Is social media fundraising worth it?

With all the controversy about Facebook and selling user data and undermining user trust, it’s a good time to think about how and why we’re using social media for fundraising.

It might not seem like it at first, but there’s a lesson for nonprofits and fundraisers in Sport Rider magazine. This popular motorcycling magazine went out of business a little while ago, even though they had 2.4 million Facebook followers — 2.4 million!

Looking at 2.4 million followers, anyone could be forgiven for thinking, “Our readers love us! What could possibly go wrong?”

But as vintage-motorcycle esthete Paul d’Orleans soberly observed, “A ‘like’ isn’t a dollar.” So true. In the cold light of day, those social-media vanity metrics aren’t really worth much.

How many charities and fundraisers will learn this same, hard lesson about social media?

How many ‘likes’ does your nonprofit get? How many followers do you have? Thousands? Millions? Chances are, all that means very little.

Shareable content – that’s the key to social media, we’re told. Think about how much time and effort you’re spending to come up with clever videos, catchy photos, and other shareable content for social media all in order to chase likes and followers. What is it really achieving?

Sure, the social media proponents say that Facebook and Instagram and the like are supporting and bolstering email response rates. And that may be true. After all, we know that email helps drive up direct mail response rates, so, yes, there may be some cross-channel benefit. But the problem is that when you use Facebook and other social media, they’re the ones in control of the platform, not you.

As fundraising expert John Hayden explains, an over-reliance on social media is risky, and as an online strategy, instead of putting too much emphasis on social media, it’s smarter to focus more on email, which you can control and which actually produces fundraising results.

For the fundraisers chasing vanity metrics like the number of followers, likes, impressions, and even more vague measures like awareness, it’s probably time to take a hard look at social media and then at actual donations.


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