Make it a merrier Christmas for women and children at Refuge

As November kicks off, I’m beginning to see evidence of the Advent shopping extravaganza to come. Christmas lists are beginning to be spoken of, and malls are defying the ever-worrying financial climate to start filling up with tinsel, sparkles and shoppers.

Some of us, perhaps because of that financial climate, are beginning to wonder what we really need, and what we merely want. Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting, but somehow waste doesn’t seem as acceptable as it used to.

In the midst of all this commercial to-ing and fro-ing, comes a plea. On Refuge‘s Facebook Page today, I saw this message:

Have you started to buy your Christmas presents yet? Please help to make sure that every woman and child in our refuges gets at least one present this year by supporting our Christmas gift list appeal: list number 478985.

Gifts start from just £1.50 so please give what you can to help bring some happiness to women and children escaping domestic violence this Christmas. Thank you.

Right now, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather buy a present for.

Fundraising on Facebook, the ad hoc way

This week, we broke our own rules. We asked for money on a social network, and we did it without a particular goal in mind, because it seemed like a good idea.

The full story is on the Dogs Trust blog, but essentially it came down to trying to give our Facebook supporters a common goal, and a reason to engage with the page beyond getting answers to their questions and reading the odd blog post. Obviously, long term we have to offer more than that, and we plan to, but being just after Christmas – January is our busiest time of year – it seemed serendipity was on our side.

There are a few things I would do differently in hindsight (we had plans for a special Facebook thank you certificate that didn’t happen for a variety of reasons, which I think is a shame; wondering if there’s still time to do it), but for an unplanned ask, it really showed how very generous people can be if they feel they’re being appreciated.

“It’s more personal than an standing order from your bank”, commented on supporter, and she’s right. It is. Several people wanted us to remind them to give every month! But we are aware that just under 1% of the page ‘fans’ took part – that’s 99% who want to be engaged differently. Another suggested doing this every January, in the spirit of our slogan, “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas”. I thought that was a lovely idea.

I found myself very personally touched by each and every person who took part, and by the way they egged each other on and kept the message going. In the end, it was not about the total or the ask, but about watching the force of the community in action; something that does even the most jaded community manager’s heart good.

People will tell you how they would like to be approached, be it for fundraising, volunteering or just to spread the message. Sometimes you’ll be able to use their ideas and sometimes you won’t; either way it’s nice to have them, and easy to show appreciation for the time they’ve taken to share. The beauty of the social web – and this is no way unique to the tools we happened to use this time, Facebook and PayPal – is that it allows for quick assessment of ideas and, if they work, a quick turnaround. It took ten minutes from my musing on the community to Jacqui’s idea to the first fundraising message. If it had failed, it would have cost us nothing but an hour of our time, and given us untold valuable information about how our community likes to be spoken with (not to. Never to).

We’re not suddenly going to become fundraisers. We are still, primarily, a community-building digital marketing team. But digital is at its best when it can integrate itself across different areas, and it doesn’t hurt to have another metric by which to assess your objectives.

Our community placed their trust in us, and we have to make sure we keep earning it.