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Social media has a campaign role, just don’t expect Ice Bucket Challenge level of success

By November 18, 2014July 15th, 2021Steier Tips

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Red Cross Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort represent philanthropic home runs. Employing social media platforms, both campaigns secured an unprecedented number of modest contributions from an international pool of donors and raised tens of millions of dollars.

If you are tempted to replace personal visits with social media to secure gifts to your capital campaign, ask two practical questions:

  • How many $10, $50 or $100 gifts do you need to fund your upcoming project?
  • How long is the list of donors likely to give to your campaign?

The ALS and Red Cross campaigns succeeded with smaller gifts because of a global donor pool. For most capital campaigns, the donor pool is a narrow segment of a population, oftentimes limited by geography. Success in these campaigns hinges upon securing major gifts from a much smaller pool. Folks in neighboring communities might “Like” your campaign Facebook page, but are unlikely to reach for their wallets. After all, they have their own churches and hospitals to build.

Even in the digital age, what has always been true in nonprofit fundraising continues to be true. People give to people when asked face-to-face and give more. Our firm’s experience in conducting more than 750 campaigns – collectively raising more than $1 billion – repeatedly confirms this approach. Asking a donor to make a major gift from his/her assets over a three- to five-year pledge period is a proposition completely different from requesting a nominal gift to a universal cause. The approach should be, too.

As the science of fundraising continues to develop, social media can and should serve to support your capital campaign. It should also be an ongoing staple for rallying donors around the positive future of your organization. However, when it comes to securing major gifts from your donor base, send a person – not an email.

I encourage you to contact me at any time if you have questions regarding best practices and the professional services of the Steier Group.