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7 keys to raising followers – and funds – through social media

Social media is the fundraising world’s darling for a host of reasons. Number one: The right program will produce amazing results. But, like most things in life, there is not a simple, quick fix. Indeed, many nonprofits have not maximized the opportunities available to further their mission through social media.

Our team at GRM has helped build numerous programs, some as large as 2 million followers and raising more than 1 million in revenue. Along the way, we have learned there are seven keys to a thriving social media program that you can count on again and again.

1. Build a following.
Social media done correctly is a fantastic database on steroids. The math is simple: If you have 50,000 followers, success is more pronounced than if you are reaching out to 500 followers. Like any program, only a small percentage are going to engage (and participate) in any one request or event. If you are under 10,000 followers, building your following should be a primary objective.

2. Engage daily.
Consistent, daily posts and engagement with your followers –  i.e., responding to comments – are essential. Social media is the only kind of media that offers two-way public conversation. Always be mindful that others are viewing and reading, but take advantage of the opportunity to engage with your fans.

3. Develop a strategic plan.
The best social media programs are planned, thoughtful regarding the desires of the target, consistent with the brand, and built around measurable goals. Most social media programs lack a plan, and a much greater percentage of those without a plan fail to deliver lasting results.

4. Don't pummel with promotional posts.
Social media is not a cheap way to promote non-stop. By definition, those that follow you are your fans: your zealots! They already like you – and some even love you – so they don't need to be sold. In our research on social zealots, we've learned that they crave insider information and tips to share with their friends. This is the heart of social media. Always create and post with this question in mind: How does this arm your zealots to share your story? Think less “selling” and more “conversation starters.”

5. Content that is focused.
Any content posted needs to be consistent and add to your brand story. It also needs to be interesting to your audience. If not, toss and start over.

6. Support with ad spending.
A few years ago, you could build an effective social program organically. That is not the case today: To reach growth goals, it is essential to support your efforts with ad spends. As time spent on digital media (and the number of people spending it) has surpassed traditional media, including television, Facebook's management is now more interested in content that engages and holds an audience, rather than content that builds more followers – and they have changed their rules and algorithm accordingly. The good news: Facebook ads are the most cost effective ads going.

7. Hire social media pros.
The days of passing social media off to a volunteer, an administrative assistant, or even a marketing coordinator are over. As the value of social media as a fundamental marketing tool has grown, it now justifies investment in professional specialists. Increasingly, nonprofits are engaging outside firms to set up and manage their social programs, just like they do for website work, direct marketing, and rebranding work. Not maximizing social media puts your organization at a competitive disadvantage due to the value of a social database and the associated cost efficiencies. And, because the social platforms are constantly changing how they operate, having a team in place that actively works with the platforms every day, understands the nuances, and has experience in dealing with the numerous adjustments required, is critical to maintaining positive outcomes.

The terrific results achieved by our clients – and those of other organizations – did not happen overnight. Like most good things in life, you must be willing to develop a sustainable plan, stay with it, and constantly work it. Follow the seven keys, and results will come along the way. Soon enough, you will have an amazing online community of zealots that will share your story and ignite your fundraising efforts. Then, you too will be looking to social media as your "go-to" marketing channel.

For more lessons on social media and best practices for marketing and fundraising online, sign up for the four-part Certificate of Nonprofit Social Media I’ll be leading, starting April 21, 2020, at GCN’s Nonprofit University.

April Voris is co-founder and chief zealotry officer of marketing agency GRM. Voris has has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, working with nonprofits and for-profits of all sizes, and has been leading Nonprofit University courses for 7 years.


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