Stop Telling Nonprofits They Can’t Raise Money Using Social Media

A message to social media managers, consultants, gurus, experts, etc – STOP TELLING NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS YOU CAN’T RAISE MONEY ON SOCIAL MEDIA. It’s cliche and it’s not true. But you don’t have to take my word for it…

In October 2012, Columbia University launched their inaugural Giving Day. By all accounts, Giving Day 2012 was a monstrous success raising more than $6.8 million from 4,940 donors. How did so many thousands of donors decide to jump on board? Primarily, because those donors learned of the campaign via social media and made their gifts directly after seeing a post on social media. 55 percent of all referral traffic to Columbia’s online giving page during the campaign came via social media. In other words, social media led directly to a lot of giving activity during Columbia’s Giving Day.


Yes, you can raise money using Facebook. It takes a smart strategy and it’s not free, but it can be enormously effective.

Still not convinced? Think about the online ambassador programs that we at BWF have helped multiple clients build. During ambassador-led fundraising campaigns, on average, those institutions saw 40 percent of all giving come from new donors. 40 percent. That flurry of new donor activity happened because dozens, in some cases hundreds, of passionate supporters were sharing the message of the campaign with their friends via social media networks. Again, this peer-to-peer social media activity was a direct driver of fundraising activity.

I get it – when someone says “you can’t raise money on social media” they’re referring to the approach of an organization or institution sending out bland fundraising asks via their official Facebook or Twitter accounts. It’s true that approach rarely works. The carpet-bombing-your-audience-with-posts-begging-for-money method is an unimaginative approach that applies old marketing principals (push messaging) to new channels (social media networks). But we know better than that now. We know how to strategically engage influential social media users and work with them to build wildly successful six- and seven-figure online fundraising campaigns.

So yes, you can use social media to raise money online. In fact, when the following three things are done and done well, I don’t know of a single organization that has fallen short of its online fundraising goals:

  • Build good online infrastructure (campaign landing page, apps, widgets, mobile responsiveness, etc)
  • Develop a robust online ambassador program
  • Implement a smart content marketing strategy to drive buzz

Doing the above is not free. It’s takes significant staff time and probably an investment in outside counsel and a tech vendor (Columbia had both). But when the investment is made, you absolutely can use social media to raise (a lot of) money.

Bentz Whaley Flessner’s Justin Ware helps clients build online ambassador programs that lead to successful online fundraising campaigns. If you’d like to have online fundraising success, connect with Justin by clicking here.



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