Not all social media fundraising campaigns are created equal! If you're thinking about how to leverage social media to raise money for your cause, the variety of fundraising options can seem overwhelming.
Fortunately, most social media fundraisers can be assigned to one of eight categories. If you are inspired by a success story you've seen profiled on the news or shared at a conference, you'll be better prepared to replicate the project when you understand its components. You may even recognize your favourite case study in one of these different types of fundraising campaigns.
1. Third-party group initiative
In this scenario, a motivated group or committee uses social media tools to organize and encourage donations on your behalf. It's the classic community fundraising model you already know, but with a digital twist. While your charity may approve these projects, they will be managed by the third-party group, just as a BBQ or bake sale could be run by a volunteer council or local sports team.
Twestival is one of the most famous examples of this concept, having raised over $1.2 million for almost 140 nonprofits through parties in cities all around the world. Another example is online fan group Harry Potter Alliance and their creative use of LiveStream.com to produce an online telethon raising money for Partners in Health's work in Haiti.
With so many new digital communities growing on the web, it's not possible for nonprofits to be active in all of them. Encourage those communities to come to you; they're experts in their own platforms and can help you reach a new audience.
It's important to note that while the fundraiser will be marketed through social media, you may not actually receive individual online donations. As with a gala or workplace fundraiser, you may receive one-time proceeds after the event is concluded.
2. Third-party individual initiative
Popular crowdfunding or microdonation portal websites make it easy for individuals to reach out to their online networks to raise money for a good cause. Sites like these allow your supporters to celebrate milestones like birthdays or anniversaries by accepting donations towards a fundraising goal. Think of it as a "no gifts, please" approach to special occasions.
Fundraising portal sites are also popular when it comes to the crazy things folks are willing to do to raise money for something they believe in. Just take quick a look at CrowdRise.com, StartSomeGood.com, GameRaise.com, HelpAttack.com, and many others to find examples of individuals swimming a channel or shaving their heads to meet a personal fundraising target. Online tools empower anybody to be a "citizen philanthropist", rallying support around an important cause.
As with the third-party group initiatives, these are externally-driven projects. Individuals can designate your organization as the recipient of their hard work, but you may not be able to control campaign branding or receive full donor data.
3. Corporate sponsor challenge
We are all familiar with the cause marketing mantra: "For every X we will give Y up to Z amount." In corporate sponsor challenges, a company pledges a set amount to a charitable cause in exchange for any number of social media-related objectives. Common targets include: "likes" on Facebook, acquisition of email addresses, registration in a private commercial community, and followers or retweets on Twitter.
Corporate-sponsored initiatives are valuable for two reasons: Your nonprofit may not have to invest in a complex contest website or expensive mobile application and your cause can benefit from access to the corporation's marketing machine.
Proof of the popularity and wide-range of these campaigns is Mashable.com's Five Facebook Giving Campaign Success Stories. This article celebrates nonprofits that have successfully raised money from social media, and four of the five stories profiled were actually corporate-sponsored projects!
The prospect of having a no-risk fundraising campaign ready-made for you can be tempting but you must be confident that the information collected by the company, and the use of your charity's brand, is compliant with your mission. Facebook is one of the most popular platforms to host these challenges, so don't forget to review Facebook's rules for online contests.
4. Celebrity endorsement
Socially-minded celebrities have a lot to bring to the table when they feel genuinely passionate about supporting a charitable initiative. Many social media projects that are otherwise unremarkable in concept or design are able to rise above the crowd and attract media attention because a celebrity's name is attached.
Celebrities (or influential champions) already have an enthusiastic base of followers on social media, but it's not enough for your them to mention your organization in a tweet. More successful strategies involve well-informed, engaged celebs and unique experiences for participants.
Two celebrities making it easy for fans to help online are Alicia Keys for Keep A Child Alive, and Brad Pitt for Make It Right. Both causes are personal passions and it certainly shows. Social media can also help you leverage celebrity experiences in new ways. TwitChange, in support of CARE, was a charity auction where fans could bid for the opportunity to interact on Twitter with their favorite celebrities.
In many of these campaigns, you may find yourself gaining one-time donors who are not familiar with your organization. When Glenn Beck asked a crowd of thousands at his Restoring Honor rally in Washington, DC to text $10 to Special Operations Warrior Foundation, most gave without having heard of the organization before Beck spoke about it. Your challenge in the future will be to develop a relationship with donors who don't know you yet, hopefully converting them to long-time supporters.
