Fund Times

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Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! March 11, 2013

Filed under: social media — fundtimes @ 5:26 pm

Admit it. You thought this post was about a monster truck rally coming to your city. Am I right or am I right? No? Ok, nevermind.

I am, however, excited to tell you that I have been invited to share the motivation behind Fund Times this Sunday, March 17th at 7:30 p.m. CST/8:30 p.m. EST on The Make It Great Show on BlogTalkRadio! Find out why the past two and a half years have been amazing and what pushes me to continue blogging with you.

“See” you on the show!


Engaging Donors Online February 7, 2012

If you asked me to describe my experience with social media, I would bore you to death with random stories of my Facebook and Twitter timelines.  Perhaps, I would tell you how I inadvertently use these tools to stay abreast of local and national news (what’s a Sunday paper?) or to boost the marketing profile of an organization.  Or more importantly, I would tell you what my friend had for breakfast.  At any rate, I am not the best person to ask if your organization is considering how to effectively use social media for online fundraising.

Thankfully, I know Zach Ragbourn.  Who, you may ask, is Zach?  Not only does his humor rival mine (we should go on a traveling road show, I swear), but Zach is the resident guru of both traditional and online communications.  So, when I asked him to share his experiences with online fundraising, he was more than happy to spread the wealth (pun intended) with the faithful readers of Fund Times.  Here’s what he had to say.


Q:  Online fundraising has gained a lot of media attention in recent years as nonprofits look to expose their brands to a greater number of people. What do you think is interesting or unique about engaging donors online as opposed to face-to-face?

A:  When people talk about social media, they tend to focus on the interaction: sharing, replying, re-tweeting, liking, and commenting on each other’s items. All of that is absolutely vital in building a relationship with a potential donor, but it’s not fundamentally different from the old way of doing things. We’ve always built relationships and worked to engage donors, and social media has given us new tools to do that.

What’s new, however, are the speed-of-light sharing options, and the branding expansion opportunities they bring. Every time you work to build a relationship with a potential donor on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, you’re also taking a first step toward exposing your brand to a whole new audience.


Q:  There has been a lot of debate about the effectiveness of social media in fundraising. What has been your experience in using online tools such as Facebook and Twitter to help nonprofits raise money?

A:  If your social media efforts have an effect on fundraising, it might be tough to tell at first. Maybe you’ve built up a relationship with a donor on Facebook, convinced her of the value of your work, and she’s become invested in your success. When she receives a fundraising email, she may make her first donation through that email. In a perfect world, she’d include a note with her donation, saying, “I wouldn’t have made this donation if not for your social media efforts!”.

That probably won’t happen, so the best we can do is take steps to be sure that if a member of your social network is in the mood to give, she has the opportunity… and has a unique, trackable link to follow. Collect data at every turn, and decide for yourself whether social media is having an effect on your fundraising.

In my experience, direct asks are rarely successful.  However, social media has been invaluable in building a sense of urgency and importance around a campaign, and those are two factors that dramatically increase the odds of a prospective donor making his or her first contribution. Nonprofits that use social media to roll out campaigns – either action campaigns or fundraising campaigns – can help create that urgency and sense of value in their members and communities, and nonprofits can see improved fundraising when they use social media to demonstrate the value of their work and their members’ support.


Q:  I’m a true believer that a nonprofit should use a variety of tools to raise money, both online and off. Which online programs and/or product(s) would you suggest to a nonprofit looking to venture into virtual fundraising?

A:  Nonprofits wanting to venture into online fundraising should start with email. It’s still the most cost-effective, and still provides you with the best data on what’s working and what isn’t. Chances are that you already have some sort of online program, and have developed a list of people who are used to hearing from you. Build on that, keep them energized, and offer them new ways to stay engaged.

One of those new ways to stay engaged should be an active and useful presence on the major social media networks: Facebook and Twitter. Spend the staff time to keep up with your list, weigh in, reply, and share your organization’s perspective on things.

A great tool to start with in social media is a link-shortening account with a free service like Google ( or Those services let you see how often your links are clicked, which is invaluable data during the early and experimental days of building a social program.


Zach Ragbourn is the media relations and online communications manager for Alliance for Justice in Washington, D.C.  To learn more about Zach, connect with him on Linkedin


Move the Crowd December 6, 2011

Hip-hop legend, Rakim once rapped that to him, “MC means move the crowd.”  Now before you get the urge to clap to this, you may be wondering what these lyrics have to do with fundraising?  Well, plenty.

Last year, I wrote several blog posts highlighting tips on how to effectively engage individual donors and ask for their support.  When cultivating donors, most fundraisers will tell you that real success occurs when they move a prospective donor from cheerleader to long-term donor.  But, how do you do that without having to purchase an additional (and sometimes expensive) constituent relationship management system (e.g., Raiser’s Edge, DonorPerfect)?

Here are three strategies on moving various stakeholders from fans to funders:

  • Volunteers.  Let’s face it: volunteers are an invaluable asset to any nonprofit.  Not only do they selflessly give of their time and talent to advance a charitable goal, but they are natural “foot soldiers” capable of spreading an organization’s good works.  So, what’s to stop you from asking them for financial support?  Absolutely nothing.  When soliciting a donation from this group, consider segmenting your requests based on their natural interests.  For example, if your nonprofit offers a tutoring program to public school students, you should ask tutors to contribute to your campaign to raise money for school supplies.
  • E-Newsletter Sign-Ups.  Your organization has a monthly e-newsletter.  You’re excited about how large your email list has grown. Yet, it’s not always clear how these folks heard about your nonprofit or why they even care about your mission.  So, how do you work to translate their interest into financial gifts?  For current sign-ups, consider highlighting a specific issue in your upcoming e-newsletter and following up with a direct solicitation explaining how a financial gift could help address the issue.  For new sign-ups, consider making an ask when someone first signs up.  I recently signed up to the email list of the NAACP and the follow up email not only thanked me for signing up, but it directed me to get involved in my local community and become a paying member.
  • Facebook/Twitter.  Someone likes you. Another starts to follow you.  Before you begin sleeping with a knife under your pillow, contemplate how your nonprofit can turn these social media fans into bonafide donors.  There’s no better way to engage these subsets than through an in-person event (aka, tweetups or meetups).  After all, who doesn’t like to mix and mingle over drinks and little crostinis? While it is certainly up to your organization to decide if you want to do a special event for  Facebook and Twitter followers only, my advice would be to simply share a note on both sites inviting these folks to your annual fundraising event.  Whichever method you choose, make sure you pay attention to the names on each list and don’t invite someone twice to the same event ;).

What other strategies would you recommend on moving fans to donors?