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.

NFPTweetup: Tweeting for social change

Last night I pottered along to the second NFPTweetup. This event, masterminded by The Charity Place‘s Rachel Beer and given a firm shove along by social media “Buzz Director” Steve Bridger among others, was the successor to a small meetngreet that took place in Soho late last year. That gathering saw many of the people I now think of as the “usual suspects” – a group of us in the UK working hard to make digital marketing through social media succeed – all of whom I respect and admire in droves: Jonathan Waddingham of JustGiving (who sponsored the event), Howard Lake of UK Fundraising, Paul Henderson and Amy Sample Ward among others.

If the last event had been a quiet chat with a collaborative presentation that sort of quietly tailed off, this event had definitely learned from its predecessor. NFPTweetup is shaping up to be a considerably useful resource for UK charities, and I was really glad to be there. Aside from coming away with a list of web tools to check out, I also got the chance to shake a few hands and exchange a few words with the people behind the feed I follow, like Jo of Diabetes UK and Citizensheep Michael. That personal connection is invaluable for a number of reasons:

1. It’s just nice to know there’s someone else out there doing what you do.

2. When it’s time to ask for advice or an idea, it’s great to have properly introduced yourself.

3. There’s no chance of any of that isolationist Bad Science crap happening!

This time, the collaborative presentation was done first, which got people thinking. I blushed as I realised just how many of the people in the room are watching what Jacqui and I are doing at Dogs Trust and think we’re good at it! A warm glow of job satisfaction is no bad thing to have once in a while, especially when the feedback is external to the organisation.

Thereafter we formed groups covering topics such as Fundraising, Integration, Reputation Management and things like that. I joined the Fundraising and Integration topics as they’re the most difficult for most of us: raising money in one big swoop like Twestival or Beth Kanter have done is possible, but how do you keep the goodwill going over the long time? And is it really okay to ask for money over a social medium (so far, I think no and I’m strict about that, although there are ways to kinda sorta break that rule which I’ll go into another time)? Ben Matthews, who was behind Twestival in the UK, was very helpful in suggesting some donation tools – if we integrate them I’ll talk about these some more.

It’s nice to see NFPTweetup grow from a chat to a masterclass, and I’m keen to see how it develops in the future. To see a blow-by-blow account of the discussion, check out tweets hashtagged #nfptweetup.