3 Reasons Why Social Media Is Not “Just for Kids”

Social media is not just for the “kids.”

For many readers of this blog, the above statement is now a foregone conclusion. But as a social media strategist charged with helping clients develop and implement online communication plans, I still hear that comment far too often. Most nonprofits are, justifiably so, principally concerned with donors capable of making large gifts. Those major gift donors rarely fit in the just-out-of-college demographic. That said, assuming that A) all social media users are just out of college and B) that just-out-of-college donors are of little worth is a huge mistake.

The idea for this post was spurred by this excellent commentary in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, 5 Things Charities Do That Turn Young Donors Like Me Off, by Alicia Bonner Ness. I first suggest you give that commentary a read. Then, read my argument below for why you shouldn’t think of social media as something just the “kids” are in to…

40 is the new 30: Many brush off social media as a space where only Millennials are active. Even if that is true, you may have noticed that the oldest Millennials are now in their 30s (the oldest Millennials will be 33 on January 1, 2013). In less than a decade, they will be in their 40s and suddenly a very important demographic for most nonprofits. If you ignore them now, it could be to your organization’s peril in the coming years.

“Kids” know older donors: While their closest friends might not have deep pockets, for every Millennial online, there’s a Millennial’s mom who just can’t get enough of her newfound pastime, Facebook. I’ve written and talked quite a bit about “online ambassadors.” Millennials (and the younger Generation Z) have extensive online networks that include older potential donors. A smart strategy for your nonprofit might include leveraging Millennials as online ambassadors and working with them to connect with older, more affluent donors in their online networks.

“Kids” are proven to be successful online fund raisers: For an example of a great online campaign, check out UCSF Benioff’s Challenge for the Children. The brief online campaign (less than a month in length) brought in more $1 million toward construction of the new Benioff Children’s Hospital. The winning team was a software development company, but the second place finisher – someone who beat out much older, more established celebrities like Ashton Kutcher – was 12-year-old Paddy O’Brien. Paddy raised more than $12,000 through 425 donors by working his online network like only “kids” know how.

Justin Ware is a fundraising consultant who specializes in online and social media engagement at Bentz Whaley Flessner. To contact Justin, click here.

2 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why Social Media Is Not “Just for Kids”

  1. You are right Justin: NPOs cannot brush off social media as just for the young, the kids, the millennials, a fad etc. And you never know which post just might move someone who either has money or has influence over someone WITH money.

    I don’t agree with all the personal suppositions that Alicia Bonner Ness suggests annoy all Millennials. Nevertheless she does remind us fundraisers that we must remember that ‘I AM NOT the TARGET AUDIENCE.” The way I prefer to communicate may not be the preferred method of another.

    I apply a simple concept to fundraising that I learned to apply in youth ministry: If you want to reach the ‘natives’ (presumes I am an ‘alien’ to their culture) you must first live in their culture and learn what is important to them. One of Steven Covey’s habits is: seek first to understand before being understood….a good rule to follow even for mass market marketing appeals!

    • Excellent points, Keith. I especially like the last one you make about the important of understanding or listening to your audience. It’s sounds like such a simple concept, but truly listening is an art!

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