Welcome to CauseVox’s Comprehensive Guide to Social Media for Nonprofit Crowdfunding. This guide will cover everything you need to know to use social media effectively to support your crowdfunding campaign. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in.
The Case Studies
We interviewed two of our star fundraising organizations–Grey2KUSA and Well Aware–to bring you field-tested strategies to use social media effectively as a way to raise donations for your cause.
Grey2KUSA advocates for an end to greyhound racing and utilizes an ongoing campaign, called Run4Fun, to provide operational funding for their lobbying efforts. The campaign encourages volunteers to create personal crowdfunding campaign pages and seek sponsorship for their participation in fun runs or races, either self-organized or official. Thus, participants get to share the stories of their race and inspire donations.
Well Aware, which successfully raised over $130,000 in one week through their crowdfunding campaign, provides clean water solutions in East Africa. Their campaign, called Shower Strike, had volunteers going on a shower strike–refusing to shower–for a full week to show support for East African villages that lack water. The goal was to keep it fun while reminding people that this was a reality for many people in Africa without clean water.
Social Media Channels And Their Uses
You’ve probably seen all the different social media channels out there: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. There are others, but these are probably the most popular and useful for the kind of marketing you’ll be doing for your crowdfunding campaign.
Facebook is the king of social media, and it can be critical to supporting your crowdfunding campaigns. It’s the place you go to share things with your friends and see what they are up to.
Because of this, Facebook is a great environment to grow your crowdfunding campaign. If people in your audience believe in your cause, they will happily share it with their networks. Since the basis for interaction on Facebook is friendship, there tends to be a higher level of trust.
Sarah Evans of Well Aware pointed out that they had the most success in drawing traffic to their crowdfunding campaign from Facebook personal pages.
Content that works: Substantial posts with videos and eye-catching visuals that link to articles and pages with more information. Forbes cited research showing that posts with images get an 85% interaction rate on Facebook and 35% Retweet rate on Twitter.
Here’s an example of an eye-catching, shareable Facebook post from WellAware. While very simplistic, this photo makes a powerful point, illustrating the differences between life with and without clean water. Posts like this one get great engagement and help people to understand the problem, which in turn encourages people to seek to help solve the issue.
Where Facebook is like a high school cafeteria with tight-knit groups of friends, Twitter is like the Roman Forum. It’s a very public arena where groups form and fade, and audiences are relatively easy to come by.
Twitter’s main restriction is that all posts must be 140 characters or less, which means it is mainly useful as a place to get the word out rather than develop relationships and commitments.
The openness of Twitter compared to Facebook and LinkedIn makes it very easy to begin having conversations with relevant groups and individuals right away.
Both Danielle at Grey2KUSA and Sarah at Well Aware explained that Twitter was where the majority of their social media activity took place, so it’s essential that you get comfortable with it.
Content that works: Shorter, pithy posts, calls-to-action, and images. Consider creating your own #hashtag so anyone crowdfunding for you can connect with others.
Here’s an example of the #showerstrike hashtag at work from WellAware. With the use of the hashtag, Well Aware was able to keep track on how their campaign was gaining attention on social media and easily connect with participants in a way that would not have been possible without the use of the hashtag.
LinkedIn’s biggest strength comes from the fact that it highlights its members’ professional skills and backgrounds and allows them to connect with one another based on that. Sharing and socializing is generally kept to a minimum, but networking is where LinkedIn really shines.
Content that works: Personal connection works well here, so provide your crowdfunders with letters of introduction. LinkedIn’s feed provides some opportunity for article-style posts, which you can think of as a news source rather than a place for interaction.
How To Utilize Social Media
Now that you have a sense for what’s out there, let’s talk about what social media is for and how it is used.
Share the Love
Both Well Aware and Grey2KUSA used their crowdfunders to generate the majority of the content for their social media campaigns and then shared what their crowdfunders were doing on the organization’s networks.
Here, Grey2KUSA is mostly retweeting and sharing stories from others. The bottom tweet is a follower who retweeted one of Grey2KUSA’s own tweets and added a comment. This added comment was then shared again by Grey2KUSA.
This strategy encapsulates the core of effective social media marketing: promote others in order to promote yourself. In this case, the nonprofit used its audience to promote its crowdfunders, individual volunteers who were working independently to support a cause they believed in.
This approach works much better than simply promoting your own material directly because it allows you to appeal to social proof: other people besides you believe in your cause and that’s what you are highlighting.
Takeaway: Share your crowdfunders stories and help them gain an audience. Have them share yours.
