2015 Digital Fundraising To Do List #3 Allocate Budget For Paid Social Media

No More Free Social Media

The writing has been on the wall for a couple of years now. Facebook, needing to more effectively monitise its massive user base, has been gradually changing the way in which content published on brand pages is shared organically with followers – so as to encourage more brands to pay to promote their content. Last year this decline in ‘organic reach’ hit the point where the average organic reach of brand page content was around 6% – and falling fast.

Then came the official statement that from January 2015 Facebook is “bringing new volume and content controls for promotional posts, so people see more of what they want from Pages”. A statement widely seen as heralding the final death of free organic reach for promotional content – and that includes content you publish on your organisation’s branded page promoting fundraising asks.

So, what’s a fundraiser to do in the new ‘Pay to Play’ world of Social Media Promotion?

Well, the first thing is not to panic. Despite repeated rumours of its demise, Facebook remains the most popular social network world-wide (outside China) and older consumers are becoming increasingly active users – which is handy, as they’re the consumers most likely to be donating to charity too. So, while you may well need to change the way you use it (and other social media – as Twitter looks like going the same way) there may well still be a role for Facebook activity in your fundraising programme.

Begin by conducting a careful and honest review of just how well your own Facebook activity is really performing in support of fundraising. Not just in terms of how many Page Likes you’re getting (although we all know how much senior management love those charts), but also assessing how your levels of reach are changing for different types of content, what traffic Facebook is driving to your website, and just what that traffic does when it gets there.

Then, get online and learn about what options exist for targeting paid social content. You’ll find that these range from traditional demographic, lifestyle, interests, and ‘lookalike’ targeting to Custom Audiences through which you can specifically target people who already donate to you. The latter is especially interesting for fundraising – as it offers a targeted Social Media extension to your donor development activity (and several fundraisers I’ve spoken to recently have reported good results from tests of this).

Once you understand the options, allocate a testing budget and design some proper, robust tests to assess the real potential of paid social activity to directly support your fundraising programme. Just as you would with any other paid channel, take the time to look around and talk to other fundraisers to find-out what is and isn’t working – both in terms of targeting and the content and fundraising propositions being used. Aim to make 2015 the year you get some good benchmark data on the potential of paid social for your fundraising – which you can build-on when planning for 2016 and beyond.

Lastly, if you come across anyone who is still under the impression that Social Media is a free extension to their digital fundraising programme then do them a favour and gently bring them up to date with the way the world is changing. As, despite discussion of failing organic reach having been ongoing for a long while now, the belief that ‘Social Media is Free Media’ remains hard to shift in some quarters.

Only time will tell, but I’m hoping the shift towards paid promotion will actually bring a much needed dose of realism to the use of Facebook for fundraising – and so help lead to far greater Social Media fundraising effectiveness overall. For too long the perception that Social is a free engagement channel has led to it being pretty badly managed by many organisations when it comes to fundraising. Now that we need to start paying for it, hopefully it’ll be treated with a bit more rigour and respect – and deliver a lot more income as a result.

 

This post is the third in a series suggesting things I think fundraisers should have on their 2015 Digital Fundraising To Do List. The first two are:

#1 Conversion Rate Optimisation

#2 Get Serious About Email Fundraising

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A must read for all digital fundraisers – latest free Global Digital Statistics Compendium from We Are Social

 

It’s that time of year again – when fundraisers the world-around take a breath after the end of year seasonal donation high and get ready to do wonderful things in the year ahead. So, when better to get yourself a good dose of digital market insights to help underpin your planning.

Step forward those generous folks at We Are Social – who are back with a better than ever update on their annual Global Digital, Social, and Mobile Statistics Report.

As well as global summaries, within the reports 376 pages you’ll also find country-specific sections, so you can get some real insight on your own markets as well as understand how you fit into the world-wide picture.

And, best of all – it’s free to download from SlideShare. What’s not to love!

Happy planning!

