HOW TO Build a Digital Major Gifts Program

I love it when anecdotes plus statistics lead to predictions, which then become real life case studies and finally evidential proof.

In 2012, we first witnessed major donors taking notice of online campaigns when a dozen major gift prospects made their first gifts ever to Florida State University during the school’s inaugural “Great Give.” These were prospects who had never made a gift of any size or type, but felt compelled to do so for the first time during the online giving day micro campaign. (Most gifts were made online in the $500 to $5,000 range with one coming in offline as a $100,000 pledge)

Major gift donors and prospects often give four- and five-figure gifts through ScaleFunder's crowdfunding and giving day modules without being specifically solicited.

Major gift donors and prospects often give four- and five-figure gifts through ScaleFunder’s crowdfunding and giving day modules without being specifically solicited.

Flash forward to the nearly 900 crowdfunding projects and online giving days ScaleFunder’s team has helped to launch and the refrain is similar in many cases – big gifts come from major donors and prospects, often unsolicited.

But those big gift donors should have been solicited, because we know:

  • 85 percent of millionaires use social media, text messaging, AND smartphone applications. (Fidelity Investments study of millionaire investors)
  • Online donors have higher household incomes than those who only give offline. (2012 Convio study)
  • Online-acquired donors give twice the average size of gift compared with donors acquired via mail. (2012 Blackbaud study)

The statistics tell us the more money a person has, the more likely it is they are engaged online and via social media. Past experience tells us big donors are excited by innovative online giving efforts. For these reasons, digital is quickly becoming a staple of the best major gift programs. With that in mind, here are a few tips for injecting digital energy into your traditional major gifts program:

Train gift officers to be active in the digital space

This is not a mandate that every single gift officer opens and maintains Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for engaging donors. Instead, find those gift officers who are already active online as well as those who have an interest in increasing their digital footprint for fundraising. Build a training program for the willing gift officers that helps the novices get started and the pros polish their online appearance.

The same goes for your institution’s leadership. For the right donor, having a president or chancellor comment on that donor’s Facebook photo of their granddaughter’s graduation could be monumentally effective at strengthening that donor’s affinity for the institution. Again – provide training for your administration so those opportunities can be identified and leveraged.

Provide digital opportunities for major gift donors

From offering innovative matching and challenge opportunities to branding a giving day theme in the name of a specific donor’s family, online giving campaigns can serve as virtual naming rights for your digitally active major donors and prospects. Whether it’s a giving day theme or a crowdfunding perk, think about how you might build your biggest donors into your online campaigns in visible and meaningful ways.

Create a subgroup of major donor online ambassadors

We’ve seen major donors set up crowdfunding campaigns that have brought in $60,000 in a matter of days. More importantly, those major-donor-led crowdfunding campaigns have identified new major donor prospects through the networks of the major donor ambassadors who launched the campaigns. Which makes perfect sense – major donors often have major donor prospects in their networks (online and offline). Leveraging a major donor’s support as both a donor and recruiter can more than double their impact.

Major donors are proving to us they want to be involved during online campaigns through their actions during those campaigns. On Wednesday January 20, RNL/ScaleFunder’s Vice President of Digital Fundraising Strategy, Justin Ware (that’s me), led a webinar with tips and tactics for building digital into your major gifts program. Click here for the recording, slides, and infographic of that webinar.

3 Thoughts on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and “Slacktivism”

Ice Bucket Challenge

One of the many thousands willing to douse themselves in ice water for the ALS Association.

You’ve probably seen it at least once in your Facebook News Feed – one of your friends dumping a bucket of water on themselves and asking that you either do the same OR make a gift to the ALS Association.

It’s called the “Ice Bucket Challenge” and from a pure fundraising standpoint,  it’s been wildly successful. The campaign kicked off in late July and has, so far, directly led to $2.3 million in fundraising. More over, from July 29 to August 12, the ALS Association says they’ve raised more than $4 million. During the same time last year, the Association raised $1.12 million. So, the #IceBucketChallenge is working both from the fundraising and awareness perspectives.

But the campaign has its fair share of detractors who say the #IceBucketChallenge is classic “slacktivism” (though the initial numbers suggest that’s far from true).

