Social Media

Alert. Agile. Astute

I had the good fortune to attend “Dateline: Washington - Election Insiders” hosted by the Kansas City Public Library this week. (Another incredible example of that institution’s commitment to “Knowledge for All,” by the way.)

Former Politico writer Mike Allen and TIME magazine Editor-at-Large (& Kansas Citian) David Von Drehle shared their insights and observations about the current election season. While they focused on the political landscape, I was struck by two observations that apply just as soundly to the nonprofit sector.

1. Technology changes are game changers.

This election cycle is different. One campaign is relying on traditional, linear political party and structures. The other has used social media and popular culture to eliminate those intermediaries, going directly to the voter. No matter which side you’re on, this change will not be undone; future campaigns will rely even more heavily on direct connections.

What does that mean to you? 

While nonprofits don’t suffer the same interference from intermediaries as political or retail organizations, they DO need to connect with supporters. The organizations that can most quickly adopt and implement new technologies that help establish and strengthen these connections will be the organizations most likely to succeed.

2. Popular culture (entertainment) is driving people’s perceptions.

Where are the ratings: news shows or reality shows? Consumers today don’t seek out hard-core, “objective” information; they want - even expect - to be entertained.

Again, what does that mean to you?

Building a brand is no longer a matter of trying to dictate how you want to be perceived. People build their own perceptions. Now, you not only have to provide information/content that makes the case for how you want to be perceived, you must ensure that information is available where and how people want to access it.

Those are two tall orders. To succeed, you must be alert, agile and astute in your response.

The good news, of course, is it can be done!

(And, for those of you disappointed that I didn’t offer the political detail you had hoped for, The Kansas City Library was kind enough to post the entire session.)


A #GivingTuesday Success Story: #givebuttsachance

The numbers are staggering. 114 billion impressions on Twitter. 917,313 users reached on Facebook. More than $116 million raised. 

So, is #GivingTuesday an automatic win? A miraculous boon to every need? Unfortunately, there's no guarantee, as those of you who woke up to a lukewarm Wednesday already know.

M&C is following 30 randomly selected local charities and we've already posted a brief overview of the #GivingTuesday activity in Kansas City.  One campaign – HappyBottoms – was particularly impressive and we wanted to provide a closer look to help you plan your efforts next year. 

Here are six tips to hep you make #GivingTuesday2016 a little more successful.


1. Start Early 

"Last year #GivingTuesday was on us before we could think out a full campaign," said Executive Director John Teasdale.

So, late this past summer, a team of enterprising volunteers/employees – Leanne Mersmann, Celeste Yarlagadda and Jeana van Sickle – started brainstorming the 2015 effort.

As a result of their planning and preparation, HappyBottoms was able to begin promoting #GivingTuesday a full week early. (Of the organizations we're following, nearly half waited until the day of #GivingTuesday to remind to their supporters.)




2. Build Momentum

#GivingTuesday 2014 generated $500 for HappyBottoms. The team set an initial goal of twice that for 2015 and then approached a donor who agreed to match up to that amount. 

That initial goal was bumped up twice on #GivingTuesday, the first time by mid-morning! The thermometer post was a nice way to quickly convey the momentum and to reinforce the match. Note too, the link to the donation form (make it easy!) and the tag to Nonprofit Connect (help spread the word).


3. Have Fun

The team also took advantage of the #UNselfie ("take a pic, tag it and upload") template provided on the #GivingTuesday website. Of course they reposted those effort and thanked supporters, encouraging further participation.






4. Recognize Donors

Throughout the day, HappyBottoms publicly acknowledged the gifts of those donors who agreed to the recognition. According to Teasdale, between 60% and 70% of those contributors were new (first time) donors.

HappyBottoms posted to its Facebook page more than 20 times on Tuesday and sent out more than 20 tweets as well. Interaction does take coordinated effort. These responsibilities were split between a team of volunteers, staff and board members.


5. Report Back 

On Wednesday, December 2, HappyBottoms let supporters know the cumulative results of their efforts and again thanked them for their support.








6. Keep Perspective 

#GivingTuesday doesn't happen in isolation; it's a part of your ongoing relationship with your supporters. To be effective, the conversation needs to start well before #GivingTuesday (one organization tweeted five reminders after more than a month of Twitter silence – a less-than-effective approach) and also needs to platform for continued interaction.

#GivingTuesday in Kansas City

Now in it's fourth year, #GivingTuesday, in the words of its organizers, "harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities; it provides a platform for them to encourage the donation of time, resources and talents to address local challenges."

So, how does social media as a platform to address local challenges look in Kansas City?

M&C is following 30 randomly selected local charities and here's a brief overview of what we've seen.


The majority of these organizations are active on social media: 90% on Facebook and 73% on Twitter. The smaller organizations are slightly less likely to be active on Twitter. Only four organizations – three small and one large – emailed requests for #GivingTuesday support.

There was not a great deal of activity around #GivingTuesday last week, with only about a quarter of the socially active organizations making any mention of the event. Interestingly enough, the same Early Promoters tended to be active across both platforms.

The activity began to increase on Sunday and built from there to Tuesday's crescendo of 59 posts and 81 tweets from the 34 organizations communicating about it. 

That's an average of seven communications per socially active organization. Volume was actually far less evenly spread, with two of the organizations (one small and one large) accounting for nearly a third of the total.

The campaigns that were more involved appeared to result in significantly more constituent engagement. Some examples, from low to higher involvement, include:
• simply announce #GivingTuesday
• invite participation/ask for donations
• set a goal/target amount to be raised
• provide program-based reasons to give
• promote social involvement (e.g., unselfie photos)
• host an event or activity
• offer a matching gift
• recognize participation (public acknowledgement; retweet activity; etc.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, it was one of the smallest organizations that was most agile and interactive. (Check back in a week or so for a sampling of some of those best posts!) The larger organizations, by contrast, tended toward fewer, more broadcast announcements. There was virtually no response/engagement to the organizations that made a single, broadcast announcement 

However, volume alone is not the answer. One mid-sized organization, after more than six weeks of Twitter silence, suddenly tweeted five times in the span of a few hours.

It will be interesting to see if giving actually increases (see current estimate now and watch for Blackbaud Trends report) this year. As a fundraiser, I hope you're also considering how you can use #GivingTuesday to strengthen your connection with current donors and to begin to establish meaningful relationships with new constituents!

[Note: M&C worked with Nonprofit Connect to randomly select a representative range of Kansas City philanthropic organizations. Over the past 40 years, Nonprofit Connect has firmly established itself one of the area's primary providers of training, resources and networking opportunities for the nonprofit community.]