2015 Digital Fundraising To Do List #1 Conversion Rate Optimisation

Fundraising Conversion Rate Optimisation

In my first post of the New Year (Why Bitcoin probably shouldn’t be top of your 2015 Digital Fundraising To Do list) I promised to share some thoughts over the next few weeks about what I believe digital fundraisers should be prioritising on their 2015 To Do lists. So, to get started let’s focus on the one thing without which none of your other online activity is likely to deliver good results – namely Website Conversion Rate Optimisation.

Back in January 2012 I wrote about the crucial importance of fundraisers getting serious about how they track and improve the conversion rates of their fundraising pages.

I wrote that post in the same week User Experience specialists Nomensa had released their white paper ‘Creating the Perfect Donation Experience’, which included alarming research findings showing that 47% of donors give-up before they have made the donation because the online journey is not intuitive and engaging. I found this statistic worrying but not especially surprising, given the lack of attention being given to tracking, evaluating, and improving the conversion of traffic to donation websites at that time.

What I find both alarming and surprising is that two years on from that report, so many of the fundraisers that I hear voicing concern over the difficulty they experience growing their online income are still focusing the vast majority of their efforts on traffic generation and next to nothing on conversion rate optimisation.

Assuming the Nomensa finding still applies (and sadly I see little to suggest that the sector has got to grips with conversion optimisation so as to change it) this means that for all the effort and budget being invested in attracting individuals wishing to make a donation, almost half of them will be failing to become donors because of a lack of attention being given to optimising their website experience.

If you were to tear-up half of the donations you receive to a direct mail appeal then you would clearly be a crazily bad fundraiser. Yet failing to pay proper attention to what is happening on your donation pages could well be amounting to the same thing.

So, that’s what I’d say should be top of your 2015 To Do List. Before spending time on new ways to bring more people to your donation pages – work-out just what you need to do to properly measure, evaluate, and optimise the experience they will have when they get there.

Why Bitcoin probably shouldn’t be top of your 2015 digital fundraising To Do list

Bitcoin Fundraising

There has been a whole lot of discussion and a fair amount of hype over the last couple of years about the growing use of the digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin as it evolves from a secretive online currency used on the Darknet to something you can use to buy pizzas with.

Understandably, this has led to quite a bit of talk in the fundraising world regarding the importance, or otherwise, of adding bitcoin donation functionality to charity websites – and a number of organisations have already started to test this, including the RNLI in the UK and United Way in the US.

With Boxing Day 2014 seeing the inaugural Bitcoin Bowl college football game, promoted through the antics of its mascot Mr. Bitcoin, the Bitcoin hype looks set to continue apace this year. So, while not wanting to quash any Bitcoin-fuelled new year spirit of fundraising innovation, I thought it might be a good time to suggest four things to think about before you spend too much of your time on Bitcoin fundraising in 2015.

1. Bitcoin users currently represent a small, specialised market
While it certainly is growing, Bitcoin is still a very long way off being a mainstream payment option and there is no real evidence as yet that it is approaching the point where adoption goes beyond a relatively small number of tech-savvy innovators and early adopters. Estimates of the size of the active Bitcoin userbase vary widely, but most put the number at somewhere between 500k and 5 million world-wide (and I suspect the active base is closer to the lower than the higher estimates).

Added to this, Bitcoin users don’t currently look like your usual online donors. A typical Bitcoiner is apparently a 33 year old male, with above average household income, living in the US or Northern Europe. Some fundraisers believe that this very disparity is the key opportunity offered by Bitcoin – highlighting it as a way to attract younger donors. However, the truth is that attracting sufficient young Bitcoin donors to represent a viable income stream is unlikely to happen simply because you announce that you can take their cryptocurrency gifts.

Any non-profits whose brands are already relevant to this audience may not find this a problem – but I imagine they’ll be few and far between. The majority of organisations are likely to need to invest some serious effort in defining and supporting a fundraising proposition attractive to the tech-savvy, youth consumer demographic to generate sustainable income. Interestingly, in line with this, United Way has focused its Bitcoin initiative on funding for their Innovation Fund.