So is the effort worthwhile? Are the 70,000+ donors who participated (so far) going to become long-time supporters of the ALS Association? Or does the #IceBucketChallenge provide an easy out for supporters who would give financially but instead take a video of themselves and post it on Facebook (that’s slacktivism, in case you were wondering).

Well, first off, it’s not really slacktivism if the effort leads to 7-figure fundraising hauls. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that slacktivism, if it leads to 7-figure fundraising hauls, is far from a bad thing.

But the ALS Association still has the “problem” of retaining all these new donors.

Fortunately, that’s the easy part. Most successful online campaigns include a rush of new donors. To retain those donors and move them up the pipeline, consider the following:

  • Deploy a strong, well-resourced content marketing strategy. These new donors gave to you because they saw a post online, right? Then focus your stewardship efforts on that channel. Invest in great video, photography, and infographics. Repeatedly show the impact of giving through mission-related stories posted online. Remind the new donors of how close you are to a cure and/or what it will take to reach that cure. Use digital content delievered via email, social networks, and online ambassadors (the so-called “slacktivists” in this case) to reinforce giving and prime donors for the next ask.
  • Thank them profusely. Surprisingly, many organizations still drop the ball when it comes to effectively showing their gratitude for a donor’s gift. After the donor makes a gift, have two emails ready to go – one to thank current donors for their continued support and another to welcome new donors to your cause. In each case, detail the impact of their gift. For new donors, it’s about education and retention. Focus this effort on how their gift is changing the world and helping them understand the crux of your organization’s mission. For repeat donors, it’s an update on campaign progress, a call to action that asks them to share the news of their gift online and via social media, and something that highlights the impact of this specific gift.
  • Don’t forget about mail! Especially for your new donors, send them a beautiful new donor package in the mail that thanks them for their support and tells the story of your organization. Then track both their response to mail and digital outreach. If they continue to engage online, but not via mail, think about moving more resources to your online programs to support your donors’ desired form of connectivity to your organization. But first, start with a good mail piece.

From what this author knows about them, the ALS Association is a smart organization that is five steps ahead of the tips in this blog post. Which means the ALS Association is probably prepared to enjoy long relationships with their new donors from the #IceBucketChallenge. And your organization can enjoy the same retention success with online donors, if you follow their gifts with a multi-channel, content-driven engagement and stewardship strategy.

Justin Ware is Director Interactive Communications at BWF_social where he helps clients build world-leading online fundraising programs.

LinkedIn for Development Pros – Get Personal

Would you rather keep your Facebook profile private? So would most people.

How about Twitter …not your bag? No big deal! Not a fan of photography? (Yours or other people’s?) Then Instagram probably isn’t the place for you.

But if you’re a gift officer, work in alumni relations, have contact with grateful patients, or have any other role in fundraising that involves connecting with donors, then you must have a personal LinkedIn profile. If not, you’re short changing your organization and missing out on significant and impactful connection opportunities with supporters. Seriously, it’s the equivalent of not having a telephone (and we all know telephones are still crucially important).

So what do you do with your LinkedIn profile? First, update it. Make sure you have:

  • A recent and professional profile picture.
  • A succinct summary that speaks clearly about your role in your organization.
  • An updated work history (at least the relevant stuff to your current role).
  • Your volunteer work listed (especially that related to your org, because it will help prospective donors find you in their searches).

Next, post information that matters to your community. It could be networking opportunities, fundraising events, big gift news …really, whatever matters to your donors.


Help keep your supporters and donor community in the loop with timely LinkedIn updates.

Help keep your supporters and donor community in the loop with timely LinkedIn updates.

Use LinkedIn to find new donors and learn more about current donors. Where they work, if they just got promoted, what volunteer work they’ve completed, which additional social networks are they active on …all of this is information you can find on most people’s public LinkedIn profiles. It’s a treasure trove, it’s free, and it’s as simple as a Google search.

Finally, use LinkedIn to connect with your supporters and donors. In a lot of cases, LinkedIn’s message system will connect you with a donor more effectively than the email address you have on file.

