What a $4 Million Super Bowl Ad Could Buy in Digital Fundraising

Super Bowl XLVIINot many of even the largest nonprofits will be spending several million dollars on ad space during Super Bowl XLVII. But let’s pretend for a minute that one of the more well-known international names in philanthropy actually had the $4 million it takes to secure 60 seconds of ad space during the Super Bowl. Then, let’s say that big-budget nonprofit passes on the big game and instead decides to invest that $4 million in online advertising. A recent, fun-to-read post from Digiday gives the breakdown of what that $4 million could buy in online advertising.

But that Digiday piece is still looking at the digital space through the lens of traditional advertising. What if you had $4 million to spend on your online and social media strategy for fundraising? We know the Super Bowl is one time shot, but in the name of making this exercise even remotely realistic, let’s say you have the next twelve months to spend that $4 million. Just for fun, here’s how that might break down:

Staffing: $350,000

One of the first things a nonprofit needs to consider is who they’re going to have managing the daily conversation that takes place online and through social media. Social networks are about building relationships. You should be using your online tools to initiate and nurture relationships with your supporters so that you can transition them from supporters to donors or donors at a higher level. The key is, relationships between people require people. So, using a significant chunk of that $4 million on salary for conversation managers is key.

Hire capable online and social media strategists and conversation managers.

Hire capable online and social media strategists and conversation managers.

2 online conversation managers at $75,000/year with salary and benefits.

2 major gift digital officers at $100,000/year (salary and benefits).

Two notes: 1) $75,000 is not high. This is someone who is the public face of your organize every day. They are your spokesperson and every bit as important as the seasoned PR pro you might be lucky enough to have on staff. They should help plan and execute strategy and be willing to put in the hours necessary to do so. Whatever you pay your mid to upper level communicators, this should be in line with what your pay your online conversation managers.

2) Online and social media lead to big gifts. Sometimes unsolicited donors make six-figure gifts online. More typically, six- and seven-figure capacity donors make their first gifts, because of something they saw online. Furthermore, many of these major gift donors would not have been aware of your organization (nor your organization aware of them) without social media. Hire conversation managers to target this area and you’ll see better results in your major gift program.

Infrastructure: $500,000

When was the last time your organization’s online giving page was updated? How about your website? Do you have applications that allow donors to make a gift through Facebook? How about widgets that allow your supporters to post a giving portal to your org from their blog? Thanks to foregoing that Super Bowl Ad, you now have the budget to do all those things and more! Infrastructure development costs can vary significantly, but we can’t think of an organization in the world that would be able to spend more than $500,000 in a year on development costs and any associated fees (building your own social network from scratch is about $100,000 on the high end). In other words, you could redo everything online for much less, but remember, we’re trying to spend $4 million here.

Also included in the $500,000 are top-of-the-line metrics services like Radian6.

Strategic Planning and Consulting: $150,000

First, yes this is somewhat of a shameless plug. Second, if all we’re talking about is digital strategy, this is on the high end (despite having some comprehensive agreements with clients, none of our social media engagements have approached this amount). With those two items out of the way, what should you hope to get from this investment? Assurance that the first two larger investments (staff and infrastructure) are being utilized in the right ways, for one thing. You might also provide training for your staff on how to engage and steward donors online. You might be planning a first-time online campaign and want to be sure you’re applying best practices and not making mistakes others have made. Hopefully you’re interested in developing an online ambassador program that will both increase the number of donors in your database and boost giving at all levels.

So far, you’ve spent $1,000,000. It’s pretty clear we’re talking about a larger organization with a sizeable budget, but this can easily be scaled down to fit the budgets of much smaller nonprofits. Any organization that invests time and resources in any combination of the above would likely see that investment come back with (significant) interest in the first year following implementation (and even more so beyond 12 months). So before you pass this off as not feasible, remember these three things:

  1. Online donors have higher household incomes than offline donors.
  2. More donors now make their first gifts online in every age group 65 and under.
  3. Online donors give nearly twice as much per gift as offline donors.

Online and social media isn’t an intangible force. It is now a proven fundraising tool that, when done right, will boost giving to your organization. Oh, and that extra $3 million we didn’t spend from the Super Bowl ad? Save it for next year, of course! 🙂

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

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