Net2ThinkTank: How Can Nonprofits Use the Social Web During the "Giving Season"?

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This month's Net2ThinkTank question is: How Can Nonprofits Use the Social Web During the "Giving Season"?

Ten members of the Net2 Community weighed in with their answers:

Julius Huijnk started things off with a bang with a comment on the original post by writing:

"The word Giving Season makes me feel awkward. While I see the motivation is positive, and I don't mean to offend fund raisers, for me it feels like people are seen as something to harvest when words like Giving Season arise."

Ed Schipul echoes Julius' sentiments in his post on the NetSquared Blog, and suggests that nonprofits need to adopt the "link love" philosophy of the social web and give back as much as they ask for. In particular, organizations can link from their web site back to supporters' web sites and blogs.

Even if you don't like the phrase, "Giving Season," Katya Andresen of Katya's Non-Profit Marketing blog points out in, It's Miller Time for Giving, that, "up to half of all charitable giving for most nonprofits is going to happen in the coming weeks. People are feeling the spirit of the season AND they need to get that tax deduction in 2007." She suggests five ideas from the white paper, "The Wired Fundraiser," that she wrote with Stacie Mann:

1. You need to do all your normal outreach (mail, email, etc.) in the coming weeks and then do a final big burst of fundraising online the very last week of the year. The heaviest giving days online are December 30 and 31. I say this because while social media outreach is important, it cannot and should not replace other fundraising.

2. Ask your most ardent supporters to spread the word about you in their social networks. Make it easy for your supporters to integrate your cause into MySpace, Change.org and Facebook because people are more likely to act this time of year.

3. Create a section of your website that cultivates these activists, invites them to create campaigns on your behalf, and explains how to spread the word.

4. Identify the bloggers who are talking about your issues and research their posts. Send them customized emails about their writing and explain why your organization's campaign is relevant or compelling to them - and their readers.

5. Keep listening for unexpected open-minded moments online. Set up a Google alert for your issue or organization so that if people start talking about you, you can immediately reply with a way for them to take action, wherever they are online.

Emily of Emily's World has seven suggestions for how nonprofits can spread the word about their fundraiser using the social web:

* Write a blog entry on the organization's blog and/or MySpace blog.
* Post a message on your group on Facebook.
* Write a bulletin on MySpace.
* Write a note or share a link on Facebook.
* Include a video on the webpage for the fundraiser.
* Come up with keywords/tags to describe your fundraiser. Tag it on del.icio.us and other social bookmarking sites.
* Encourage members/supporters to spread the word about the fundraiser by posting a blog entry, sharing the link on Facebook, writing a bulletin on MySpace, or sending an e-mail to their contacts.

In, Use Web 2.0 Tools to Raise Money for Your Organization, Rich Reader recommends testing the, "relative appeal of various assets (themes, messages, actors, stories, text, images, video, wikis, audio, speakers) and tools for your campaign on a representative sample of your target audience/engaged membership," before launching your social web campaign. He also maps out how to assess your testing results and plan the campaign's roll out.

Allan Benamer of Socially Marketing suggests a three part strategy for small nonprofits: broadcasting, narrowcasting and one-on-one interactions. For his work with Social Markets, he Broadcasts with his web site, Narrowcasts with his blog, and has One-On-One interactions using Meebo and Skype.

The ultimate "Wired Fundraiser," Beth Kanter, isolates one of the key appeals of using the social web for fundraising, that it is a way for supporters' to express their identity through sharing what they believe in. Using herself as an example, she writes in, Fashion and Passion for Your Cause: Wear It On Your Blog or Profile:

"Last month, I turned my blog pink in support of Breast Cancer and in September, I put on a red t-shirt to support the monks in Burma . This month's fashion statement is gray and green to match the colors of Creative Commons logo. But that's not all. I placed the photo of me wearing my newest Creative Commons T-Shirt on my blog - and of course added it to my Facebook profile and on Twitter, you'll see the Creative Commons Logo with a donate message."

In a similar vein, Heather Cronk of Pledgebank thinks the power of the social web is that it facilitates telling others about the good work you are doing and consequently creates, "positive peer pressure":

"The more I've explored social media (and especially as I've been promoting a positive peer pressuring tool, PledgeBank), I've realized that there is something really powerfully not only in doing good things, but in telling others that you're doing good things."

Nick Booth of the Podnosh Blog suggests that fundraisers tap into the tremendous amount of shopping that will be happening anyway by signing up for an affiliate site and encouraging your supporters to use it for their holiday purchases.

Finally, Holly Ross write on the NTEN Blog:

"I think that there's a larger opportunity here than simply starting a widget fundraising campaign or the like.

The big opportunity is this: amplify your authenticity."

Rather than spending a lot of time on, "high-touch, slow-growth work," trying to prove to supporters that a program is worth funding, and that donor dollars are being spent wisely, organizations can provide tools for supporters to share that message for them:

"Once you've built meaningful, authentic relationships with your stakeholders, you can give those stakeholders some of these new media tools and let them do the rest of the work for you. THEY find the people that they know care about your cause and THEY introduce those people to your organization. Because those new invitees have been brought to your organization by a person whom they already trust as authentic, they trust you more from the get-go. In other words, get your stakeholders to vouch for you, and you end up with automatic street cred."

Which brings us back to how Julius's concluded his comment on the original post by saying that social networks can be an antidote to people's cynicism about the "Giving Season," by providing a place for people to share their stories about why and how they support nonprofits.

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Please be sure to give our contributors some link love and click through to read their whole post. If somehow I missed your post, please let me know, and direct people to it in the comments below.

The next Net2ThinkTank question will be posted on December 3rd and the round-up of posts will be posted on December 10th. If you have a suggestion for a question to be asked of the Net2ThinkTank, post it in the comments of this post or email me at bbravo@techsoup.org.