5. Single channel project
When your organization concentrates on just a single social media tool to raise money, you're engaging in a single channel project. These types of campaigns primarily use one online network (for instance, Flickr, Facebook, Foursquare, etc.) without major support from other channels.
Traditionally, this is one of the weaker ways to raise money on social media, an insight which shouldn't surprise anyone. Many of us began trying to fundraise with social tools in this way, essentially putting all our eggs in one basket without thinking about how to integrate efforts in other places.
Where single channel projects can be valuable is when it's time to experiment with something new. SickKids Foundation tested a daily deal on WagJag.com (a group buying site similar to Groupon.com), raising $30,000 from individual donors, and $60,000 with a matching gift from WagJag.com over the holidays.
Dog rescue network Soi Dog Foundation surprised everyone by successfully raising 500 monthly donors from Facebook alone last year. Their secret? Trial and error, great content and targeted Facebook advertising. And of course, hard work!
Is your charitable organization willing to experiment? It may be easier for you to get internal buy-in to test something new if the campaign is small and concentrated on one network.
6. Multi-channel campaign
One of the biggest buzzwords in fundraising right now is integration. Does your project involve direct mail pieces or radio ads? Is Twitter or LinkedIN only one piece of a fully-integrated puzzle? When social media tools are used to support a campaign across multiple channels, you're hitting on one of the most complex, but also one of the most successful, ways to fundraise with social media. Integration can go far beyond adding a website URL to your printed pamphlets.
The Canadian Cancer Society's award-winning Join the Fight campaign is an excellent example of the use of powerful online video, social media, websites, as well as traditional media — all working together for a cohesive message.
Direct mail, email, direct dialogue and point-of-purchase fundraising strategies are not dead, no matter how many digital gurus insist they're irrelevant. True integration means your supporters have a meaningful experience wherever they engage with you. When your donors can easily choose between wearing your pin on their coat, or digitally displaying it on Facebook and Twitter, you've achieved cross-channel integration.
7. Integrated offline event
Social media is a natural fit for "real world" fundraising events. A typical example would be a run, walk or bike ride for charity. What we used to call "peer-to-peer fundraising" is really "social network fundraising".
Be encouraged by research that suggests participants using social media in fundraising events raise more money than participants that do not. The potential increase could be as high as 40%!
We've all been asked to pledge a friend in a charity walk or polar bear dip, but your fundraising event doesn't have to be a traditional activity. Many organizations are fundraising online in increasingly creative ways. Live Below The Line challenges participants to live on only $5 worth of food a week. It's a tough experience, but registrants are well-supported with tips for fundraising and sharing on social media.
It's now a best practice for event managers to think of simple ways to help supporters reach out to family and friends online. Can your event's fundraising toolkit really be complete without reference to social or mobile tools? Take a look at how United Way Greater Toronto uses Facebook to encourage runners in the 2011 Scotiabank Rat Race.
Originally, only seven types of fundraisers made this list, but a surprise eighth has elbowed in...
8. Social gaming for a cause
You may not be a Farmville or Mafia Wars fan, but projections estimate that 29% of the Internet population will play social games by 2012. Online games designed with a social good message typically focus on awareness as the main objective, but some incorporate a donation call-to-action during or at the end of the game.
Spent was built through a partnership between Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD) and ad agency McKinney. The game allows users to navigate homelessness and poverty, facing difficult choices that UMD's clients must make every day. Three months after its launch, the game has been experienced by over 600,000 visitors, raising more than $13,000 for UMD.
You can learn more about online games designed to make a positive impact on the world at GamesForChange.org. However, if you're thinking about investing time in creating a game, remember a rule from cause marketing: If the product is crummy, it doesn't matter how many charity ribbons are on it!
It's also good to note that if a game's developers are not interested in collecting donations, the opportunity might be missed in the game experience. If fundraising is an objective for your organization, speak up at the beginning of the design process.
Looking for more case studies?
Take a peek through this slideshow for visual examples of the eight different kinds of social media fundraisers:
Claire Kerr is the director of digital philanthropy at Artez Interactive. A not-for-profit veteran, Claire has worked for charitable organizations in the economic development, education, and fundraising sectors. Connect with her on Twitter or on LinkedIn, or in person over a double-double at Tim Hortons.