Social media’s strongest draw is its ability to help you build your audience and create awareness for your nonprofit.
So, this is the first step of your social media flowchart: social media brings people to your website, where you have the chance to sit down with them and really share your story.
Think of social media channels as Main Street. All your posts are the various ways you might get traffic off the street into your store. And your website is the store where you will actually land the donation.
How would you feel if a shopkeeper ran out onto the street and asked you to buy something? Not great. So don’t bug people on social media that way!
Let’s talk about the best way to build your audience and some key concepts.
The first element of building your social media plan is listening. This is where you develop a sense for your audience–what moves them, what they share, what they like to read–and learn how to create value for them.
Listening should be the first part of your social media workflow.
- Twitter: Search for keywords relevant to your nonprofit and follow users you find interesting. Don’t be shy. If you’re just getting started, aim to follow 200-300 people to.
- Quick Tip: Whenever you follow a new person, add them to a Twitter list immediately. Use lists to keep people in categories based on interests or type of connection. This will make it much easier to actually have meaningful conversations later, instead of having to sift through celebrity and news tweets to talk to the people who will support your cause. To add someone to a list, hover over the gear icon next to their Follow button on their profile and select, “Add/Remove From List”.
- To view your lists, click your Profile Icon in the upper right corner and scroll down to “Lists”
- Facebook: Search for groups and pages related to your nonprofit, then join or Like them. This will cause their updates to appear on your newsfeed. You can also friend individuals, but Facebook users are generally not as open to accepting friend requests from strangers.
- LinkedIn: Search for and join groups relevant to your nonprofit. You can also ask to connect with specific LinkedIn users. They tend to be more open to connecting with strangers (provided your profile indicates some professional relationship in their field).
Once you have some people or groups to follow, check on them every morning. Scroll down the Twitter lists you have created, scan your Facebook pages and groups (they will appear on your newsfeed), and your LinkedIn groups.
If you already have a community, it’s still important to listen to them. Grey2KUSA created a hashtag for their campaign–#run4fun–and kept tabs on it throughout their campaign to engage with anyone using it.
This tweet, which Grey2KUSA also retweeted, shows how they kept up on what mattered to their community. By monitoring relevant hashtags, they are able to stay informed about what their followers are talking about.
Once you have spent some time listening and understand what people in your audience share and like to read, you can being to contribute to the conversation by responding to their posts.
- Facebook and LinkedIn, you can simply leave a valuable comment that adds something to the conversation
- On Twitter, use an @reply.
Another way to engage the conversation is by sharing other people’s posts. People always appreciate it when you share their content, so this is a great way to get on the community radar.
- Facebook or LinkedIn: Use the Share link
- Twitter: Retweet (RT)
On Facebook and LinkedIn, when you share something, the creator will be credited and notified. On Twitter, make sure to include the original poster’s @username. This is good manners, since it clearly cites the source of your content. It also makes sure the original poster is notified that you are supporting them.
Here’s an example of WellAware retweeting a post one of their followers created and shared.
The goal of interacting with your followers is to be an active participant in the discussions happening online, which in turn encourages further follower engagement. When a follower realizes their posts matter to an organization, they will be empowered to post more and feel included in your nonprofit community.
Simply talking and sharing with others isn’t enough, however. You have to actually put something out into the world so your social media audiences see that you have something to say. You do that with content.
Content is how you tell the story of your cause. It’s what you create and share on social media. It usually comes from your nonprofit in the form of blog posts, videos, images, infographics, and anything else you might create to get your message across, but the most effective content you can share is someone else talking positively about you.
Here’s an example of content that Grey2KUSA shared about their own efforts, which is also shareable because it invites participation.
There are three ways to use content successfully:
1.Create and share your own content in order to:
- Share your thoughts
- Motivate your audience to take action on something
- Educate your audience
2. Curate content by keeping informed on content creators in your field and share what you find valuable for your audience.
3. The most important one: provide your crowdfunding team with content to share and/or share content they create.
Let’s take a second to talk about the third one, since it’s so important. If you are using a crowdfunding platform like CauseVox, each of your fundraisers will have their own website and blog which they can use to chronicle their efforts and their story. These are exactly what you should be sharing on your own social media channels.
The element that made the campaigns of Grey2KUSA and Well Aware so effective was sharing their fundraisers’ stories via their own networks. Grey2KUSA’s campaign focuses on empowering volunteers to challenge themselves with runs and provides very clear advice on how to get set up and how to share their runs with their networks.
