One of the great things to see at successful fundraising events is the energy and enthusiasm when everyone gets involved. Word of mouth giving, prompted by friends asking friends and encouraging participation, is a great way of getting new donors involved. Go to any national sorority event and there will be the Foundation asking for a donation so that sisters can honor other sisters. A small sticker is presented for the recipients nametag. It is one of the most contagious methods of fundraising. Everyone loves to get a sticker...and it nearly always leads to the recipient "passing it forward" by making a gift to honor someone else.
Event fundraising is a form of social networking. I am surprised that more development officers haven't thought to use social networking sites as a way to generate donations. Friends honoring friends. Non-profit organizations ought to set up a MySpace account. Invite members of the organization to become a "friend" and be listed on the page. You will then appear on their own list of friends. Their friends can read your profile and through the simple act of viral marketing, you are increasing awareness and education about your organization. Have a compelling case and you can increase the number of new donors. Post a calendar of upcoming events, post bulletins of important news, provide a "donate now" link, share what your organization stands for, and provide guest blogs. These are all just simple existing MySpace tools available to create an interactive relationships with your constituents.
On a recent blog for higher education professionals, Collegewebeditor.com, the author encouraged organizations to not only establish a MySpace presence, but to hire professional companies to develop those sites for them.
"...get your MySpace profile professionally designed. First impressions are everything on MySpace. MySpace design is a new field and the really good designers are charging a small fortune ($5-20K) and designing mostly for bands and musicians."
MySpace and other social networking sites are having great success reaching an audience that most development officers crave: the under 40 crowd. Young donors are looking for ways to have an interactive relationship. Non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, and membership organizations have the ability to be ahead of the curve. Give donors or potential donors a method to relate to other like-minded people about a cause they believe in provides a hotbed for fundraising success.
As a philanthropic-minded person, I would happily have linked to my MySpace page all the organizations I feel passionate about. I would check frequently to see who else is interested in that organization. Perhaps I will see someone I know. Or want to know. Perhaps I'd consider attending an event because I received a bulletin announcement. I would definitely be more up-to-date on the organization's news, especially if the organization was proactive in sending material out to their "friends." And never underestimate the power of a good word. If I see something compelling about an organization I believe it, I'll will forward it to my friends. Your list of interested members will rapidly grow. And the investment is minimal.
If you don't believe me, spend some time on MySpace. Like the author stated about, bands have tens of thousands of fans linked to their site. Celebrities have equally if not more friends that they can interact with. And there's something pretty fun about having the hottest new celebrity on your friends list.
Two of my MediaSauce co-workers, Ryan Hupfer and Mitch Maxson, are the authors of MySpace for Dummies. If this is a new concept for you, order the book on Amazon.com and start learning about the extraordinary potential social networking can offer to your organization. And if you do want to have an innovative company involved with designing your page, let me know. We just designed a MySpace page for Kirk Douglas. Kirk, well into his 90s, realizes the potential of broadening his fan base and promoting his books to a different generation. Fundraisers ought to be considering the same thing.
MySpace is a popular site. There is also Facebook, geared more towards the college students and Eons.com, designed specifically to appeal to the Baby Boomer generation in their 50s and above. LinkedIn is a good professional networking site (good way for development officers to stay in contact with each other) and there are dozens of other options. Pick one where you feel you have a strong target audience. And then watch your network grow, your donors get more involved, and your partnerships become interactive and mutually beneficial.