Our donors are more segmented than ever before when it comes to the communication channels they use. For some, the phone is still king. For others, print matters most. For many, face to face interaction is the necessary ingredient to seal the deal. But online is now just as crucial as all those aforementioned channels (with the possible exception of face to face). Don’t believe me? Did you know that 74 percent of ALL consumers now use social media to make purchase decisions? (Klout, 2014 Study) How about that 71 percent of American adults are on Facebook? (Pew, 2014 study) Social media is too ubiquitous in our daily lives to be ignored and LinkedIn is the professional network where many people expect other accomplished professionals to be active. Don’t disappoint this segment of your supporters. Beef up your LinkedIn presence today.

Justin Ware is the author of this post and Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social. To learn more about Justin’s work, click here.

ASU Raises More Than $3 Million During 2-day Online Campaign

There’s nothing like the feeling after an intense fundraising campaign ends with all the goals met. And of course, it’s great when your organization blows past its goals. But how about when you beat your goals by more than 3,800 percent?

That was the glorious experience Arizona State University development pros enjoyed after ASU recorded an awe-inspiring $3,059,265 during the second annual, two-day, Mark It Day online fundraising campaign. That $3 million haul vastly exceeded the modest goal they had set of $76,611. (ASU had raised roughly $170,000 during the first Mark It Day one year earlier)

So… HOW?!?! Well, to begin with, ASU had solid online infrastructure built on the iModules platform. An attractive landing page for the campaign had a nice mix of fundraising asks, updates, and engaging content…

ASU's Mark It Day started with an attractive, engaging campaign home page.

ASU’s Mark It Day started with an attractive, engaging campaign home page.


The campaign page also had clever, interactive content to add to the notion of this campaign being a major event.

The campaign page also had clever, interactive content to add to the notion of this campaign being a major event.

Markie - the Mark It Day mascot

Markie – the Mark It Day mascot

Beyond the basics, Arizona State’s annual giving and interactive marketing teams got together to assemble a strategy built around smart, fun, engaging content. The very idea of the campaign is both cute and engaging. Markie – essentially a map pin mascot – encourages ASU alumni to mark their place on the map with a gift. It’s the type of campaign where donors contribute almost involuntarily, because taking part is so much fun thanks to the technology.

Another key to ASU’s success were the efforts at bringing the entire campus community on board with the campaign.

“Mark It Day 2014 had increased partner participation with colleges, programs, faculty, staff, and students all helping spread our message and encouraging people to support ASU,” said Stacy Holmstedt, Senior Director of Internet Marketing.

Holmstedt and fellow campaign planner, Senior Director of Annual Giving Shad Hanselman, worked diligently to get their colleagues on board by providing them with the resources they needed to successfully contribute to the effort.

“We created a lot of custom prepared social media messaging and art for each of the colleges so they could just plug it in and go,” said Holmstedt. “We’ve found that the easier you make it for your colleagues, the higher amount of success you’ll have in getting your message out to a wide audience.”

Markie Day Graphic

Markie Day Graphic 2









ASU also didn’t let the enthusiasm from the first Mark It Day in 2013 die after the campaign closed. Instead, they used Markie to keep the idea of philanthropy alive and thriving throughout the year.

“Markie has his own social media presence and thousands of followers, and he kept them engaged throughout the year, not just in the weeks building up to the campaign,” said Holmstedt. “He did some fun things like leading a Fight Song Sing-Along video and constantly posted shout-outs to students who were being philanthropic, even if they weren’t giving directly to ASU. Building a culture of philanthropy has been of great importance here.”

As for advice, Holmstedt and Hanselman say “start planning early” and learn what it is about your audience that will motivate them to give during the campaign.

“Ours like seeing their names appear on a map in real-time; both the individual recognition and the instant gratification are motivational to our audience,” said Holmstedt.

But perhaps most important, don’t go it alone.

“Getting buy-in from the whole university is also key. This can’t just be a foundation effort, it has to be ‘everyone in.'”

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner where he helps clients produce six- and seven-figure online fundraising campaigns. To contact Justin, click here.



