The power of social media in fundraising

Last week while discussing my original research project, we happened upon a topic that makes some people shudder but brings out creativity and excitement in others: fundraising.

Religious organizations typically operate on a donation system.  Because religious organizations are essentially non-profits, they rely on the tithes and offerings of their members to pay the bills.

However, when an organization decides to take on a new project, expand their building or property or participate in community outreach and service, many times fundraising is necessary.

As we approach the holiday season, fundraising reaches a whole new level.

According to Charity Navigator and the National Center for Charitable Statistics, around one third of all giving in the United States occurs in December and approximately 50 percent of all charitable giving goes to religion, education and arts organizations.

It seems like being a religious organization and hosting a fundraiser in the month of December would allow you to fund almost any project.  However, social media could be the third element in this fundraising trifecta!

Using social media as well as strong, aesthetically pleasing websites is a near-guaranteed way to raise money.

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be used as great advertising tools for fundraising and fundraising events.

According to the LiveStrong Foundation, which is not religion based but is a stellar example of a charitable fundraising giant, social media fundraising is great because you can drive visitors to your online donation page and “engage your most passionate and influential supporters to promote your efforts.”

The foundation suggests looking at your donors as investors (which ties in nicely with the social media marketing theory we talked about last week!).  A great way to encourage charitable giving is to be honest.  Make it very clear what the money will be used for and even share your financial impact statements to illustrate progress.

Because of its vast popularity alone, social media is the perfect venue for a successful campaign.

Mark Pitman, the self-proclaimed “fundraising coach,” addresses Twitter in a very archaic way, but still gets the gist of how powerful it can be in terms of fundraising.

In an article about fundraising, Pitman uses the examples of Tweetsgiving and Twestival, two charitable campaigns that started on Twitter and have morphed into their own organizations.

The original Tweetsgiving took place in 2008 and became the #1 trending topic on Twitter with grateful tweets across the world and donations pouring in.  After five years, Tweetsgiving has become Epic Thanks, an organization that has raised over $100,000 and helps build schools, libraries and temporary homes in Tanzania, Nepal and the United States.  You can still follow @epicthanks on Twitter as well as use their hashtag.




In September 2008, the first-ever Harvest Twestival took place in London, where 250 people who had realized a common passion via Twitter met up in Trafalgar Square, raised  £1000 and collected 14 boxes of canned goods to support a nearby homeless shelter.  The following year Twestival was hosted in 202 cities.  Since 2009, it has raised over $1.84 million in support of 310 charities.

One great point that Pitman makes is that it is not social media itself that makes such large-scale, powerful fundraising possible, but rather the relationships forged via social media.

“From a fundraising perspective, Twitter is an amazing way to engage donors and potential donors. One of the hardest things to do as a fundraiser is to maintain relationships. We so often get stuck to our desk rather than getting out to where our supporters are,” he writes.

Because of this capacity, Twitter and Facebook can be used to facilitate global fundraising opportunities or grassroots campaigns at your local church.

I have participated in just about every church fundraiser you can think of:  bazaars, craft shows, car washes, sales of every kind, a charity talent show, sweetheart dinners, silent auctions, occasional begging and even a rock-a-thon (yes, people literally sponsored us to rock in rocking chairs for 24 hours).

It is as simple as engaging people in something they care about— or simply by connecting them with people they care about— and giving them an easy, familiar way to donate.


2 thoughts on “The power of social media in fundraising

  1. rachelwvu

    I’m glad you posted this, especially at this time of the year! This is a good example of a way that social media connects communities into one network for the greater good. I think some people are willing to contribute or donate to the less fortunate, but don’t know how to go about it locally. Sending the message through social media has the potential to reach so many more people than with the “word of mouth” approach that works in small towns.


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