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December 3, 2021
Use Social Media to Convert Prospects into Donors
By Robin Cabral

Robin Cabral
Robin Cabral
Study after study of small- to mid-sized nonprofits show that while donor retention remains a critical issue, far too many organizations shortchange their fundraising efforts by failing to engage in widescale, ongoing donor acquisition efforts, which social media can help rectify.

Gone are the days when nonprofits could buld a base of loyal donors by acquiring mailing lists, or swapping mailing lists with other orgranizations, and then mailing out a few soiliciations and waiting for the checks to come in.

Today, there are much more effective, proven, and cost-efficient practices that yield higher returns than the typically 1% associated with direct mail. However, nonprofits need to embrace—and continually deploy—these tactics to see increasing returns on their total development effort.

While some groups focus on targeting ads that may drive interested prospects to their website, and may capture their information, many fail at the back-end to provide the highly specific, segmented cultivation engagement that helps to convert prospects into donors.

Also, engaging people via social media should not be an end in itself, but rather the first step toward converting them into donors ”“ and hopefully repeat donors. You can drive people to your website, but you can’t force them to give. You must cultivate that relationship like you would with any offline prospect.

Targeted advertising seeks to take prospects from social media networking to an engagement vehicle, e.g., surveys, that works to capture contact information and identify preferences. Once prospective donors have been identified, you can place them in a cultivation engagement stream of emails and communications over several weeks and months. The goal is to keep sharing infroamtion and inviting them to support your organization.

Consider these options to acquire donors for your nonprofit organization:

1) Know your Google analytics to determine how many actual visitors come to your website.
You may be surprised at how many uncaptured leads you have. The question is: do you, like many fundraisers, know your website analytics? And, do you realize the potential of this source of prospects for acquisition purposes?

2) Consider moving beyond social posting to targeted social advertising.
In this age of Google and inexpensive Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter targeted advertising, one can drive traffic from what is a primary relationship-building platform to an organization’s website.

Keep in mind: Social media sites are for relationship building. They are not places where individuals go first to seek out information about a cause or to make a donation. By all means, use social networks as a cultivation and relationship-building tool, but keep your ultimate objective in mind, namely, to develop more donors.

3) Once you drive traffic from your social site to your webiste, you need to “capture” those visitors.
Very rarely will folks sign up on their first visit. You need to develop a vehicle that involves them in your organization. Common ways to do this are through online petitions, surveys relating to your cause, product or item distribution, or even a donate “call to action.”

4) Once you capture names, you need to continually cultivate those people online.
Far too often, organizations fall short on this score. Whether you capture information through a survey or via a petition, you should create a customized database that will drive a series of emails aimed at building your donor base. Each email is tailored to respond to the information prospects have provided, and continues for a fixed period. Responses, including non-responses, to each email should be tracked in the database to inform subsequent messages.

5) The goal of the cultivation emails is to convert these potential donors into actual donors.
Once new donors have made their first gift, they should be tracked into yet another customized stewardship engagement stream of emails.

6) For non-converters, don't give up on engagement.
Instead, keep in touch by sending them regular e-news updates and your regular appeals.You can further engage with these yet-to-be-converted prospects, perhaps via telephone calls, to learn more about their interests and concerns, ultimately setting the stage for that first gift.

Robin Cabral, principal of Development Consulting Solutions, is a certified fund raising executive who works with mid-sized nonprofits to build capacity and improve fundraising results. Email her at or call 508-685-8899.
October 2019
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