimum, and 12% gave under the $25 minimum gift amount
- 92% of donors were “strong ties” people I knew and had a relationship with online/offline – most were professional colleagues and some friends from high school — all Facebook friends. Only a small percentage 2% had met my Dad.
- 8% of donors were “weak ties” or people that I know online only who may read my blog, follow me on Twitter or Facebook
- Approximately 85% of the donations were converted from my personal profile on Facebook
- Thanking donors individually on Facebook and including the link to the fundraiser triggered donations based on comparison of time posted and donation made, second most effective solicitation was a personal ask via private message
- 95% of donations were made online through the Razoo site, with 5% via mobile app
Online Memorial Event
For the July 3rd Memorial Event
- 143 people signed up for the Thunder Clap, 43% over the goal of 100
- “Social Reach” according to Thunder Clap was 1,058,410 (and I can just see Katie Paine’s eyes rolling because it is sort of a bogus number)
- A total of 3,094 Tweets, Facebook Status Updates, or other social channel used the hashtag #OceanLoveEarl from 6/23-7/15
- A total of 757 Twitter users Tweeted using the hashtag #OceanLoveEarl – the network analysis map revealed that there were other “hubs” or “influencers” in addition my personal network including the beneficiary nonprofit, Surf Rider Foundation, and individual influencers in my network.
- A total of 1240 people tweeted with the hashtag #OceanLoveEarl on the day of online memorial – July 3rd
- A total of 217 people joined the Facebook page
- Content of photos of my Dad with personal stories performed the best in terms of engagement
- Spent $50 for a promoted post which got over 10,000 views to promote the July 3rd event, but I did not set up a way to track whether the promoted post helped boost participation in the online memorial event
- 84% of the Tweets, Facebook Status Updates, or other social channel that used the hashtag included a link – the most shared link was my blog post tribute, fundraiser link, the memorial site, and Mashable article
- 54% of the Tweets, Facebook Status Updates, or other social channels that the used the hashtag were a RT or Share
- 21% of the Tweets, Facebook Status Updates, or other social channels that used the hash tag included an personal story, photograph, or link about the ocean. These were collected using storify
- 25% of the Tweets, Facebook Status Updates, or other social channels that used the hash tag were a reply to @kanter
- There were 10 blog posts or Facebook posts by “influencers”
Here’s 6 things I learned about using social media to power online fundraising
1.) Set A Realistic Goal Based On Benchmarking
I set up an online fundraising page on Razoo to direct the money to Surf Rider Foundation. Razoo prompts you for a fundraising goal. I set a goal of raising $5,000 from my personal and professional network based on my experience in the past raising money to support Cambodian charities on happier occasions like my birthday in the $3,500-5,000 range. I resisted repeating the mistake making the goal way too low because of some stupid fear of not making the goal. With online contests or when there is a “matching grant,” I’ve been able to raise more, but I did not have one.
2.) Don’t Set Minimum Gift Levels Too Low
Depending on your audience and what they can afford, don’t set the minimum gift level too low. Based on past experience with personal fundraising campaigns, I set minimum donation level at $25 vs $10 and many gave at the minimum level. If people can’t afford to give the minimum, they will still give. Given the theme of the campaign was to honor my Dad’s love of the ocean and surfing and I was supporting Surf Rider Foundation, I used the surf theme to name each giving level after particular type of wave.
3.) Social Proofing Helps Generate Donations
My strategy was to begin with the fundraiser and focus on strong ties in my network and lead up to the online memorial event. If you’ve built up social capital in your network in the way that Adam Grant describes in his book Give and Take or Porter Gale in her book, “Your Network is Your Net Worth,” you simply reach out personally and ask and acknowledge donations in a public and unique way. For many of the donors, I thanked them via my Facebook profile with a photo of my Dad and I made connection to something that they feel is important. I also included link to the fundraiser. If people in your network see that others are donating, it creates “social proofing” and other donations follow. 85% of donations came from group of strong ties. The most effective solicitation was social proofing or one-on-one personal asks.
4.) Offer Many Ways for People to Participate
Any online campaign needs to consider a continuum of engagement or what we has been traditionally described as the “Ladder of Engagement” going from awareness, understanding, consideration, support, action, and influencing others. Social media has disrupted in this traditional linear model which is now being called a “Supporter Journey” visually depicted as non-linear. It is no longer a linear journey up a ladder or pyramid. And as this SSIR post suggests is more of a non-linear spiral or vortex.
On a tactical level, it is important to brainstorm different calls to action that go from light or easy involvement to heavier or more intensive involvement. On the high end of involvement for #OceanLoveEarl were:
- Making a donation to Surf Rider Foundation
- Sharing your personal story about your love for the ocean
- Providing advice or materials for the campaign (for example the visual meme on this post by created by Joe Solomon and the network map by Marc Smith)
On the lower end of involvement were:
- Signing up for the ThunderClap
- Sharing the fundraiser or online memorial event link on your social media channels
I wanted to experiment with ThunderClap which is an online amplification tool where your supporters sign up to tweet or Facebook with your specific message. I planned the ThunderClap so it kicked off the July 3rd memorial event, but also had a wonderful group of strong ties who are also influencers who were retweeting and sharing stories of ocean love.
5.) Think About Different Levels of Influence
One also has to look at a continuum of influence as you think about diversifying your calls to action. I did by asking influential social media, ocean conservation, or nonprofit bloggers to write about the campaign, although many did so without me asking. I also wrote a guest post on Dot.Complicated’s site about online grieving.
- Mashable Story
- Who Connected You To The Ocean? Surf Rider CEO Blog
- Huffington Post: Stephanie Rudat
- Marion Conway: Blog Post
- Mari Smith Post
- VolunteerMatch Blog Post
- Social Good Plus
- Stephanie Rudat’s Facebook Post
6.) Use Facebook Promoted Posts for Reinforcement
I spent $50 on a promoted post to promote the online memorial event the day before the event which generated 10,000 views on Facebook. This promotion was timed to coincide with the Mashable post. I have no way to track how it helped increase online event participation or whether it was worth it.
7.) Honor the Creativity and Fluid Ways That Networks Work
I didn’t plan every potential way people could participate and had faith that the network would respond. As we wrote in the Networked Nonprofit with Alison Fine, online fundraising through your network is a dynamic process of building relationships. You have to listen and respond as people find different ways to participate or support an effort. Being the network weaver or online community builder gave me great comfort in my grief to see the network honor my Dad.
Facing the death of a loved one is a not an easy process. People cope with grief in different ways. In an age of connectedness and networks, grieving online is a different way of experiencing grief and there are different stages as my colleague, Sarah Granger, who is working on a book in topic points out. I very much appreciate everyone’s support of online memorial and the fundraiser – and as I try to return to a routine of blogging.
What is your organization’s experience with social fundraising? If you have raised money as an individual for a cause or nonprofit, what did you learn?