Online Ambassadors Are Not a Fundraising Crutch

4 Tips to Help You Build a Program that Benefits Your Organization AND Your Online Ambassadors

When you consider how quickly a message travels online and you see the ever-growing list of successful online campaigns that utilize ambassadors – the most recent being Georgetown’s “City Challenge” – it’s easy to assume that online ambassadors are the magic bullet that will lead to Internet fundraising success.

Image courtesy:

Online ambassadors make messages go viral …if you build a program around them.
Image courtesy:

In part, that conclusion is the fault of people like myself for constantly drilling home the online ambassador or peer-to-peer fundraising concept. Make no mistake, ambassador programs are important and they are powerful. Are you looking to get your message out and expand your base? Social media is the #1 way in which digitally engaged people learn of a new cause …by far. (Source: Georgetown/Waggener Edstrom study) Are you looking to raise more money? A peer recommendation is by far the most effective form of advertising and promotion (Nielsen, 2012 study). So yes, online peer-to-peer activity drives fundraising and might be the single most important thing you can do to raise awareness around a cause. The question is, after you’ve identified and engaged your most influential online supporters, why would they want to help your organization achieve its goals?

Every time we learn of another successful ambassador-driven campaign, it’s easy to fall into the trap of asking our most influential online supporters to do the fundraising dirty work for our organization. Every so often, we send them an email asking them to post a message on Facebook, Twitter, their blog, or whatever social network they’re active on, that asks their social media connections to make a gift to our organizations. This practice of having our ambassadors make online asks for our organization is a component of an online ambassador program – from an organizational standpoint, it’s one of the most important components. But to keep an ambassador engaged and enthusiastic about helping an organization raise money, requires more than just relying on them as a crutch to boost online giving in a pinch. It means consistently, throughout the year, delivering on the needs and wants of that ambassador through a program that makes them feel important to your organization’s success (they are), keeps them informed about the inner workings of an organization (many of them want to know), and rewards their efforts. The following are a few ideas on how your organization might do that…

Keep them in the loop: Part of the criteria for being an online ambassador includes having a strong affinity for your organization or institution, which means they want more information about your organization than the average person. Use the Internet – social media specifically – to deliver that news to your ambassadors. Be sure they’re the first to learn of new initiatives, research, organizational changes, or whatever else is happening at your org. I’d argue your ambassadors should know before the established news media. The news media is there to report the story to a larger audience. Ambassadors will do that, but with more zeal than you’d get from a non-biased reporter. (And the ambassadors’ online friends will trust the news more from them than any other source)

Make them feel as though they’re part of an exclusive club: This is an extension of the above tip about keeping ambassadors in the loop. Being the first to know is valuable in and of itself and is something many ambassadors would appreciate. Other exclusive perks include live video chats with your organization’s leadership, inclusion on a website that recognizes the ambassador’s work, and content created that highlights the ambassadors’ impact (a video “thank you”, for example).

Provide them with a service: What can you offer ambassadors? We know of university alumni associations that have provided free webinars for their ambassadors to help them become better online communicators. For example, a series of six short webinars that give tips on “writing for a blog” or “video editing for YouTube.” Not only does this strengthen your relationship with the ambassadors, because you’re offering them a free, exclusive service, but it makes them better at producing content …which can ultimately be of tremendous benefit to your organization or institution. (See “user-generated content”)

Of course, the webinars don’t have to be about using the Internet. Are you a water charity? How about a YouTube video that helps campers purify water for safe drinking. An Alzheimer’s org? A series of webinars with brain games that strengthen cognitive ability. Again, you’re nurturing relationships with ambassadors and, at the same time, giving them content they’ll likely want to share with their networks thereby broadening awareness of your mission.

Give them free stuff! T-shirts, tickets, and other free items do encourage people to get involved. During their recent UMassGives online fundraising event, the University of Massachusetts Amherst saw some of its highest giving traffic take place when a free UMassGives campaign t-shirt was offered for the next 100 donors. Again, ambassadors are proud of your organization – give them merchandise that helps them show off your organization online and off!

Planning an online ambassador program for your organization or institution? BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware can help. Find his email address and bio by clicking here.

