The Intersection of Social Media and Fundraising

Sure, your nonprofit organization has 5,489 “Likes” on Facebook and 1,710 followers on Twitter. Do these supporters give financially? How can you better engage them in giving?

I was fortunate to sit down with the NC Triangle Project LIFT community yesterday to hear a presentation by fabulous social media and marketing consultant Dawn Crawford of BC DC Ideas about this confounding topic. I’m grateful to Dawn for sharing her expertise with us for the #npintersect workshop.

Dawn Crawford of BC DC Ideas

The gist of the conversation was that most nonprofit organizations are still experimenting with social media and should continue to do so, closely analyzing the data and responses in order to build a customized strategy. No one-size-fits-all strategy exists, as various nonprofit supporter groups interact differently with social media, just as no one-size-fits-all development plan exists.

Dawn shared an instance in which a client built an engaged supporter base on Facebook, enabling the client to post multiple fundraising appeals a week to their Facebook page, a practice she doesn’t usually recommend.

Below, I’ve captured some of Dawn’s best practices:

Tools and Tips

Strategy through data analysis: Familiarize yourself with Hootsuite Pro ($5 per month) and Google Analytics (free) to track and analyze your data — number of click-thrus, donations resulted, loss of “likes”, etc.– in order to begin identifying where your social media “sweet spots” are and how your supporter base responds to various appeals and applications.

[Extra juicy tip:] Dawn strongly suggests utilizing peer-to-peer fundraising platform CauseVox — engage your supporters to ask their networks for donations on your behalf!

Converse; provide value: Don’t be afraid to ask for money from your supporter base via social media once you have dedicated time and resources to providing valuable information and conversation about a cause you both believe in.

Engage often: Find ways to further engage your most active users. Publicly acknowledge them, send them updates or exclusive information before it is released, or simply ask for a retweet or a repost. Consider transitioning to a face-to-face connection: invite them to coffee or a brown bag lunch to talk about their interests and involvement.

[Extra juicy tip:] Ask supporters and bloggers to write a blog post about your cause or next event to build momentum and drive visits to your site.

Diversify: Consider looking beyond Facebook and Twitter. Dawn shared that some organizations have seen a 20% increase in giving upon supplementing the existing appeal with video media. Youtube may be the next frontier in online fundraising. Additional applications to check out: Foursquare, blogging, Philanthroper.

Build a Campaign

Set your plan: Use your data analysis to build a time-limited (30 days maximum) campaign plan utilizing your social media avenues that is integrated with your existing communications. Start small and replicate successful aspects of your campaign.

General content: Consider the frequency of your posts. Dawn shared that a general practice is posting several Twitter updates per day and posting one Facebook update per day, though again, this varies. Use a cohesive creative theme to integrate various media into your content. For Facebook: personal, less-formal, visual-oriented material (photos, videos); for Twitter: information-sharing content about your cause.

Fundraising content: Include a clear call to action. Consider the ratio of fundraising appeals to other content posted on your social media . One best practice is a 20-to-1 ratio of regular content to fundraising content. Use your “laundry list” of donation returns to show impact (i.e. a Facebook post that reads: $20 buys three meals for homeless folks in our city. Donate here). Also, don’t ask for $500 on Facebook! Social media donation amounts tend be be in the range of $5 to $50.

[Extra juicy tip:] During the course of your social media fundraising campaign, you will see a spike at the beginning, a lull in the middle and another spike toward the end. Consider ways to generate interest and response toward the middle. Dawn shared an example of offering a contest during the mid-campaign lull in which every supporter who retweets or re-posts a portion of the appeal wins a free T-shirt.


See Dawn’s collection of case studies and follow the BC DC Ideas blog for tips. If you’re lucky, catch another of Dawn’s presentations!

See Beth Kanter’s social media best practices for nonprofits and case studies

Contemporary Art Engages the Community at the Newly-Opened Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh

I pushed open the inverted refrigerator door tucked into a crevice of the 20-foot high swooning inflatable white plastic-tentacled sculpture-creature and stepped into a whimsical bubble of exploration. Sound  ridiculous and a bit mind-blowing? It was! Welcome to the inaugural exhibition at the newly-opened Contemporary Museum of Art (CAM) in downtown Raleigh.

