Tweet me the money

As I mentioned on Monday, I plan on using the rest of my blog posts this week to look at different aspects of ePhilanthropy. Hopefully, I will be able to cover a lot of different subjects including Twitter, Facebook, email, websites, PURLs, online video, blogs, and more. Today, let’s touch on Twitter.

As I drove my good friend Teri to Midway airport on Monday, we started talking about social media and the role we see it playing in resource development. We both agreed that what we see being most successful is non-profit organizations using social media to acquire new prospects, spreading the word about their mission, focusing on their case for support, and stewarding donors by communicating ROI messages. Neither of us were able to really come up with very good examples of how social media has been used as a solicitation tool and raised substantial money.

This ate at me as I made the trip home from Midway airport. So, once I got home, I started searching for an example of a non-profit organization that used social media to solicit donors and could be held up as a success story. It didn’t take me long and I am a little embarrassed that I quickly found an example in my very own backyard of Elgin, Illinois.

In 2009, the Community Crisis Center has struggling because the State of Illinois is broke and significantly behind on paying reimbursements to non-profits holding state contracts. It was in this moment of need that The Center turned to public relations guru and social media expert Sarah Evans and asked her to work her online magic.

Sarah organized an online fundraising event that she called “Crisis Overnight“. On June 18th, she took her laptop to The Center and spent the night. All night, she blogged and Tweeted about her experience, what she saw, and the stories that unfolded in front of her. In a nutshell, Sarah brought the mission and case for support alive online. With every Tweet and blog post, she pointed her friends and supporters to an online donation page.

Needless to say, people were moved and Sarah was very successful. Her fundraising goal was $150,000 and she raised $121,397 according to the Community Crisis Center’s 2009 annual report. Not only did 700 donors make contributions online, but people got in their cars and drove donations to The Center ($800 arrived by foot between 6:00 and 9:00 pm alone).

This was not magic … here are just a few observations:

  • The technology didn’t raise the money. It was Sarah’s masterful way of bringing the mission to life, making the case for donors to get involved, telling stories about clients and services, and creating a sense of urgency.
  • It wasn’t just Twitter or blog or website or email … it was multi-channel and integrated. She used many tools and funneled everyone to an online donation page.
  • She didn’t just yell at the top of her lungs into the Twitosphere. She used the hashtag to focus and nurture a mission-focused conversation that walked people down the path of action.

So, here is one very cool example that flies in the face of what I initially believed about social media only being good for non-solicitation activities.

Has your organization ever attempted to use social media to solicit individuals? How did you do it? Was it successful or not? Why or why not? If not your organization, have you seen others try it? What was the result? We can learn from each other. Please use the comment box to share with everyone!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
eanderson847@gmail.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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