Benefits of social data for philanthropy, fundraising, and major gifts officers


Social media is typically relegated to one person or department within an organization - either marketing or IT. There are benefits to getting all your departments involved in social media, but that doesn’t mean you have to give every VP a Twitter account. Instead, let social data influence their work. For this post, I’m going to focus on how philanthropy, fundraising and major gifts officers can use social media to enhance what they’re already doing. In the next post, I’ll focus on C-suite executives.

Philanthropy and development officers often have proven methods for success, typically a combination of in-person visits, phone conversations, personal emails, and events.

A successful major gifts officer told me that the key pillars for major gifts success are:

Capacity: “Can they give?”

To learn whether a prospect has the capacity to give, fundraisers typically use services like WealthPoint, TrueGivers, and WealthEngine. Social media isn’t much help here.

Philanthropy: “Do they give?”

Once again, services like WealthPoint, TrueGivers, and WealthEngine are typically employed to see if the person has given before to other organizations. Social media isn’t likely to be terribly informative here, either, unless they post every time they make a donation to a nonprofit.

Passion: “What do they care about?”

This is really where nonprofits have a major opportunity to use social data for improvement. They will be much more successful at connecting the nonprofit to that person’s life and passions, whether they meet them in person, talk to them over the phone, or meet them at an event.

Gifts officers should aim to connect the aspects of the nonprofit’s work that align with what the donor personally cares about. The major gifts officer I spoke to, who worked in the environmental advocacy field, used Profile Builder, and saw that one of her prospects didn’t tweet much, but did mention climate change in two out of his previous ten tweets. This does not suggest the officer should go engage him on social media, but she now knows a key area of interest for him, and can leverage that in her interactions with him. When she went up to New York to talk to him in person, she knew what to talk about. She forwards news articles to him about climate change with a personal note each time.Again, it’s not about the major gifts officer maintaining a presence on social media or interacting with prospects on social media, but learning what really matters to the donor through what they say online, and bringing opportunities from the organization that match that interest.

Timing: “Are they ready to give?”

Without social data, this is hard for nonprofits to assess.  Usually major gift officers take a shot in the dark when determining the best time is to touch base, call, or make the ask. But with social media, you can find out two great points in which to make a connection with a prospect.

First, you’ll want to connect with a prospect RIGHT AWAY if they directly mention your organization or cause on social media. That’s when you know they’re thinking about you!

Second, take note of key events in their life when they might be particularly open to donating and/or making a connection with the organization: for example, job changes, location changes, births, graduations, travel, health-related issues. These are great times to make an emotional connection with a prospect.

Again, I want to emphasize that when major gifts officers reach out to prospects, they should use whatever method has been successful for them. Social media provides the background information they’ll be using to make that connection and build that relationship over time.

Has your organization used social data to inform its fundraising outreach? If so, what’s worked for you?

Photo credit: NWABR on Flickr