Entering artist Dan Steinhilber’s fascinating white industrial plastic creature through a refrigerator door creates the illusion of stepping through C.S. Lewis’ magical wardrobe into a whimsical Walmart stockroom–an explosion of colored plastic bag shreds and industrial plastic sheeting. See an image of the sculpture here.

There is a lot to like–other than the first exhibitions–about CAM. A “museum in progress,”  CAM was born of a partnership between the NCSU College of Design and Contemporary Art Foundation. Located in the Warehouse district, the building is a charming reused space: a former produce warehouse with impressive architectural features.

CAM has already hosted a number of lectures and community events–and I mean interesting, lively events rather than the stuffy, cloistered museum kind. The staff incorporated participatory art activities for CAM’s inaugural First Friday reception during which attendees (more than 900, according to the CAM website) created their own versions of Steinhilber’s winged mobile-like paper wire hanger sculptures, currently hanging in the Museum alongside the infamous sculpture-creature.

If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, then check this out: CAM’s docent team is comprised of seventh graders! The ambitious middle schoolers attend a series of after-school interactive training sessions. In fact, several staff members and gallery assistants told me the docents have more insights into contemporary art than they have. Clearly, CAM aims to inject the conversation about contemporary art (often authoritarian-tinged or yawn-inducing lectures) with new thinking.

The CAM website reflects this thinking. The home page reads: “The world is always changing. Shouldn’t the museum experience be always changing too?” CAM helps to demystify the making of contemporary art by sharing a rare behind-the-scenes look at the installation–be sure to check out the time-lapsed video of installation of the current exhibition in the gallery.

On any given afternoon, chatty CAM gallery assistants are peppered throughout the not-too-large space, waiting enthusiastically to engage museum goers. (Thank you, Lorie, for an excellent discussion about museum experience, CAM background and contemporary arts culture in the Triangle!) I wasn’t surprised–though still delighted–to find that CAM’s three part mission encompasses the objective to generate a sense of community.

I was impressed by one particular detail which demonstrates CAM’s interest in engaging the community in the contemporary art experience: interactive prompts embedded throughout the exhibition leaflets that provoke new insights and thinking among Museum goers. One prompt reads: “Steinhilber chooses not to title his works so he does not impress his ideas upon the viewer. If you were to title his work, what would you call each?”

The innagural exhibitions–Steinhilber’s Hold On, Loosely and Naoko Ito’s Urban Nature–both respond to the history of the angular, lofty building with industrial materials and themes. Steinhilber’s neutral, playful presentation of industrial materials often associated with mass production and mass consumption is light, fresh and unique. Ito’s installations are a thoughtful, though less neutral look at the connection or disconnection between nature and development.

So, has CAM succeeded in creating a museum in progress? From what I’ve seen so far, I’d say yes. I’m impressed by CAM’s initial surge of innovative programming and creative tactics to engage Museum goers and the larger community. I anticipate CAM’s continued evolution in the coming months and years.

Check out a podcast featuring perspectives on the building of CAM and the inaugural exhibitions.

Have you been to visit CAM yet? What did you think? Introduce yourself below, subscribe to my RSS feed and say Hi on Twitter.

Six Blogging Young Nonprofit Professionals From NC to Check Out

I am delighted to have met a number of talented and passionate young nonprofit professionals in my home state of North Carolina. Even better, several of them maintain informative and insightful blogs — check them out!

Amber Melanie Smith

Though I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Amber in person, I am inspired by her experiences and insights. Amber Melanie Smith, self proclaimed “volunteer whisperer and nonprofit ninja,” is co-founder of ME³, an organization that connects volunteers with organizations in the Triangle and Masters in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management student at NCSU.

Check out: Amber’s insightful post entitled Adventures in Founder’s Syndrome about her transitioning role with ME³.

Follow Amber on Twitter: @ambermelsmith

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford–the “word slinger and a creative sensei” (was there ever a better personal tagline?) brings a background in copywriting and advertising  to his work supporting nonprofits at BC/DC Ideas with his wife, Dawn (see below). Brian is also the author of the blog Amplifying Good, described as “Dirty Jobs meets the nonprofit world.” Though it hasn’t been updated in a few months, I look forward to future posts!

