Our trust has eroded in traditional, official messengers. Instead, we increasingly look to people like ourselves for reliable information.
What does that mean for nonprofit fundraisers? You need to let other people—trusted people—speak for you. This is the year you must exit center stage and switch up your messengers to attain social proof. It should not just be you out there online, it should also be trusted leaders in your community, online thought leaders, and your most ardent supporters. Here's why:
- First, personal fundraising is based on a two-way relationship, not a one-sided promotion. It puts the cause-related message in the mouth of the person who is most likely to prompt a donation: someone the audience knows. The act of giving becomes an attractive way for the audience to play a role in the relationship—to show that he or she is someone who cares about doing good, who wants to be a supportive friend, and who is a part of something larger then himself.
- Second, the personal fundraiser is an authentic and authoritative messenger. People listen to other people. Messengers from outside an organization are often more credible than the organization itself. That’s why an outside messenger such as a donor that fundraises for an organization, has the potential to cut through the communications clutter.
- Third, people listen to personal fundraisers because their message is based in story. There is no more powerful way to move people to action than storytelling. Storytelling often comes more naturally to supporters than to charities themselves. The effect of these personal stories is remarkable as a recruitment vehicle for charities.
And, don’t just ask your fans for money—ask them to spread the word. Make sure it’s easy for them to evangelize on your behalf. How do you do that? Think portable in all outreach.
Every single thing you do has to include a way for people to take your message to their own circles of influence. You want people to pack up anything they like and transport it online, like a super-duper cyber suitcase.
Instead of just looking at Facebook, Twitter, widgets, and others as tools for you to start conversations about your organization, you should also think of them as tools for your supporters. The ultimate power of these tools is not what they can do, but who is using them.
Here are a few tips:
- Have great content. If something is fascinating and wonderful, people will want to share it.
- Make it easy to share. Network for Good estimates that about 5% of your donors might be uber-activists who would champion your cause and recruit others.
- First step: Do you have RSS on your website?
- Second step: Do you have links to your Twitter and Facebook on your website?
- Include AddThis or another service throughout your website that allows supporters to share your content on any social network they inhabit. You want to make it easy for your supporters to integrate your cause into social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Change.org. Your supporters’ presences on these sites have implied viewer trust and, therefore, the greatest potential for converting viewers into a new community of donors.
- Include logos in a format that people can grab to put in their own posts and content.
- Think low-tech, too. Is it easy to print great content from your website?
- Create campaigns for specific needs that your supporters can promote. You can do this with tools as simple as tell-a-friend on your email campaign tool, as well as tell-a-friend and social sharing features on your donation forms. (Network for Good’s DonateNow service has this built in.)
Editori's note: This article was originally published in April 2010 and has been updated.