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Opportunities and risks of using social media for fundraising by sylvng

Right after I finished writing a post about measuring the ROI of online social media campaigns, I came across this Pentagraph article on the opportunities and risks of using social media for fundraising. The article does emphasize something that I personally believe in; quoting Melissa Brown of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, “Even if social-networking sites draw relatively little money now, it’s imperative for nonprofits to explore them”.

So what are the opportunities and risks? Here’s what was mentioned in the article, plus some of my own thoughts:


  • Social campaigns can be very cost effective – referrals are made through friends, and it doesn’t cost anything to create a Facebook group or Twitter account.
  • Involvement – because it’s essentially free to be involved, social networks are a great way to engage people, especially past donors who cannot afford to give cash now because of the economy
  • Capitalize on the trend – internet fundraising is on the rise while traditional methods like direct mail are becoming less successful
  • Campaigns can be low effort – if you already have online reach the incremental effort to get a campaign going can be minimal. For example,  David Armano’s campaign for Daniela’s family has raised over 337% of the original goal, using David’s already established professional network and well-followed blog. The campaign has been featured in media, and a former colleague of David’s who works for a social media PR firm brought it up with me the other day as a success story that he often quotes.
  • Low barrier to entry – anybody, regardless of experience, can start a campaign, especially on sites that support this type of activity


  • Information overload – have you ever been annoyed by too many application requests in Facebook? Users are bombarded by a lot of information online, and by running an online campaign, you risk associating your brand with some of that annoyance.
  • Donor fatigue – because it is so easy to reach a large base of potential donors with social media, some donors are finding that they’re being asked to open their wallets too often.  Donors might decide to give a micro-donation online, but then opt out of volunteering at local charities or writing big cheques .
  • Hard to measure ROI – outside of direct donated dollars, the long term ROI of branding benefits and involvement is hard to ascertain.
  • Time consuming – if you’re building your brand and reach from scratch, it could take a lot of time, especially if you’re new to the field.

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