Going viral: How to use social media to promote your charity and raise funds
Going digital is vital in future-proofing your charity. Alongside investing in your website and contactless payment technologies, consider how (and if) you use social media. With over 70% of the UK population signed up to one or more social platforms, spending 39 minutes on them each day, social media shouldn’t be a nice-to-have for fundraising campaigns, but a fundamental element. In this post, we provide a roadmap for how to use social media to turbo boost your fundraising efforts.
As the saying goes, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. Any successful fundraising campaign requires careful planning before going live, and this is no less true for one based on social media. Here are the main considerations to define before hitting the keyboard:
- Identify your target audience – Just as in marketing, charities need to define who they’re pitching to on the web. Creating a ‘donor persona’ (the ideal person your campaign is targeting) isn’t just an abstract exercise – it should dictate the kind of content that will be promoted through your campaign. Once you’ve narrowed down your target audience, you can start to think about content that will resonate with them, and ultimately encourage them to donate.
- Find your target audience – Decide which platforms to use. There are many to choose from – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Weibo are just a few of the most popular ones. Although it might be tempting to spread your net far and wide, promoting your campaign on every platform going – we advise sticking to a few select ones, that is, any that are relevant to your target audience. You’ll get the most value out of platforms that your target audience uses (helping you to reach them) whilst giving you the functionality needed to deliver your content. Although most platforms don’t generally release demographic information about their users, some data is available – this survey from Pew Research Centre breaks down social media usage by age, gender, and frequency (note – the data relates to the US but is still useful in giving an oversight for UK organisations).
- Encourage a conversation between members of your target audience – Settle on a hashtag. It might seem fairly superficial, but having a good hashtag can make or break your fundraising efforts on social media. It serves to let fundraisers or donors ‘tag’ their posts, making it easier to find and share them on platforms. Apart from this functional purpose, however, a hashtag can also communicate how or why you’re fundraising; the #2.6challenge, for instance, has hit the social media stratosphere with fundraisers posting the myriad ways in which they’re raising funds (all somehow related to the number 2.6 or 26 – a reference to the date of 2020’s cancelled London marathon). This doesn’t only encourage other users to donate, but also to get involved and take on a wacky fundraising effort themselves.
- Define the campaign metrics – Any fundraising campaign should be based on data. When planning, decide on key metrics such as how much you’re aiming to raise and by when, alongside what engagement you’d like to see during the campaign. The value of social media (as, in fact, most Digital platforms) is that they provide you with a wealth of data – how many comments, views, likes, and shares can all be tracked and analysed, giving you an overview of how the campaign is doing, and how to improve for the future.
Collaborate with Ambassadors
Influencer marketing has seen a huge increase in the private sector in the past few years, and charities certainly have a thing or two to learn from it. In essence, all it involves is an individual with a significant social media following promoting a product or service. The exemplar for this new type of marketing is Gym Shark, an exercise-clothing company; shunning traditional marketing methods, they invested in popular Instragramers to promote their products – within 7 years the company was worth over £100 million.
Now, this model can’t be directly applied to charity fundraising, but some elements certainly can. Using celebrity ambassadors to promote or get involved in your campaign is sure to cause a stir on social media, drive engagement, and increase donations. Put simply, if you have a celebrity patron or well-known supporter; get them involved in your social plans!
One example of a charity doing just this is Mind; publishing a video of their president and top ambassador Stephen Fry across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, they’ve brought significant attention to the subject of mental health during coronavirus and have given a boost to their emergency fundraising efforts.
Although they’re not charities, a similar strategy can be seen with BBC Earth and World Wildlife Fund; both share quotes and footage of the iconic natural history broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough, to engage their social media audience, and these posts are often some of the most popular shares. You can also reach out to celebrity ambassadors encouraging them to share their participation in your campaign on their own channels just as the World Wildlife Fund does during their annual Earth Hour campaign.
Start a challenge
‘Challenges’ are extremely effective ways of raising funds and awareness of your charity’s cause through social media. In essence, a challenge is simply an action that is shared on social media through photo or video, prompting others to donate and/or follow suit through nominations.
One of the most well-known social media charity challenges was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Starting in the summer of 2014, the campaign soon went viral and saw people like Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates, and George Bush all pour buckets of ice-cold water over their heads in the name of charity. Still running six years on, the campaign has raised over $115 million to help combat ALS.
One of the hardest parts of fundraising is creating a genuine connection with potential donors that motivates them to contribute to your cause. Whether online or on the street, charities have to contend with numerous demands on the attention of would-be donors to have their causes heard. To make sure they cut through the ‘noise’, fundraising campaigns need to resonate with their target audience.
What does this mean exactly? Well, it could mean providing a service or product in exchange for a donation, as can be seen with these ‘trigger donation’ examples or The Royal Marsden’s Ever After Garden. In the context of social media, however, it simply comes down to communication.
When embarking on a social media fundraising campaign, your charity needs to communicate how a donor’s action or donation is making a difference. This could be through explaining:
- Why it’s raising funds – Use video and interactive content to tell the stories behind your cause, creating an emotional appeal to donors.
- Where donations will go – Trust is falling in charities, and one antidote is to be transparent with where donations will be spent. Again, tell the stories of those that have benefitted from the work of your charity.
- Milestones – Share updates on the milestones reached during the campaign, helping to build momentum.
And remember, communication on social media is a two-way street. As much as is possible, make sure to respond to anyone posting with your campaign hashtag, and try bringing some humour to the table; if you do, it might just go viral, like this tweet and response between Stephen Fry and the National Trust.
If used in the right way, social media can help charities to reach far larger audiences whilst promoting their causes and building long-lasting relationships with donors. What’s more it also provides fundraising professionals with invaluable data on how successful their efforts are and how to improve for the future.
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