Well Aware, likewise, shared with us that the most powerful driver of donations was the stories of their Shower Strike participants, not just information about the plight of people in Africa.
Your own content also gets more social validation when it is shared by someone besides yourself. Make sure that when you generate content during any fundraising campaign, you distribute it to your crowdfunders so they can share it with their audiences. Not only will this help you reach more eyes, it provides your crowdfunders with material and inspiration.
The last component of an effective social media plan is analyzing what you’re doing to make sure it is having the desired results. There are many apps out there that do this for you, but all of the major social media channels also have built-in analytics:
- Twitter: analytics.twitter.com
- LinkedIn: Hover over the “Profile” tab at the top, and then click the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” link in the dropdown menu.
- Facebook: Facebook Insights
These tools aren’t as in-depth as those you would get from the specialty third-party applications, but they are enough when you’re just getting started.
Using this information, you can focus your energy on posts that have the best return on investment.
Well Aware was able to determine that the posts with the most engagement were those sharing the experiences of their volunteers, so they were able to focus on these.
Managing Your Social Media Campaign
Now that you know all the essential steps, let’s tie it all together:
Get Set Up
First, you need to get all your social media channels, audiences, and content in a form you can actually engage with meaningfully. Here’s the setup we recommend:
1. Use Hootsuite for listening and engagement. Create a Hootsuite account and connect it to your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts. ACTION STEPS: Create columns for @mentions of your name, RTs of your tweets, any #hashtags you are using, and the Twitter lists you want to monitor, as well as your Facebook and LinkedIn feeds.
2. Use Feedly for content curation. ACTION STEPS: Create a Feedly account and set it up to pull all the blogs and news sources you want to follow and share with your audience.
3. Use Buffer for scheduling. Create a Buffer account and connect it to your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. (You can just use Hootsuite if you prefer, but Buffer has a cleaner interface). Set up a posting schedule using the guidelines below.
Have a Process
Second, use this process to make sure you’re covering all your social media bases:
1. Spend 10-15 minutes scanning Twitter lists and Facebook and LinkedIn feeds in Hootsuite for items to share or comment on. Make special note to respond to direct communications or mentions of your nonprofit. RT any mentions of your name or #hashtag.
2. Spend 15-20 minutes looking through Feedly for articles you’d like to share with your audience. Schedule these using Buffer, making sure to give credit to the authors using @tags or their username (this gets you noticed).
3. Schedule your own content using Buffer. Once a day on Facebook and LinkedIn is fine, but on Twitter, you can post multiple times a day or throughout the week, using different summaries to catch different parts of your audience. Danielle at Grey2KUSA shared that asking for a variety of different donation levels made a big difference in their success on Twitter.
4. Once a week, review your analytics to see what’s working and what’s not. Make a note to focus on the stuff that works next week.
Have a Strategy
Third, you want to have a bigger plan that you are working towards. Your content and posting frequency should support this strategy.
Generating good content consistently is one of the most difficult elements of a strong social media campaign. To make sure you always have ideas and you are creating content that fits into your strategy, build content to support a specific initiative or around a specific theme.
For example, if you are planning a fundraiser to create a new program supporting girls’ education, you can develop a series of videos, infographics, blog posts, and whitepapers on the topic:
1. Start with easily digestible material, like infographics and short videos that explain the situation girls face. These will likely be the first things your audience encounters.
2. Then, develop some meatier content that tells the stories in more detail. These can be blog posts and longer videos. These will accept traffic from the infographics and short videos, and will likely be hosted directly on your blog.
3. Lastly, create some blog posts and whitepapers that explain the technicals of the situation, as well as your donation pitch and a call-to-action inviting readers to donate in support of your cause.
This content serves as the foundation of your social media campaigns, and you can provide your crowdfunders with posts and links to it, so they can share something more substantial than phrases, images, and memes that don’t link to anything besides a donations page.
You don’t need to create all this content right away, but it’s good to have a plan in place for what you’ll be creating.
Both Well Aware and Grey2KUSA provided social media packets for their volunteers to make it easier for them to share content with their audiences.
WellAware’s updates and stories provided participants in their #WaterThx challenge with material to share. Additionally, the format — a photo and sign of how you’re thankful for clean water — was easy to follow along with.
Part of your content development process will involve knowing how your audience will follow the content “breadcrumbs” to a final donation. This is your traffic flow, and it takes into account social media channels, long-term timing, and content types. It also assigns a specific function to each piece of content and the social media channels used to promote them.
