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Support and Social Media - 5 Tips for Effective Digital Fundraising

by Scott Morton

Scott Morton

February 2, 2018

What’s the recipe for fundraising success? Many missionaries ask me this question, hoping to hear that social media is a secret sauce that will painlessly recruit giving partners. 

But I tell them that biblical fundraising is more like baking a cake — face-to-face appeals are the main ingredients, and social media is the frosting on top. Nothing is more effective than tried-and-true, face-to-face meetings, but technology can be an important tool to help you reach full funding!

And you don’t have to be on the bleeding edge of technology to make it work for you. Here are five suggestions for effectively using social media in your fundraising.

1. Expand your world. Social media lets you broaden your base of potential donors and communicate instantly and easily. A frequent obstacle many missionaries face is a small contact list — but social media can correct that by helping you reconnect with old friends who need to hear your vision story. A few years ago, a missionary candidate burst into tears because she was “completely out of contacts.” Not true: She had 600 Facebook friends!

2. Understand the limits of social media. Just because a communication tool is fast, easy, or constantly improving doesn’t mean it makes a deep impression. Yesterday, I liked several posts on Facebook and thought briefly about the people involved. Today, I can’t even remember who or what I liked. But I remember clearly the people I met personally yesterday.

In working with missionaries, I’ve learned firsthand what research suggests: Raising monthly support via social media is not effective. Committing to monthly support is a big decision; for most donors, a post asking for a recurring commitment is a bridge too far.

My twentysomething tech-whiz assistant Katie says, “Use social media to find people and cultivate the friendship. But move them offline as soon as possible to your hard-copy newsletter, then phone them and make face-to-face appeals.” She also suggests seeking phone numbers and postal addresses from your social media contacts to build more permanent friendships.

Click to learn more about Understanding the Motivation Behind Millennial Giving

3. Recruit new one-time donors. Crowdfunding sites recruit new giving partners for start-stop projects. The concept isn’t new — but technology makes it so much easier. Crowdfunding means any effort to raise money with donations from a large number of people. Sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo emerged to give small entrepreneurs access to funding for their projects, and nonprofits use these sites to attract donors. It’s become so popular that crowdfunding is projected to raise $93 billion by 2025, according to Philanthropy.com.

But, crowdfunding usually produces only one-time gifts.

For missionary fundraising, the best crowdfunding projects are those that stimulate donors’ imaginations and provide practical solutions to help one desperate person going through an emergency. Donors visualize an impoverished village child filling his jar with clean water that gurgles from a pipe in a dusty village square. Or they picture helping a single mom complete her education. The project must be practical, emotionally compelling and credibly presented.

Social media followers do respond to one-off projects or requests — especially genuine emergencies. How about making a Skype call to appeal or reconnect with friends and followers?

4. Social media plays an important role in your funding strategy — but not the major role. Social media alone cannot carry the weight of your funding or communication strategy. You may have social media friends who say they “never read hard copy,” but are they donors?

Human interaction still is at the top of the communication effectiveness chart, as this classic ladder of communication effectiveness adapted from Harvard Business School illustrates. To ask for an important decision, choose face-to-face meetings where you can read body language and engage in dialogue. If that’s not possible, ask to meet during a video call so you can mimic the naturalness of in-person conversation.

5. Obey time-tested rules for fundraising. Most of the guidelines for traditional fundraising apply to social media, too. Here are some reminders:

  • Capture the value of social media by telling short, straight-from-the-battle stories
  • Include a photo of you in action and take the time to write a one-sentence caption
  • Utilize the secret of one: one topic, one photo, one prayer request, one story
  • Include your contact information clearly

At the risk of sounding old school, I must warn you about obsessing about social media. It alone can’t bring you the hoped-for joys of a relationship nor does it prevent loneliness, but it does have a role in fundraising — if you know how to use it. Indeed, social media is the frosting, not the cake. But it’s great frosting!

Don’t Feel Comfortable Fundraising? Click for more helpful adivce on raising support.

About the Author:

Scott MortonScott Morton serves as International Funding Coach for The Navigators. After graduating from Iowa State University and starting his journalism career, he moved from part-time ministry with college students to full-time ministry with The Navigators. That’s when the fundraising adventure began. After serving in campus ministry, city ministry and ministry trips to Korea, Malaysia, Germany, France and Holland, he joined The Navigators National Development Department in 1985. In 1997, he led the U.S. Navigator fundraising strategy as Vice President of Development and took the international funding coach role in 2010. Scott has written five books, including “Funding Your Ministry: A Field Guide for Raising Personal Support.” His latest, “Blindspots: Leading Your Team & Ministry to Full Funding,” is for Christian leaders to learn about fundraising. Every leader could profit from this book, whether you supervise one, five or 25 people. It’s available to purchase here.

Category: Missionary Minded