Social Media Makes Doing Good Easier

Charities use social media for microvolunteering, photo TheGiantVermin
Charities embrace social media for microvolunteering, photo TheGiantVermin
Charities use social media for microvolunteering, photo TheGiantVermin
Charities embrace social media for microvolunteering, photo TheGiantVermin

By Sheri DeCarlo

Did you know 86 per cent of Canadian social networkers are on Facebook? Of the over 500 million people on Facebook, more than 250 million now access it through mobile devices. Smartphone sales now surpass computer sales globally. As Bob Dylan sang, “the times … they are a changin’.”

“If you’re looking at your phone, I won’t be offended, I’m just going to assume you’re so engaged, you have to Facebook, Twitter [the information] out,” says Claire Kerr, Director of Digital Philanthropy at Artez Interactive, to begin her presentation on “Social Media, Fundraising And All That Good Stuff” at TELUS House as part of Toronto’s Social Media Week taking place February 13 – 17, 2012.

Held across the globe in cities such as London, Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, and others, Social Media Week is the perfect match for the limited budgets of start-ups and non-profit organizations since there is no cost to participate. This year’s event in Toronto features thought-provoking sessions with industry leaders at different locations throughout the city.

Of the top 50 non-profit organizations in North America, 92 per cent are active on at least one social media site. Depending on the type of charity, location and circumstances, 10 – 15 per cent of funds raised come in online. Online activists are seven times more likely to donate compared with other supporters. “It’s not so much a hidden channel anymore. It’s where your donors and supporters are. More and more people are reading emails on their phones and browsing organizations on mobile applications. One half of Twitter’s audience is mobile. It’s important to be aware that your audience is mobile,” says Kerr. “Online is the fastest growing giving-channel with the cost of acquiring a supporter via direct mail contact at $1.25 compared to $.07 for an online donor. It’s also interesting to note that the average donation by phone is smaller than what people give online.”

Integration with offline events is where a lot of charities start using social media, for example, setting up a hashtag on Twitter for a fundraising event like a run, walk, ride or gala.

“We know that you are more likely to raise 40 per cent more online than those people who don’t use social media in North America,” says Kerr. This means for a fundraising event, if participants use social media, they raise significantly more than event participants that do not. “Organizations should be focused on helping our supporters in raising funds online because that’s where you see ROI,” says Kerr. “We want you to have as many possible options for social media because we know that’s going to be very effective.”

“It shows how important online fundraising has become when organizations take the opportunity to remind people in their print materials to donate online. For example, donation pledge forms printed for the Terry Fox Run remind participants that the cost to process online donations is lower and remind people to give online,”  says Kerr.

Profit or nonprofit, the key to social media strategy is the same: clear objectives that tie back to the business mission. When you’re tracking data, success is defined based on the achievement of business objectives. The objective for some organizations is to increase their online registrations and donations. “I like to look at increasing conversion, for example, from traditional newsletter to e-newsletter – that’s driving conversion to action,” says Kerr.

“If you find higher conversion numbers, then you know what you’re doing is having an impact. If you are moving people then you know what you’re doing is great. If not, you’re killing conversion and you need to stop. I’ve killed conversion by making online donation forms prettier. Designers can’t tell how much money a donation form will raise until it performs,” says Kerr.

Online volunteering gives web savvy Canadians the opportunity to help Canadian not-for-profit organizations, directly from their computers. Recently launched Koodonation, supported by Koodo Mobile, introduces the unique concept of non-profit organizations challenging online volunteers to provide a variety of services including blogging, copywriting, logo design, marketing, research, and more.

“Microvolunteering is a great way for busy individuals to give back to the community, in a way that fits their schedule with no requirements for travel; this means you can volunteer at 3 a.m. from your couch,” says Jennifer Robertson, Director of Communication, Koodo Mobile.

Over 2,800 microvolunteers and over 160 non-profit organizations have registered, and 131 challenges have been completed to date. Non-profit organizations can run up to five challenges at a time. Once the non-profit organization posts the challenge, microvolunteers are matched based on their interests and skills.

“Embracing the online generation, and taking advantage of microvolunteering, is a great way to get people to volunteer. It doesn’t replace traditional volunteering –  it complements it and encourages our community to get involved, and at the end of it all, that is what is so great about it,” says Robertson. “When you have a limited budget, it’s also a great way to raise awareness of your organization and to find skilled people to help.”

Fundchange is another great place where community projects and social media meet to fund change one project at a time. Sponsored by Telus, Fundchange allows charities to post projects up to $5,000 and present them to potential donors, who in turn share them with their network. “There’s the crowd you know and the crowd you don’t,” says Fundchange founder, Paul Dombowsky. “If you keep people informed and happy, they will spread the word on what you’re doing. The idea is not to fund the organization, but to fund specific projects. Sometimes, the way donors  –  especially younger donors –  get engaged is because they identify with or believe in a specific project and because their own crowd of peers are also doing the same.”

Last year, TELUS provided matching funds for funded projects through three different campaigns, which totalled over $50,000. “This opportunity for matching support through these campaigns from TELUS has been invaluable in getting this initiative, new to Canada, off the ground. There is a competitive nature to getting the matching funds, but we feel it encourages our members to hone their skills in pitching projects and getting the word out with the help of our platform,” says Dombowsky.

Charities have posted 54 projects to date on Fundchange with a total of $55,000 funded from over 200 individual donors. “We think small- to medium-sized charities could really benefit from Fundchange, because it offers them a place with a growing crowd to post projects for funding where the peer to peer nature of crowdfunding can help make things happen.”