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Don't Trade Short-Term Social-Media Success for Long-Term Donor Value

December 7, 2010 By Robin Fisk

For all of the opportunities that social media brings to fundraisers, the ability to establish and develop long-lasting supporter relationships has not been one of them — at least not yet.

Early applications of social media for fundraising, such as the Causes app on Facebook, were limited to asking for donations. They did not always have the means or permission for capturing the donor information required for initiating and developing a dialogue, which might then result in the longer-term deepening of commitment and support.

Relationships matter because as any fundraiser will tell you, there generally is a correlation between the length of the donor relationship and the amount he or she gives. It’s only within the context of that kind of trusted relationship that you have the opportunity to cross-sell and upsell. For example, long-term supporters are more likely to leave you a bequest. And supporters who give their time and money usually give more than those who just give money.

A new social-media tool, Jumo.com, is seeking to provide a platform that builds stronger connections between supporters and the causes they support. Jumo founder Chris Hughes — co-founder of Facebook — likens it to a Yelp for charities. It’s a place where you can find issues and projects that interest you, follow them to get updates, and then support them if you like.

Certainly, the Jumo concept adds some depth to the ways supporters can demonstrate their empathy for causes, but it’s worth remembering that it’s still not the same as actually supporting them. And it may just be launch-day issues, but I couldn’t actually get onto the website to try it out.

So are the two mutually exclusive? Can you embrace social media as a channel and still aim to engage those individuals in a relationship? Clearly, people who have clicked "Like" on your organization’s Facebook presence have not given you permission to build much of a rapport. Yes, they will see your status updates, but unless they click the link to your website, make a donation and register, you are not going to be in a position to communicate in a meaningful way. Perhaps that’s the way they want it to remain — more to be seen as supporting you than actually doing so. You could even argue that by giving them the option of anonymous one-time donations via PayPal, or the like, you’re sacrificing the potential of long-term benefit from those who do want to support you for short-term gain.

 

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