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Guest Contributor

ProSpeak

By Who's Up Next?

About ProSpeak

Essays about the nitty-gritty of fundraising, written by the people who do it every day

 

Pay It Forward

F. Duke Haddad
Is Leadership Transition a Problem for You?
Jul 25, 2014

You cannot control leadership transition, but you can control how you deal with it and you can be prepared for...



Get What You Give

Joe Boland
Fundraising Special Events Report: Raising Money and Awareness
Jul 25, 2014

The goal of any fundraising event is to raise money for a worthy cause. However, according to the recently released...



Old Dog Fundraising

Pamela Barden
Never Stop Asking Why
Jul 24, 2014

What if, instead of simply going with the flow, we started asking why? Here are some fundraising things worth asking...



Outrageous Hope

Margaret Battistelli
Do You P2P?
Jul 23, 2014

Or do you want to? Either way, you should plan on joining us in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 21....



Ruthlessly Practical Fundraising

Gail Perry
The Secret to a Smart Annual Fundraising Plan
Jul 23, 2014

When you make smart choices and set thoughtful priorities about where you are going to spend your time and resources,...



Navigating Off the Napkin

Angie Moore
Picking Apart the 2014 Giving USA Stats
Jul 22, 2014

Are we back to pre-recession giving yet? Look to the 2014 Giving USA stats.
...



Donor Trippin'

Nick Allen
Is There an App for Us?
Jul 1, 2014

Got an idea for an app that could connect a charity or nonprofit with its supporters and beneficiaries in an...



Connections

Jeff Schreifels
6 Ways to Influence Your CEO to Love Fundraising
Jul 21, 2014

This is crucial. Your organization will never grow if your top leader cannot embrace fundraising and understand it's a large...



Outside Counsel

Willis Turner
6 Ways to Strengthen the Heart of a Fundraising Letter
Jul 21, 2014

A great fundraising appeal or email can have many different variables. But a clear call to action must be a...



Bedrocks & Beacons

Jeff Jowdy
What Is Your Strategy to Make and Keep Connections?
Jul 16, 2014

Relationships can be magical when nurtured. Be sure that you are focused on the right professional relationships to ensure success...



Raising the Possibilities

Thaddeus B. Kubis
Recurring Themes: The Case for Integrated Marketing Communications, Part 2
Dec 27, 2013

Recent discussions focus on a myriad of topics, but in the past two months, the recurring targeted topics seem to...



Hump Day Hullabaloo

Jo Sullivan
Hump Day Hullaballoo: Sometimes It's Hell in the Hallway
May 22, 2013

This week, as I transition into my new position as interim executive director at Save the Chimps, we're talking about...



ProSpeak: The Dilemma of Social Media: Staten Island Museum

 
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Having recently attended a Bloomberg Philanthropies two-day social media workshop by VaynerMedia for small to medium-sized not-for-profit organizations, I had time to reflect on the topic that is on every marketing professional's mind these days: What is the return of our investment in social media — in my case for a general interest museum?

To answer this question, we need to think of the goals of our social-media strategies, which for many organizations are to increase attendance, participation and financial support. These goals determine how we use social media. All too often, we broadcast our programs and fundraising appeals in the traditional "push" approach, perhaps even using the same text as in our print materials. The result is the recipients do not "like" us and do not "follow" us.    

At the Staten Island Museum, the primary goal in social media is to raise awareness and engage new audiences. This is in line with what the team of VaynerMedia pointed out: To succeed in social media, you want to engage with your Facebook friends and Twitter community by sharing interesting content, tips and photos with them. If they like it, they will post it and share it with their friends, further helping more people gain awareness of your organization.

Now, the beauty of social media is that we can engage with and raise awareness among a population that normally does not come to the museum, i.e., teens to 30-year-olds. We have often seen that people visit the museum in an elementary school group and return only when they have children of their own or are older. In addition, social media allows us to be the resource that we envision to be: a museum without walls. That way, we stay connected with former program attendees or people that share our enthusiasm — in our case, those interested in arts, natural science and local history. 

So, how do we measure our social-media success? Intuitively, one might count the number of posts or, better, the increases in Facebook "likes" and Twitter "followers." Instead, the enthusiastic VaynerMedia team recommended a measure of engagement. Just having many people "liking" your organization or "following" you does not mean they are engaged or have built a relationship with your organization, nor does it guarantee that they will see your posts (an algorithm of past reactions to your posts determines the percentage of your fans that will be exposed to future posts).

Fortunately, Facebook provides some engagement numbers (e.g., virality), and with Twitter one could count favorites and retweets. Unlike the time lag between the placement of a traditional advertisement and consumer reaction, with social media you can measure the effect almost immediately and learn which posts are effective and which are not.

Social media experts like VaynerMedia advocate for as much personalized feedback as possible, and I wonder how to do this cost-effectively when the museum's social-media professional also handles all other marketing and PR, plus helps with special events.  Even with the right analytics, the critical question remains, how does all this engagement advance our mission and our organization?

From a financial standpoint, I do not see a great return of investment. Who knows if the kids in their 20s will join the museum in 30 years, and how can we be sure it was because of an interesting tip on Facebook? Of course, some people might donate and come to an event, but does that justify 50 percent of our marketing person's salary?

How much should we invest in Facebook and Twitter? Should we add Instagram to the mix? What about Tumblr and Foursquare? Will we be able to keep our followers if social platforms change? Just think of the ghost town that Myspace is today.

In the end, the dilemma is the same it has been in marketing and advertising for decades. As former U.S. General Postmaster John Wanamaker is attributed to have said: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." 

Luckily for many not-for-profit organizations, engaging our audiences through social media is part of our mission and therefore not at all a waste of resources. We are social change agents, and taking the Staten Island Museum as an example, we want people to become familiar with the natural world, share with them classic and contemporary art, show them how their neighborhood changed over time, and most importantly, how they can participate in improving their community. Hopefully, this newly engaged citizenry will then also support the organizations that enlightened them.   

Henryk J. Behnke is vice president for external affairs and advancement at the Staten Island Museum, New York City's only general interest museum since 1881.

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