What Is Social Fundraising? And How Nonprofits Can Use It To Reach New Donors

Megan Donahue
Megan Donahue

“Social Fundraising.” “Crowdfunding.” “Peer-to-Peer Fundraising.” There are a lot of terms floating around, but they’re mostly talking about the same thing: an online fundraising effort that relies on leveraging the social networks of your supporters.

At CauseVox, we believe this is the future of fundraising. In today’s connected world there is more noise and distractions than ever, the cost to rent attention continues to rise, and your supporters have more influence on and access to others than brands.

People fundraising empowers your supporters to be your advocates, allowing you to get around the constant noise on a limited budget. Some of the most compelling include:

  • New donors giving to campaigns
  • Existing supporters becoming more involved in fundraising
  • Successful fundraising campaigns that meet or exceed their goals

Whatever you call it, social fundraising holds great opportunities for organizations of all sizes and at all stages of growth.

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Obligatory Mention Of The “Ice Bucket Challenge”

If you were on the Internet in the summer of 2014, you probably encountered the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” If you’ve been in the fundraising sphere since then, you’ve definitely encountered at least one article about how the social fundraiser for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease) research and awareness really shook up the crowdfunding game. If not, a brief catch-up:

The Ice Bucket Challenge works by one person challenging another to post a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice water over their head to call attention to ALS. The Challenge grew virally, quickly becoming a social media phenomenon. Within a month of its start, The ALS Association received nearly $3M more in donations than it had during the same period in the previous year. Soon, donations reached more than $100M.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Social Fundraising InstructionsBy the end of the 2014 challenge, more than 17 million people uploaded challenge videos to Facebook. The money raised during the challenge directly impacted research, and has become an annual event.

Social Fundraising Takeaways

In addition to activating peer networks to spread the word, the Ice Bucket Challenge did several things right. The top three takeaways can be applied to any social campaign, ice water or no.

  • Grabs Attention
    Dumping a bucket of ice water on your head is pretty much the definition of “eye-catching.”
  • Potential For Fun
    Dumping a bucket of water on your head is a silly thing to do, if you’re not doing it for a reason. Don’t underestimate the power of fun in your campaigns–it makes people excited to participate and share.
  • Social
    For a fundraising campaign to be social, you’re going to need other people to dump ice water on their heads, too. It may sound obvious, but a social campaign needs to operate socially, with people working together. Challenging someone to join you is what creates community and spreads the word.Social fundraising also needs to effectively use social media. The challenge used several features of social media very effectively. It relied on tagging, video streaming, and sharing–things that only work on social media platforms.

Getting Started: Planning Your Campaign

To start your social fundraising campaign, you will need:

  • An online platform to be your virtual campaign headquarters
    It should be easy-to-use, customizable to your needs, have peer-to-peer capability, and able to securely process payments. Ideally, you’d also have access to great customer service, from people who really care about the good you do, and want you to succeed. (CauseVox. I’m clearly talking about CauseVox.)
  • A clear and compelling story to tell.
    Storytelling is fundraising fuel–it’s what moves people to action.
  • A social component
    Something for your community of supporters to do or connect to.
  • A goal
    How much money will you try to raise? What are your program needs?
  • A strategy
    How long will your campaign last? How will you promote it? Who is in charge of this thing, anyway?
  • Some supporters
    You don’t need to have a million supporters to get your social fundraising campaign off the ground, but you do need a few people who are willing to share your campaign with their networks. Start where you are.

More Social Fundraising Success Stories

Ready to get inspired? Take a look at these absolutely rocking social fundraising CauseVox campaigns.

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Junior League of Atlanta: The Little Black Dress Initiative

What It Is: Participants fundraise and raise awareness of generational poverty by wearing the same outfit five days in a row, along with a pin that says, “Ask Me About My Dress” to prompt discussion.

Attention Grabbing? Even if you didn’t happen to notice a coworker or friend wearing the same dress five days in a row, the pin inviting questions attracts attention.

Potential For Fun? Generational poverty is not a lighthearted topic, but the campaign provides an easy introduction. By demonstrating how women born into generations of poverty lack access to things like a professional wardrobe, The Little Black Dress Initiative gives a good jumping off point for discussion.

Social? This initiative provides both online content (“Here I am, still wearing this dress!”) as well as real-life conversations.

Results? The Junior League of Atlanta raised $77,787 in one week with their CauseVox campaign.

Little Black Dress Initiative

WOD for Water: Fitness Fundraising

What It Is: NeverThirst works for clean water access around the world. WOD (Workout of the Day) for Water is a Crossfit challenge, done in partnership with Iron Tribe Fitness. Participants raise funds and come together for workout events.

Attention Grabbing? WOD attaches itself to something people are already doing: Crossfit. It appeals to a specific audience by giving them an opportunity to use their interests for something new.

Potential For Fun? Have you ever met anyone who does Crossfit? They really, really, like it. It is definitely their idea of a good time.

Social? The fundraising is social, because it is peer-to-peer, and the events are a social gathering.

Results? Neverthirst’s very first WOD for Water campaign raised $217,889 to build 87 wells in India.

WOD for Water: Fitness Fundraising

Get Social

Ready to empower your supporters, reach new donors, and build a community around your cause? CauseVox is here to help. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Peer-to-Peer Fundraising to get started.

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5 Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Events

10 Principles of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

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