Combine the current market size with the challenging profile of the typical Bitcoin user and I fear that most Bitcoin fundraisers may be fishing in a rather small pool for a few years yet.

2. Bitcoin value is highly volatile
With its exchange rate to the US$ fluctuating from over $1,100 to under $320, during 2014 Bitcoin was the most volatile ‘currency’ in the world (although for a while the Ruble gave it a run for the title) and there is no certainty that this will not be repeated in 2015. As such, to make the most of Bitcoin fundraising your finance team will need to keep a very keen eye on exchange rate trends.

3. The smell of the Darknet remains
While several well known consumer brands, from Dell to Expedia, now accept Bitcoin, it retains its historic (and ongoing) association with dubious and downright criminal transactions on the DarkWeb, which for some years yet may lead to non-Bitcoiners questioning whether you’re asking for ‘dirty money’.

4. No fundraising team has unlimited time and resources – so you must focus where the largest fundraising opportunities lie
I have written before about the danger of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) leading to fundraisers trying to test every new digital opportunity that comes along and as a result not being able to focus sufficient time and effort on those tests most likely to deliver the best income returns. Many of these may involve far less trendy things than Bitcoin, such as properly addressing Conversion Rate Optimisation on fundraising pages, but are more likely to lead to increased online income.

I remain very interested in the long-term potential of ‘independent’ digital currencies like Bitcoin (and even more interested in potential applications of the block chain platform beyond Bitcoin). However, I believe there are so many other opportunities to deliver digital fundraising growth in 2015 with more potential than Bitcoin fundraising that if you’re serious about prioritising your time based on income potential (and not just PR potential) then Bitcoin will not come even close to the top of the list.

“But if we shouldn’t spend our time on Bitcoins, where should we spend it?”

Well, I’m very pleased you asked that. Because there are an exciting range of other digital fundraising opportunities that I would say should certainly be on your list for consideration this year – and over my next few posts here on Giving In A Digital World, I’ll be sharing some specific ideas about these.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss any suggestions for your 2015 Digital Fundraising To Do list, you can subscribe to blog updates by email here or simply follow me on Twitter @millbry.

Meantime, if anyone has any insights to share from their 2014 Bitcoin fundraising experiences – then please do share them in the comments section below.

Riding the Digital Fundraising Hype Cycle

Earlier this month technology research company Gartner released their latest Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies report.

The Hype Cycle is a very interesting way of considering the evolution of new technologies as regards their hard business benefits, taking into account the common stages of over enthusiasm and hype, followed by negative PR and disillusionment, leading – for some technologies at least – to the realisation of mass market business benefits.

I first started using it as a strategic planning tool for digital fundraising back in 2009, when E-book Readers were right at the Peak of Inflated Expectations (just after Amazon launched its first Kindle), Microblogging was heading down into the Trough of Disillusionment (as the mass market struggled to get to grips with Twitter), and Web 2.0 was heading-up the Slope of Enlightenment. You can see a flashback to the digital world in 2009 in my August 09 blog post about that year’s Hype Cycle here.

Looking at this year’s Hype Cycle (summarised in the chart above) there are a number of technologies with clear relevance to digital fundraising: Gamification is headed for the Peak of Inflated Expectations; Augmented Reality and NFC Payments are just over the Peak and slipping into the Trough; and Media Tablets (think iPad or Galaxy Tab) are fast heading into Enlightenment. Meanwhile, despite the great work done by those involved in the SecondLife Relay for Life annual fundraiser (raising $350k for the American Cancer Society in 2012), Virtual Worlds remains pretty well stuck in the Trough of Disillusionment.

For a quick reference to what Gartner’s full list of technologies mean (including such wonders as the Internet of Things) you can check their online IT Glossary here.

