December 13, 2010 | Categories Nonprofit News, Social Fundraising

To Know Them Is To Love Them: Social Media and Fundraising Research

Social Media and Fundraising Research

Where Does Social Media Fit into Fundraising Development?

One of the biggest challenges to today’s professional fundraising operation is fitting social media into the development mix.

It is not enough to just “friendraise” or even just to ask people to click a link and give.  We must also obtain their contact data, acknowledge their support, determine their level of interest and capacity and then make staff assignments so potential major donors will get proper stewardship.

Fundraising research is a critical component here.  But fundraising researchers, already in limited supply, under-resourced and focused on investigating qualified opportunities, have been reluctant to invest time in social media since it can often seem both so tangential to development and also because it provides information which often cannot be independently confirmed.

Social Media: Distraction or Gold Mine for Nonprofits?

The editors of “The Networker,” the publication of the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement – Minnesota, recently asked me how to counter the perception that “non-professional social media (e.g. Twitter) is providing ever-increasing levels of distraction and reductions in productivity”.

My response?

First, we should acknowledge that social media channels are in fact disruptive.  They interrupt the usual trajectory of development work and have their own increasing demands, not to mention a certain addictive quality.

So why spend time on social media?  Quite simply, these channels provide access to a much deeper reservoir of current and pertinent information on a much wider universe of individuals than any resource we have encountered in the past.

The databases of insider securities ownership, biography, real estate and business ownership researchers have traditionally used are dwarfed by the rapidly growing datasets of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks.

Do Social Networks Provide TOO MUCH Information For Nonprofits?

How much of this information is relevant?  That depends on our definition of relevancy.

One thing is certain: the information is highly relevant to those who are producing it.  It showcases their identity as they see it and want it to be seen, including their passions, peeves and peccadilloes, and even catalogs their circle of friends and influence.

In short, social media is providing us an unexpurgated view of what is important to our market, the donors.

If we are nimble and efficient, an investment of time in social media by fundraising researchers need not result in a loss of productivity.  Rather, it can accelerate the retrieval of information and bring fundraisers closer to its source.

Written by Amanda Foran
  1. David Zoltan permalink
    "One thing is certain: the information is highly relevant to those who are producing it." That is the crux of why social media is important. It's making it about our patrons, not us. That kind of relationship building is crucial in any endeavor like ours, and the kind of information we get by listening and engaging can make the difference.
  2. keith c kerber permalink
    Yes, the social media platforms provide a potential treasure of data on our donors. From a higher ed fundraising purview I think it is very important to capture alumni activity on sm platforms. BUT what activity is important? Should we summarize what we read that is posted by a donor/alumnus or cut and paste verbatim? How MUCH time should a staff member spend monitoring the sm platforms? Are there any benchmarks yet? Does anyone out there have good examples or 'best practices' on how to extract the useful data in an efficient manner.

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