3 Tips for Targeting Donors Through Facebook Ads

A very common and great question social media philanthropists are often asked is “how do we raise money using Facebook?” Short answer? “Very creatively.” But a more serious and useful answer is “through a smart Facebook ad strategy.”

If you know your donors’ email addresses, then you can send an ad directly to their Facebook News Feeds, even if those donors haven’t “liked” page. This allows for incredibly targeted messaging via the world’s most popular social network and provides an excellent opportunity for reaching current and lapsed donors. Interested in learning more? Check out the video below from John Haydon that goes into detail about how to set up Facebook ads to reach your donors or just go to his blog post by clicking here. (Then continue reading below the video for tips on what your ads should be asking of donors)

So now you know how to get your nonprofit in front of your donors through a Facebook ad. But how do you get them to click on the ad? For this, I would suggest the same rules apply to Facebook ads that apply to all content on social networks – stay appropriate for the space. In other words, produce ads that are in line with what your donors expect to see when they log in to Facebook. So what do they expect to see or what would they consider appropriate on Facebook? Are they planning on looking at pictures? Checking up on their friends or kids? “Liking” things? Probably all of the above. The key is creating an ad that fits in seamlessly with that activity. For example, your Facebook ad might:

  • Alert donors to a new photo album from a big event that was recently uploaded. You control what your Facebook ad says and what it asks users to do. So after that big donor recognition event, or football game, or disaster your organization responded to, make a Facebook photo album and post it to your organization’s Facebook page. Then, link to that album via a custom Facebook ad. Next, share that ad with your donors by including their email addresses in the audience for the ad. Boom. Your awesome photo album is now shared with all your donors who have Facebook accounts connected to valid email addresses.
  • Tell donors which of their Facebook friends have given an online gift to your organization. You do have a custom Facebook giving app, right? Because if you do, you could write really clever code that would send a Facebook ad to your donors that tells them which of their friends have given an online gift. The ad could go on to ask the donor if they’d like to join their friend and make a gift, as well.
  • SaveShelterPetsAsk them to “like” your page. “Liking” your organization’s page is a simple action, but again, it’s very appropriate for the space. People are comfortable with “liking” things on Facebook, so it’s not too much of a stretch that they would see the opportunity to like something in an ad and take that action. And it’s not a trivial action either. When a lapsed donor who throws away mail, doesn’t have a landline, or is unresponsive to any other attempt communication attempt on your part – but is active on Facebook – “likes” your page, you now have a new way of consistently stewarding them and eventually asking them for their support.

So there you have it… One of many ways in which Facebook can be leveraged to raise money for your organization.

To learn about how BWF can help your organization raise money using social media networks, contact BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware by clicking here.

Long Tail of Giving Follows Short Online Fundraising Campaigns

A new trend is starting to emerge that provides nonprofits with yet another reason to ramp up their online and social media giving efforts – the “long tail” of giving that follows those short-burst online fundraising campaigns. The roughly 24- to 72-hour, mostly-online or online-only campaigns have already proven themselves to be excellent tools for engaging new donors and boosting overall donor participation. Now, we’re starting to see the value in the “buzz” these campaigns create by the number of gifts that come in online AND off in the days and weeks immediately following the short online campaign.

Big Gifts Follow a Big Campaign at Columbia

GivingDayLogoEven without the post-campaign activity, Columbia University’s 2012 Giving Day was a big win for the institution and its alumni. In just 24 hours, Columbia’s supporters gave more than $6.8 million to the University through 4,940 gifts …all but 184 of which were given online. As is typical in short online campaigns, roughly 40 percent of those nearly 5,000 donors were making their first gift and more than half of the gifts originated on social networks (special apps allowed donors to start the giving process from blogs or Facebook pages. They were were then redirected to the main online giving website). But the giving didn’t end at midnight on Giving Day.

In the week following the Giving Day campaign, Columbia saw a significant boost to giving at all levels, with one story standing out. At an on-campus event, a major gift donor stood up in front of a crowd and pledged a seven-figure gift on the spot. The reason the donor gave for the spur-of-the-moment monster gift? They were proud of Columbia for taking such an innovative approach to giving and excited about all the activity around giving to the University they saw taking place online and, specifically, on social media. This is a direct example of social media buzz leading to major fundraising success for a university.

