Ride the social media bandwagon to fundraising success

The board chair bristled when I suggested the ministry’s website was short on information about why gifts matter. “I don’t look at websites to figure out where to give. Why would we put our financial problems out there for everyone to see?” he snapped back at me.

I back-pedaled furiously, assuring the offended chair I didn’t mean to criticize the organization’s website or its creator, but he wasn’t interested in my apology. Nor did he buy my description of online communication tools as the fundraising program’s new best friends. The expression on his face told me I’d lost him with my opening comments.

I’m pretty certain I won’t be back with this board anytime soon. And I’m sadly certain this organization won’t achieve the fundraising success for which the board and CEO are hoping. Not for lack of a great mission – the organization is ministry rich. And not just because leadership doesn’t get the power of social media and other online tools in strengthening relationships with existing donors and reaching out to new prospects. To be fair, they have bigger fundraising “fish to fry” than sprucing up the website.

But a non-user (of social media, that is) in the chair’s chair is a problem for the fundraising program.


Don’t stop with my take on the topic. Check out a recent blog article from Brian Solis, principal at Altimeter Group and a thought leader in new media. His comments are directed to owners of small businesses, but substitute the word “donor” for “customer” and it’s an easy fit with the nonprofit sector.

For example, consider this:

Smart phones, social networks, apps, gamified everything, Google Glasses, self-driving cars, smart appliances, the list goes on, are placing customers[donors] at the center of their own universe connected to one another through shared experiences. These plugged-in and always-on customers [donors] are learning to see the world differently. They’re empowered and they’re entitled. As a result, disruptive technology is grooming customers [donors] to expect information and opportunities to find them.

Forget the late, late adopters — even board chairs. It’s a brave new world when it comes to the ways most people get and give information.  As Solis tells us, “How customers [donors] make decisions, how they discover, communicate, and share, how they influence and are influenced, is evolving considerably. . . to earn their attention and ultimately their loyalty, the organization will need to better understand the top technology trends and how they’re impacting customer [donor] behavior.”

The social media bandwagon is moving fast. It’s either jump on board or find your fundraising program languishing in the dust.

For more on this topic see:

Five timely resources for social media challenged nonprofits

Follow the social media experts to success

Let’s put social media in its place


  1. This is so true! I think we sometimes get comfortable with the tried and true, but forget that things continue to change, and social media is a big way that things are changing, especially for the younger generation. It seems to me that social media has been so helpful, especially for fundraising, in the wake of breaking news stories and emergencies/disasters, in order to keep donors updated and inviting their immediate participation!

    • You’re right, Amy. Social media lets organizations create immediacy and deepen relationships with donors and other friends. Unfortunately, I see so few small to mid-sized ministries using social media well because it is a lot of work. Unless organizations are willing and able to allocate staff time to social media opportunities, not much happens. I wish I had an easy solution, but I’ll keep on pushing.

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