While the main Gartner report is excellent food for thought, I find a more useful strategic planning exercise is to apply the Hype Cycle concept specifically to the application of digital technologies in fundraising. In a digital world where it is all to easy to be attracted by the bells and whistles of new technologies which have yet to prove real fundraising value, simply mapping-out where you feel different opportunities lie on the Hype Cycle curve can be a handy way to help you focus on those areas most likely to generate returns within defined timescales.

Every organisation is different with regard to its vision for and experience of digital fundraising, as well as the audiences they might engage with and resources available for implementation, and as a result each might come-up with a slightly different placement of technologies. However, here’s a rough generic Digital Fundraising Hype Cycle I’ve drawn-up listing some of the key opportunities with us today and coming-up over the horizon to help get your thinking started…

My test for great digital fundraising content

I mentioned this simple “test” that I use when reviewing or planning digital fundraising content when I wrote about Truly Personalised Video Thanking back in January, but it has generated so much positive discussion when I’ve been using it in workshops and planning sessions since then that I thought I’d give it a short post of its own. So, here it is again:

Does your content make good use of the digital opportunities available to really bring someone closer to your work; help them understand the impact their support will have; motivate them to give (or give again); and make the experience of supporting such that they want to share it with their friends?

Breaking it down, to help illustrate what I mean:

  • Does it make good use of the digital opportunities available to really bring me closer to your work? Through digital we have a whole host of new ways to engage supporters in more relevant, authentic, and genuinely interesting ways than ever before. Yet all too often I still see online fundraising content that looks just like traditional printed material pasted onscreen or into an email (especially when it comes to those generic, text-heavy monthly eNewsletters that so many orgs persist in sending me). Take a look around at how other brands (nonprofit and commercial) are capitalising on new ways to engage through digital, and think about how you might be able to use some of these to really bring your supporters closer to the work they enable you to do. And remember – just because you send me a video doesn’t mean that you’re bringing me closer, especially if it’s more along the lines of a corporate promotion than an authentic window on the work you want me to support.
  • Does it help me understand the impact my support will have? Fundraising is all about inspiring and enabling people to help change the world for the better – and a key part of this is helping them understand the impact their personal support will have on what may well be a massive and complex need. Again, digital potentially offers new ways to achieve this that simply aren’t possible through traditional print or broadcast content – if we use it well.
  • Does it motivate me to give? If you’ve ticked the previous two boxes then you should be well on the way to motivating me to give. But don’t just bask in the warm glow of great content and take my donation for granted. You still need to make it very clear that you do need my support – and make it really easy for me to give it.
  • Does it make the experience of supporting such that I want to share it with my friends? Thanks to the ubiquity of social media these days, I can share your content with my whole social network with just one click. But my making that click depends on the experience I have when I engage with your content, and make my donation, and whether I feel it would be interesting/fun/relevant for my friends to experience too.

To help get some new content ideas moving, you can check back to a couple of my related posts on Personalised Video Thanking, and Strategic Blogger Outreach, as well as taking a look at the latest Oxfam ‘See For Yourself’ campaign to find a non-supporter to visit one of their their projects and report back on how donations are being used.

Plus – if you’ve seen any great content that you feel passes the ‘test’, then do share it by leaving a comment below…

12 Digital Fundraising Trends for 2012 – A Quick Round-up

Back at the start of January I set myself the target of publishing twelve posts on trends I think are going to prove important to digital fundraisers this year – both as a means of kick-starting my own thinking after the holiday season and to help inform your planning considerations at this key time in the year.

Judging by the comments, emails and RTs, the posts certainly do seem to have struck a chord with a lot of you – which is great!

Just incase you missed some, or want a single jumping-off place for all twelve trends, I thought I’d post a quick round-up here:

Hope you find them useful as you plan for 2012 and beyond.

If you’d like more information, or perhaps even a tailored briefing or workshop to help your organisation consider the implications and opportunities specific to you, then drop me a note using the contact form here.