What is a social media strategy for fundraising?

When I ask clients “do you have a social media strategy?” they will often point me to a list of guidelines for best practices on using social media. Make no mistake, establishing guidelines for your organization’s use of social media is smart …but it’s far from a strategy.

A good social media strategy starts with a statement of goals, tactics, tools, and metrics.

A good social media strategy starts with a statement of goals, tactics, tools, and metrics.

An online and social media strategy – a document that helps you effectively manage your presence and accomplish fundraising goals – consists of two parts.

  1. First, on online and social media strategy should be a statement of goals, tactics for accomplishing those goals, resources that will be deployed, and a system for measuring the effectiveness of all that online activity.
  2. Second, should be a timeline that extends out over at least the next 12 months. On this timeline should be all the major events, milestones, campaigns, and other opportunities for fundraising and/or donor engagement. For each event/opportunity on this timeline, there should be a detailed set of tactics that will be deployed for accomplishing the associated goals. And because it’s a timeline, there will likely be items several months in advance that are imperative to the success of each event or opportunity. This second portion of the strategy is key to ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.

The two components of your strategy should work together. For example, the first portion (the goals/tactics/resources/metrics piece) should be applied to the timeline to help planners create a cohesive, on-message, and consistent approach for managing homecoming …or for the communication plan around a hospital gala …or the one-day fundraising effort for your small nonprofit around #GivingTuesday.

Why does this matter? Think about your organization’s online activity. Is it a series of one off posts that have no interconnectivity? When you post something on Facebook or Twitter, are you thinking about how that post will impact your audience’s sense of philanthropy around a specific initiative, say a scholarship drive? If you’re planning an online fundraising campaign in support of scholarships in five months, you should be posting content that (however subtly and cleverly) reinforces that audience’s understanding of the importance of supporting scholarship-related fundraising activity over the next five months (among other good content aimed at other strategic goals, of course).

Unfortunately, too many content decisions are made based on “what’s happening right now?” or “what do we need to immediately accomplish?” or “what’s hot in the news?” Not to say those things don’t matter. In fact, a portion of your social media activity needs to be reactive to provide adequate customer service. The best content is audience-focused and timely. But that doesn’t mean strategic messaging can’t be baked into the content. Not to mention, advanced planning actually frees your staff up to be more reactive, because they’ve already completed some of the work needed to reach those long-term goals.

To do the big things requires a long-term strategy that everyone on your team supports and understands. So what does this look like in real life?

In April 2013, a smart charted plotted out over a timeline led to huge donor acquisition numbers for UMass Amherst.

In April 2013, a smart strategy plotted out over a timeline led to huge donor acquisition numbers for UMass Amherst.

When you plan in advance, produce a timeline, and have a strategy to guide it all, you’re positioning your organization for success. And with how important online communication has become for nonprofits, it’s imperative your organization or institution finds the resources to enact this strategic approach.

Justin Ware is the Director Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. If you’d like to learn more about how Justin helps clients build strategies that lead to six- and seven-figure online fundraising success, click here.

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