*Sidenote: multiple other institutions tell stories of seven-figure gifts coming in because a wealthy individual learned of the work being done at an institution on Facebook. That work mattered to the wealthy donor, causing them to reach out to the institution and make their first (very big) gift. Lesson? Social media is not just for the annual fund anymore.

UMassGives …and keeps giving

In late April 2013, the University of Massaschuetts Amherst conducted its first ever UMassGives – an entirely online, 36-hour campaign. The goal of UMassGives was twofold:

  1. Acquire new donors to UMass Amherst.
  2. Nurture the growing culture of philanthropy around the institution.

UMass Amherst accomplished all of the above raising nearly $84,000 from more than 1,500 donors. Roughly half of those donors were making their first ever gift to UMass – many of them students. Nothing says “expanding the culture of philanthropy at an institution” quite like engaging hundreds of students and young alumni in a buzz-worthy online fundraising campaign.


Twitter was a buzz with activity, helping virally spread the culture of philanthropy at UMass Amherst.

Twitter was a buzz with activity, helping virally spread the culture of philanthropy at UMass Amherst.

Again, the giving didn’t end with the 36-hour campaign. May 1-8, 2013 – the week immediately following UMassGives – saw twice the number of online gifts given and twice the dollars raised online when compared to May 1-8, 2012. This 100 percent increase to online giving is another example of the long tail following a short campaign.

Ambassadors drive buzz during and after online campaigns

Both Columbia’s Giving Day and UMassGives incorporated a peer-to-peer online communication plan. Or what we call at BWF, an online ambassador program. Ambassadors programs are built around the concept of having your biggest supporters do your communication work for your organization. Ambassadors share content on Facebook, post items to their blogs, tweet messages about your institution – they engage in activity that promotes your organization’s initiatives directly to their online connections. Simply put, ambassador programs are friends encouraging friends to support your philanthropic mission. It’s the age-old “recommendation from a friend” that is and has always been the most trusted form of promotion that leads to the most conversions – in the case of fundraising, that means more gifts given.

For Columbia and UMass, ambassadors were highly active during their online campaigns, igniting buzz in dozens of social media communities and spreading word of the campaigns. That buzz wasn’t extinguished the moment the campaigns ended. It carried throughout the days and weeks following the campaigns, helping to raise more dollars, acquire more new donors, and extend the culture of philanthropy for both institutions. The key is building a volunteer ambassador program for your organization so that you can influence that peer-to-peer activity and enjoy that long tail of giving, long after a short online fundraising campaign.

To learn about how BWF can help your organization build comprehensive online ambassador programs and prepare for online fundraising campaigns, contact BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware by clicking here.

Attacking Social Media “Slacktivists”


Courtesy of The Atlantic

UNICEF Sweden is taking shots at its online supporters who “like” activity the organization posts on Facebook. A recent ad campaign from the Sweden branch of UNICEF is rather bluntly telling its supporters that so-called vanity actions on social networks – the likes, shares, pins, retweets, etc. – do nothing to further the mission of the organization. Literally. (Check out the full story in the Atlantic by clicking here) The ads say a like on Facebook will “vaccinate zero children against polio.” (See the bottom of this post for a UNICEF YouTube spot along the same lines)

The objective of the campaign is to help supporters understand that donations are the lifeblood of the nonprofit organization. Which, of course, is true. The trouble is, donations come from a general awareness of a problem that a nonprofit solves. And awareness – as multiple studies now show – comes from activity on social networks.  Perhaps UNICEF Sweden hasn’t seen the recently released joint study from Georgetown University and Waggener Edstrom that shows social media is, by a vast majority, the primary way digitally active supporters and donors learn of new causes – even for those donors who give money offline.

“Likes” = awareness. Awareness = more donors and dollars

Let’s consider the mechanics behind some of these vanity metrics that are, by and large, worthless according to UNICEF Sweden. For example, a Facebook like. When someone “likes” a post on Facebook, that activity is sent to a large number of that person’s network of friends via their newsfeed. Go ahead, take a second to look at your Facebook feed. In the lower left, you’ll see a constantly-updating scroll of activity your friends are liking. Occasionally, that liking activity appears as a major news item in the News Feed. That leads to more exposure which leads to more new donors joining the cause. Knowing that, it would appear that mission awareness is something UNICEF Sweden does not value.

