From posts to relationships: Using social media to increase donations

In 2008 and 2009, organizations were discovering and getting started with social media. Lots of people were eager to try it out; others dove in because the were told they had to.

By the time 2010 rolled around, people recognized that social media was great, but were getting pressure to show some kind of tangible success from it. Bit.ly and other link trackers became essential tools for nonprofits engaging in social media, and people worked hard to increase their number of fans and followers.

So what does 2011 hold? After spending time measuring "success" in terms of clicks, comments, retweets, "likes," fans and followers, nonprofit managers are starting to wonder how all this impacts the bottom line so crucial to their organization's success: fundraising. Awareness-building is helpful, but are your efforts in social media increasing the number and size of donations? And if not, how can they?

The key is relationship building. By interacting directly with your fans and followers, building a context for the conversation, and really connecting their interests to your cause, you can make a measurable impact on your fundraising goals.

It's about more than just replying to people who tweet about you. It's about more than calling them out on Follow Friday. It's about identifying the people who are already passionate about your cause but aren't specifically engaged with your organization, then cultivating long-term relationships with them. This effort requires keyword tracking, insights into each person's interests and demographic information, and tracking of conversations over time.

It sounds like a lot of work, and it can be. It requires time and commitment, but there are tools available to make this effort more efficient and effective. But the payoff is great: casual fans evolve into super fans. Super fans donate and encourage others to do so. They volunteer. They advocate for your cause.

Your organization needs more than a legion of people casually interested in what you do. It needs super fans. The question is, are you willing to invest in the process it takes to create them? The power is in your hands.