Check out: Brian’s two-part interview with the Executive Director of Seesaw Studios in Durham, Interview with Michelle Gonzales: A Dedicated Life. See alsoPart 2.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @amplifyinggood @BCwritr

Dawn Crawford

Having founded BC/DC Ideas, a creative agency serving nonprofits and small businesses, with her husband, Dawn Crawford maintains an informative and professional blog with helpful leads, particularly about the uses of social media and technology within nonprofits at BC/DC’s funky, attractive site.

Check out: the first post in the “Aha Moments” series about an innovative Social Media Ambassadors program developed by Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

Follow Dawn on Twitter: @SocMediaRckStr @dawnacrawford

Dallas Thompson

I was fortunate enough to connect with Dallas via Twitter and, more recently, over coffee. A very bright young nonprofit professional (and also a great conversationalist!), Dallas has (nearly) completed two Americorps VISTA terms in civic engagement and has (surely) completed a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University. Lucky for us, she recently launched a blog entitled Deep Gladness which thoughtfully and professionally explores both the personal and the technical sides of life as a young nonprofit professional.


Check out:

Dallas’ first post, Welcome to Deep Gladness, in which she honestly introduces herself, her intentions and insightfully discusses our unique circumstances as GenY nonprofit enthusiasts.

Follow Dallas on Twitter: @dallasbthompson

Kristen Jeffers

Kristen, a good friend, is currently pursuing her Masters of Public Administration at UNCG and is the founder and Executive Director of YNPN NC Triad. Kristen manages a colorful blog on urban design, urban planning and community development issues of relevance to the NC Triad and NC Triangle areas.

Check out: Kristen’s recent post, Saying Goodbye to Borders, a poignant  reflection on a lost community space which mirrors her other reflections about the challenges of suburban decline in Greensboro.

Follow Kristen on Twitter: @KristenEJ, @BlackUrbanist

Nick DiColandrea

Nick DiColandrea, who holds a Masters in Public Policy and Administration from Mississippi State University, is Federal Grants Manager at Communities in Schools of Wake County in Raleigh and has contributed to a number of nonprofit causes including YNPN NC Triangle and Coalition to Unchain Dogs of the Triangle.

Check out: Nick’s encouraging and informative post, Tips for Nonprofit Newbies, on his blog entitled Nonprofit Beginnings.

Follow Nick on Twitter: @nickdico

Did I miss any? Please share with me other NC young nonprofit professionals who are blogging!

Discovering NC’s History of Philanthropic Leadership

Image courtesy of

I recently met a young social justice-oriented professional from New York who left college early to move with her Mother to North Carolina because she loved the South so much. I was impressed and refreshed–it’s easy to become disillusioned with the grand-standing associated with Southern religion, politics and culture. Think Jesse Helms, Jim DeMint and Pat Robertson. Still, every region has its radicals and these characters have fans nation-wide.

As it turns out, I needed some educating regarding North Carolina’s legacy of progressive philanthropic, educational and political leadership. I was delighted to stumble across two recently published books that explore just that.

To Right These Wrongs by Robert Korstad and James Leloudis, explores NC Governor Terry Sandford’s establishment of the North Carolina Fund in 1963. The fund was a highly experimental, temporary philanthropic endeavor meant to progressively address poverty and inequality throughout the state. The fund also established controversial community organizing groups comprised of both white and black students from all over the state that served as a model for the VISTA national service organization.

Additionally, Jim Hunt: A Biography, by Gary Pearce, highlights NC’s longest serving Governor’s pursuit of progressive initiatives in education and social policy, ushering North Carolina from a poor, rural state dependent on tobacco and textiles to a center for finance and high-tech industry. Though Hunt lost his bid for the U.S. Senate to the aforementioned Jesse Helms, his legacy includes NCSU’s Centennial Campus and the Jim Hunt Library, the Institute for Emerging Issues and, like former Governor Terry Sandford,  recognition as a forerunner of North Carolina’s movement of progressive philanthropic and public sector leadership.

