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Avoid the basic mistakes in using social media for fundraising

Reprinted from the July 2012 issue of NewzViewz, the FINZ magazine

Put on a flash new hat and coat and suddenly you’ll feel like a million dollars. Too true. The problem for many fundraisers is the coat’s on back-to-front and the hat is somewhere other than the top of the head.

It’s all the rage at seminars and workshops. Social media is in hot demand by those wishing to learn the 10 top tips and Facebook 101.

Yes, some are doing it really well but many are impatient to benefit from its riches or learn the ‘how to’ tips... while avoiding trifling with understanding the hard bits. It’s akin to someone wanting their pilot’s licence in 5 easy lessons, but only if they don’t need to bother with understanding anything about the principles of flight.

As with any new medium or technology, we’re initially attracted by the promise of something fresh and powerful while perhaps also daunted for the very same reasons. Maybe it explains the way it can be dismissed with comments I hear such as “we don’t have time for it” or “fundraising is about fundraising and not about technology.” Such comments may have a basis in truth but will hardly contribute to success in this new arena.

Make no mistake; the internet and social media provide fundraisers with one of the most significant opportunities to transition into long term and more secure peer-to-peer fundraising. The internet is theinfrastructure tool of the present and future ages. It is and will continue to transform our lives in every respect imaginable, including fundraising. As technology, social media is simply an extension of our use of the internet, computers and the telephone. It’s also an extension of the multi-channelled activity needed in most good fundraising. In social terms it allows us to connect to create friendships and conversations, which expand with our natural desire for interaction, particularly our community support for good causes. But the instantly interconnected world of social media seems to make new practitioners impatient to crack open its riches, which too often leads to failure and disappointment.

If you’ve ever run a successful conventional fundraising or marketing programme, you‘ll appreciate that success is almost always in direct proportion to the quality of research, analysis and planning put in before activity begins. Then the activity requires discipline and creativity. The process is infinitely improved when conducted by people with knowledge and experience.

Why is this so well understood in conventional fundraising and marketing? It’s probably because we have a history and appreciation for the inputs and disciplines required for success, but social media presents something different. Its wonders appear as promising instant gratification but its complexities and uncertain outcomes can be bewildering.

In my consulting work I am at pains to promote to those hoping to make a success of social media, an understanding about the what and why of social media, and not just the how. I contend that it’s almost impossible to make a success of social media unless it is fundamentally understood as a social marketing tool, and a plan is developed using that understanding.

I have no doubt that in future years we’ll view our social media infancy as quaint naiveté. But in the meantime most fundraising organisations need to get serious about social media and plan and use it fully and professionally.

Avoid the basic mistakes in using social media for fundraising.

 
 
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