Know Your Data

Beyond the awareness building capacity of social media, there is evidence that suggests “slacktivists” are less slackerish than one might expect. According to another joint Georgetown study – highlighted in this Mashable article – slacktivists are:

  • Three times as likely to solicit donations on behalf of a charity’s cause.
  • Twice as likely to volunteer their time.
  • Equally as likely to donate as their non-social-media using counterparts (in other words, clicking “like” is not in place of a gift, but in addition to the gift).

All of the above would suggest that Facebook “likes” do, in fact, help organizations vaccinate kids against polio. As a matter of fact, a good argument could be made that a strong Facebook approach could be more effective than the ad campaign against slacktivism that UNICEF Sweden likely paid well into the six figures to create and implement.

To be fair, in the interview with the Atlantic, UNICEF Sweden’s Director of Communications Petra Hallebrant said “We like likes, and social media could be a good first step to get involved, but it cannot stop there. Likes don’t save children’s lives. We need money to buy vaccines for instance.”

Trouble with that statement is, if you look at the data, it would seem that Facebook “likes” actually do lead to money for those vaccines.

To be fair part 2, it’s certainly possible that UNICEF Sweden is trying to use the classic “shock value” approach to advertising as a way of drumming up awareness and support. And you could argue by the attention this campaign is getting in well-respected publications like The Atlantic and far less respected publications like this blog, they’re shock and awe campaign is working. Plus, the YouTube video below has been watched more than 38,000 times at the time of this post’s first publication. That is, of course, also awareness. So Maybe UNICEF Sweden is just much sharper than this author. That said, I would advise against any strategy that openly ridicules your slacktivists social champions. As the data tells us, those highly active social media supporters might just be the key to your organization’s future.

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

Emails That Don’t Ask – Online Fundraising Done Right

When producing an email for donors, the following are a couple tips for grabbing your supporters’ attention:

  • Keep it short.
  • Provide engaging content (like a video or an awesome picture).
  • As often as possible, make it about the donor.
  • Avoid making an ask in every email.

As is often the case, the online team at the Humane Society of the United States provides the blueprint for online communications with this email sent to donors who gave to prevent the Canadian seal slaughter:

HSUS_SealThanksEmailIn addition to the above criteria, this email is personalized, opens nicely on mobile devices, connects easily to leading social networks for sharing, and is upbeat. The last point is not always associated with animal welfare organizations, but the HSUS understands the value in providing hope along with the more horrific reasons why a person should give to their organization. Especially when your cause is a tough one to face on a consistent basis – poverty, illness, child abuse prevention – it’s important to remind donors that their contributions are making the world a better place.

The focus on email is crucial. According to this Chronicle of Philanthropy piece on the 2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, the share of people who made a gift in response to a fundraising email dropped by 21 percent. The article offers a slew of reasons for the decline, none of which suggest email is dead. If anything, the lower numbers are due to a carpet bomb approach and/or a general lack of good data about the donors behind the email addresses. People do read emails and when the message’s content is done right, they respond positively. The key is being personal and offering users something via email. Make it about them, as opposed to always being about your organization, and engagement with your email audience will grow …which leads to gifts when you do make an ask.

OK, now that you’ve made it through my brief tips/rant on nonprofit emails, here’s a video of cute seal pups:

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

Why Investing in Social Media Leads to High ROI

Nowadays, when I’m asked “what’s the ROI on social media for fundraising?” I often respond with my own question – “that depends, what’s your investment?”

Too often, organizations put a low-level employee or intern in charge of managing a Facebook page or Twitter account and claim that they’re active on social media. If that’s the level of investment in social media at your organization, the lack of results from social media shouldn’t come as a surprise. Real results take a real investment in time and money. If your organization is serious about  making that investment, you will see a significant return. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, check out the collection of statistics in the infographic below that show just how valuable online and social media are for your awareness building and fundraising activity.


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