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ideaSPARK Showcases Local Talent, Energy and Spirit

I live for nights like this: crowded into a sweaty club, staring wide-eyed up at the stage with fellow audience members like the Toy Story three-eyed green alien toys anticipating being lifted by the claw out of the prize machine into the world beyond. No, we weren’t awaiting the hottest local band. We were awaiting a series of five minute presentations by local creatives.

Sound boring? Far from it! Kicking off the excellent local treasure, SPARKcon festival, ideaSPARK took place this past Thursday night at Kings in downtown Raleigh. We heard from a 12 year-old advocate for child labor, a physicist and a Facebook-user, blogger and tweep who is sure social media is evil, among others. Highlights below:

Life Lessons from Bad Movies, Josh Johnson

Josh has suffered through a number of travesties including a light saber-wielding David Hasselhoff and Sean Connery in an “orange diaper” (yes, we are talking ZARDOZ) to bring us truisms such as, “make the most with what you’ve got.”

Local Focal, Dave & Kim Turnage

This creative couple allowed a curiosity for gardening and local food to turn into a month-long experiment of “eating their front yard” and using only local products to supplement their diet. Well documented, their thought-provoking adventure ultimately led to raising chickens, bottling enough pesto sauce to feed a vegetarian army and teaching themselves to can and preserve foods.

What I’ve Learned, Deborah Ross

From all the things Deborah has learned from her constituents in Raleigh as a State Representative, the important thing to know is that the first people to start advocating for public transit were “the little old ladies from Garner who wanted to be able to get to their shows in downtown Raleigh.” GO little ladies advocating for art AND transit!

Younger Thinking, Christopher Sopher

Where are the young intellectuals? I can sympathize with Christopher’s painful experience of finding himself talking public policy with a potential date–I myself have learned the hard way that bringing up politics at a college-age get-together with adult beverages induces cricket-chirping or mild hostility. Still, his message is important: though young people receive their news and information differently, we are not necessarily ignorant and misinformed for this reason. (Probably more so because of a faltering education system.) Anyway, I’m glad that bright minds like Chris are studying how our democracy will extend into the twenty-first century with an informed Gen Y at the helm.

Why Children Should Work, Katherine Droujkov

It’s clear that preteen entertainment staples such as Hannah Montana and Justin Beiber aren’t satisfying this 12 year-old’s intellectual curiosity. She was frustrated after being let go from an unpaid internship recently when her age was revealed because of a little thing she disagrees with called child labor laws. Not surprisingly, this comes from a girl whose tweets include words like “onslaught.” All I have to say is, go girl!

Tuva or Bust, Justin Goeres

In a whirlwind presentation during which I concluded several times it was all fabricated (and rightfully received the most hearty applause all night), Justin recounted the story of Richard Feynman, a Nobel-winning physicist who spent ten years trying unsuccessfully to travel to the obscure (potentially fictional?) nation of Tuva and its philosophical ramifications for our lives. In short, life is a journey (in this case an unsuccessful one to a former Soviet stronghold with an intriguing spelling of its capital city: Kyzyl), not a destination.

Triangle Hackerspace, Ashley McClelland

Any movement encouraging collaboration between and providing space for crafty-artsy folks and science-tech folks to join forces has my support and interest!

Anti-social Media, Jay Dolan

Jay is pretty sure Facebook is the root of all evil and is smart enough to use his blog, twitter account and Facebook account to propagate this message. I have to agree that the saturation of digital and social media is having a profound effect on how Gen Y interacts with others. Jay’s real brilliance is his “cone of ignorance,” the place he goes when someone begins extolling the many virtues of Sarah Palin.

ideaSPARK is a treat for the mind, the heart, the pocketbook (it was free!) and the local network of creative, entrepreneurial leaders. The event showcased local ideas and movements, generated creative energy, showcased the brilliant spirit of organizers  (props to Carlee Mallard, whom I’m glad to have finally met, and the folks at PKN Raleigh) and kicked off in the style the fabulous, dynamic SPARKcon festival. Happy Sparking this weekend–to infinity and BEYOND!

See videos of all the presentations here.