Why social media isn’t the end-all-be-all of nonprofit broadcast fundraising

Should social media be used in nonprofit fundraising? The answer is yes and no.
Date Published
02/11/2016

Social media has been heralded as a fundamental fundraising breakthrough for nonprofit organizations in the past few years. Many Facebook users still remember the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” of 2014. This challenge required participants to nominate friends to dump ice-cold water over their heads and continue the chain. Participants who did not want to douse themselves with ice water had the choice to donate to the ALS Association for the cure to Lou Gehrig’s disease. In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge ended up raising more than 115 million dollars with money still being distributed today.

“Social media can lead a horse to water, but it can’t make it drink.”

Since this fundraiser, citizens outside the U.S. and organizations including nonprofit broadcasts stations have tried to replicate this social media success for other causes. Yet is repetition of previous social campaigns the only key to opportunity? For that matter, do nonprofit broadcast stations even need expansive social media to quickly obtain donations?

Our answer is no. Here’s why:

Plenty of attention, little action
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Heard that before? This applies to social media marketing for nonprofits perfectly. According to NPR, social media can be useful for nonprofit radio stations but posts do not always lead to donations. Social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter have the great ability to raise awareness of an issue, but they fall flat getting users to actually click and donate. According to the 2015 M+R Benchmarks Study conducted by M+R and the Nonprofit Technology Network, most companies did not receive donations through social media or email newsletter click-through. Instead, most nonprofits raise up to $612 dollars for every 1,000 visitors on a nonprofit website. 

Social media posts with call-to-action buttons aren’t the only donation method falling by the wayside. Email marketing and advocacy is as well, with the M + R study citing an 18 percent drop in response rate since 2013.

Where are consumers most likely to donate then? According to a study published by Adobe in December 2015, three quarters of visitors to nonprofit websites arrived there via a direct web search, not a social media post. However, social media can gently sway an audience to donate of donations. These results echo a similar study conducted by the Red Cross in 2014, saying that most social media posts helped persuade audiences to donate, but not directly do so.

Social media can help raise awareness but not necessarily lead to click-through.Social media can help raise awareness of an organization but not necessarily lead to donations.

How should my station fundraise?
Nonprofit radio stations have many viable options for fundraising. On-air broadcasts can be utilized, as well as corporate sponsorships made possible through a fundraising manager. Another viable option is to utilize donation buttons on apps such as NPR One, giving listeners the option to donate directly from mobile devices. As well, consider local fundraisers and live broadcasts at community events and nonprofit fundraising software to manage all incoming donations.

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