Posting frequency is largely a function of the social media channel you are using. Just keep these simple guidelines in mind:
Twitter requires a lot of interaction to get noticed because Twitter feeds scroll down so quickly. Posting 3 times a day is the minimum amount. You can even repost the same content with different descriptions or hashtags to get picked up by different Twitter searches. Grey2KUSA utilized a 1 post/hour schedule during their Giving Tuesday campaign last year to stand out among the other nonprofits and because it was such a short, intense timeframe of fundraising.
- Facebook updates much more slowly than Twitter, and if you are using a Facebook Page (you should be), you get that channel all to yourself. Posting once a day is sufficient.
- LinkedIn has the same update cycle as Facebook, so once a day updates are time. If you’re posting substantial content, 3 times a week may be enough for you.
- All of these suggestions are guidelines. The best way to find out how often you should be posting is to look at other successful nonprofits in your field and emulate their techniques.
Tie-in with your Website and Blog
Social media is a public place, like a main street in a city. People will notice you or even talk to you, but they probably won’t make any commitments, especially ones involving money. To do that, you must usher them into the safe, comforting environment of a store, or in your case, a website or blog.
Your website is where you get to host your content without competing with all the other noise on social media. You want to make sure it looks professional and relevant.
Tie-in with your email
Ultimately, the most intimate conversations you will be able to have with your audience occurs on email. So most of your content in the middle phases of your campaign should invite an email signup.
You should also make sure that anytime anyone visits your website, they see a clear invitation to sign up for your email communications.
Email can also be used to promote content, and it is fairly common for email updates to simply be excerpts from the blog posts they are advertising. Restrict content on email to more substantial types, the kind of thing you might share in a conversation with a trusted friend. Infographics and trendy pictures aren’t the kind of thing to share on email.
Email can also be used as a support system for your crowdfunders. Well Aware added every new crowdfunder to an email list and provided guidelines on how to promote their own Shower Strike so that it was easy to get started.
Here’s an example of the email members of Grey2KUSA’s campaigns received.
Example Social Media Campaign
We’ve covered a lot, with many moving parts, so here’s an example of how everything ties together.
Timeframe: 1 month
Main goal: Get donations from followers
Metrics: Dollars raised per week and per day
Secondary goal: Increase awareness of your nonprofit
Metrics: Cumulative traffic to your site and sites of crowdfunders per week and per day
Assuming you can generate 3 pieces of content per week (2 short, 1 long), that gives you 12 pieces of original content to work with. That’s half of your Facebook and LinkedIn needs right there. Since you can post multiple times in the same day with Twitter, those 12 posts also cover anywhere between 36 and 60 of your Twitter requirements.
Remember, these can be anything from a blog post to an inspirational image meme.
The remainder is filled by sharing the posts of your crowdfunders on your channels, in addition to curated content, simple engagement posts, and recycling old content later in your cycle.
Your crowdfunders can provide you with blog posts and pictures that you can post as-is or doctor up.
This is just 1 week of your posting calendar. You can expand it to cover the entire month as you see fit.
At the end of each week, assess the performance of each individual post using the built-in analytics of each social media channel (see our Comprehensive Guides on each channel for more details). Use that information to adjust the post content for the following weeks.
Big Picture Scheduling
Ideally, you warm up your social media and email channels with some anticipatory content, so they are ready for when the big fundraising push occurs. Ask them to share an introductory content piece, like a video, some pictures that serve as lead-ins to videos or blog posts, or even an informational packet.
In the first week, hit things hard with a lot of posts, making sure your crowdfunders are well supported with assistance reaching an audience and content to share.
As your donations begin to taper in the second week, offer an incentive to reignite interest. Well Aware introduced a donation-match of $5 for every picture a supporter posted about halfway through their weeklong fundraiser.
WellAware kept the energy high with this post.
As the campaign comes to a close, make sure you are not losing steam by putting a new spin on your older content, keeping up the stream of new content, and continuing to engage and remind people. This is where your commitment to engaging honestly with your audience matters: remind people who said they were interested in helping out with a friendly invitation to donate before time runs out.
And once everything is wrapped up, make sure to thank your donors on social media. This does two things: it makes your donors feel great because they are being acknowledged in a place all their friends and followers can see; and it encourages others to contribute the next time you use social media to support a fundraising campaign.
Grey2KUSA created a video for their donors, featuring greyhounds expressing their gratitude to everyone who donated or supported their campaign.
For more ideas on how to thank donors, check out this article.