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ProSpeak

By Who's Up Next?

About ProSpeak

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

 

Outside Counsel

Willis Turner
Will This Bad Fundraising Idea Ever Die?
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Connections

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Are You Truly Thankful for Your Donors?
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My question to you: Are you really thankful for all of your donors? Do they know how much they are...



Pay It Forward

F. Duke Haddad
Consistent Performance Is Key
Nov 21, 2014

Think about your work performance, and strive to give it your best each day. You will drive home with a...



Get What You Give

Joe Boland
St. Joseph's Indian School Responds to CNN's 'Fictitious Kids' Claims
Nov 19, 2014

St. Joseph's Indian School responds to CNN's claims that the school used fundraising letters "signed by fictitious kids." It's a...



Old Dog Fundraising

Pamela Barden
A Pre-Holiday Gift for Fundraisers: More Time
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If you are hoping for a personal copy of Hermione's time turner, I can't help you (sorry, non-Harry Potter fans),...



It's Your Turn

Larry C Johnson
Blasting Off With Social Media
Nov 20, 2014

Change is coming to philanthropy. Big change. Hoping it will "blow over" is not a workable response. Doing what you've...



Ruthlessly Practical Fundraising

Gail Perry
Should You Adopt a 'Give or Get' Policy for Your Board?
Nov 19, 2014

Don't abandon your board members when it comes to their fundraising responsibilities. Help them get there. Show them what to...



Bedrocks & Beacons

Jeff Jowdy
That Fancy Brochure Isn't Going to Raise a Dime
Nov 19, 2014

Don't let the journey for "impressive" materials take the focus away from the right strategy and making inspiring visits with...



Outrageous Hope

Margaret Battistelli
Our Virtual Show Is Fast Approaching
Nov 18, 2014

The FundRaising Success Virtual Conference and Expo is free, and it's only a few weeks away, so be sure to...



Navigating Off the Napkin

Angie Moore
You Need a Social Plan Before You Start Playing With the Social Channels
Nov 10, 2014

Why? Because 53 percent of you are not measuring your social-media efforts and 67 percent have no social-media strategy. We...



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...



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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