Written by The Bridge Blog guest writer – Christopher McGown

Does Social Media have a part to play in major gift development? It seems like such a simple question. The answer is also simple—YES. The “How?” on the other hand, may be a bit more complex.

Donors Exposure to Your Non-Profits Social Media

It is likely that donors are exposed to an organization’s social media efforts without it being part of the major gift development ‘plan’. What might be referred to as ‘passive’ cultivation happens when donors interact (view, review, listen, like, share, retweet, pin) with a non-profit organization’s social media presence without an intentional prompting on the part of the organization (more specifically a major giving officer). The compounded effect of this passive cultivation can’t be dismissed; at the same time it is impractical (if not impossible) to measure its impact in any real, meaningful way. In this way, social media is much like traditional mass media; that is, correlation can be found, but causation is elusive.

However, it is also possible and practical –perhaps, at times, necessary—for social media to be deployed as part of a well-organized and perfectly-executed major gift development plan. Social media, in any of its platforms, has a place in identification, research, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship.


Record Keeping

One last thing to think about as we get started—record keeping. That is, how and where will your organization record (store) the different ways the organization can interact with the donor? It is common practice to record email addresses in a donor management system. However, experience shows that donors and prospects change their email address far more often than they change their social media profiles, yet most organizations don’t record this important data point.

An astute non-profit would reflect in my record:
…just to name a few.

However, my personal opinion is creating platform-specific fields (i.e. Facebook Profile:________) is a mistake. The variety is far too vast and this world changes far too fast. Rather, I suggest simply providing for a uniform database location and uniform naming convention to simplify later research.

It is also considered a best practice to record any specific interactions with (to or from) donors/prospects through the various social media outlets—just as you would for any other (phone call, email, etc.) interaction. Like any communication, it is important to also standardize the format used for recording the social media interactions to provide for data integrity and far greater research options.
What Social Media for Major Gift Development is NOT:

Let me start with a delineator—major gift VS major gift development. A major gift is the desired result of major giving development. But, not every major gift is the result of a personal, relationship-centered, and deliberate process, a.k.a. Major Gift Development. That is, sometimes a major gift—however your organization defines it—happens without any intentional interaction on the part of the charity.

It is certainly possible, even likely, that social media has some influence on major gifts. Given that Youtube is touted as the second largest search engine and Facebook has approximately 30% more weekly traffic than Google, it would be foolish to assume otherwise.

Social media is NOT the perfect tool for every prospect or donor. Some prospects will keep up with your organization’s goings on through your social media outlets, but object to (or reject) your organization’s attempt to personally interact with them through social media. In this way there is no difference when compared to phone, email, or direct mail campaigns.

Social media cannot be a standalone effort. Like any tool used by a major gifts officer, social media has to be deployed strategically.

Using social media to ‘blast out’ your organization’s latest major gift naming opportunities would not (by my definition) qualify as major gift development. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t tweet: “Your Family name can live forever, talk to us about how to create your own named endowment. Lrn more @” from time-to-time; but only the most generous would label this as part of a major gift process beyond perhaps a ‘feeder’ technique.

Stay tuned for part two next week where we discuss What Part Social Media Does Play in Major Gift Development.

If you’d like a little help or some additional resources, feel free to download one of our many resources including our free e-book, A Planned Approach to Major Gifts.


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