Our consultant Charlotte Chilvers shares her tips below on how small charities and social enterprises can increase their income from social media. Before joining Lime Green, Charlotte used to deliver social media training for small charities for Macc, Manchester’s voluntary sector infrastructure support organisation.
With statutory and trusts funding becoming even more competitive post-pandemic and with the current cost-of-living headache, you may be revisiting your fundraising strategy and considering where else to find pots of money.
Social media may seem to be an ambiguous source of income, but with over 84% of the UK population actively using social media, many organisations have found it to be a successful tool for fundraising. Although you’ll need to input some time (another precious resource) to research which methods would work best for your organisation, we’ve done some of the legwork for you below...
First up, what can social media do over grant funding?
Ignoring the endless number of cat videos, social media has some clear advantages over income from statutory or trusts & foundations funding:
It's unrestricted income - this should light up pound signs in your eyes immediately. However your fundraising strategy incorporates social media, one of the clear benefits is that in most cases, the money raised is unrestricted and can be spread across your organisation’s projects and overheads. Despite a recent shift in that direction from some funders, grant funding is still rarely unrestricted.
It’s a free resource - we’ll start with a caveat. Yes, you will need someone to set up social media accounts and manage them, which may be a paid staff member. However, with a bit of time and input at the start, such as establishing a social media strategy, and utilising free scheduling tools such as TweetDeck and Buffer, your online fundraising can build up nicely. Alongside this, you’re easily able to raise awareness and promote activities and events.
Social media can support your grant applications - your content can help tell the story of your organisation, service users, and donors. Comments on your posts and events can also contribute to your grant applications - feedback from diverse networks (e.g. service users, community members, donors) are perfect for monitoring and evaluation and building your case for support.
Now that’s swayed you, how can you fundraise on different social media platforms?
One of the key benefits for not-for-profits is their ‘Fundraisers and donations’ dedicated section for charities looking to raise income through public donations. Whilst success can vary, organisations have been able to generate income through promoting events and ticket sales, ‘birthday appeal’ donations from users, sharing direct links to Fundraising pages, as well as launching poll-voting for donations (similar to community supermarket tokens).
This can be done by a simple personal account in the organisation’s name, or by a ‘business page’ which gives a greater breakdown of traffic and interaction with your posts. The beauty of social media means your posts and activity promote your organisation and raise awareness, whilst requests for donations can then be shared by other online users. This external virality opens up opportunities for income from a wider audience, allowing you to (hopefully) sit back and see some pounds coming in with little time and effort.
Alongside this, there are no limitations on character counts, which means you can really show off what your organisation does through storytelling and demonstrating your evidence of need. Funders will often request your social media links, so it’s worth very clearly demonstrating this through your account through photos, short videos, infographics, blogs, articles, events, etc. Depending on your privacy settings, publicly available posts can also be used for gathering data/quotes for impact.
Top Tip: Go with the trends: so many viral fundraising activities have grown from Facebook (17 million posted an ‘Ice bucket challenge’ video in 2014 alone) so direct your fundraising posts to relevant trends, use hashtags, and share widely!
Unlike Facebook, Instagram pages need to be highly visual - content is primarily made up of photos and videos. In terms of generating income, like Facebook, there is the option to set up a business account to sell tickets, items, merchandise, and other products, as well as link to your fundraising page.
As part of Zuckerberg’s Meta world, Instagram also has a non-profit fundraisers section, which outlines how best to maximise donations. For example, utilising hashtags, adding links to 24-hour ‘stories’, and live-streaming either from your organisation or from donors. Lastly, the group fundraiser option is a brilliant way to collaborate and raise money with people you may already be connected to, such as public figures and people who have successfully raised funds for you before.
Due to the visual nature, Instagram is a great way to show off what you do and connect people with your work. This also offers a different route to storytelling. For example, live streaming videos during events, service user/staff/volunteer "takeovers" to show how your organisation benefits them, infographics with quotes, and photo/video posts all provide a very clear impression of what you do, and why users should donate.
Top tip: Make your fundraising request post visually appealing, headline it with a catchy title, and use compelling images to show the impact of people’s donations.
Twitter posts are limited to 280 characters, meaning you’ll need to be creative in how to fit information in short tweets and threads. This means your message or donation request has to be clear and to the point.
Tweeting your donation links can build up momentum to your organisation’s fundraising needs, particularly when utilising hashtags and tagging relevant organisations/people/pages to start campaigns or conversations. Twitter is a brilliant way to connect, influence and build networks locally and nationally with other organisations, funders, local councillors etc. Your content can be easily shared through retweets, hopefully widening your reach to more potential donors.
With Elon Musk's Twitter takeover, many organisations are reviewing their own standpoint on Twitter, as well as considering alternative platforms. If that's you too, here are a couple of articles by Charity Digital to help: Should charities stay on Elon Musk's Twitter? | Exploring the alternatives to Twitter
Top tip: Keep your message brief but comprehensive, and use Bitly to keep your website links short and within the character limit!
Look no further than our podcast episode with the brilliant Nana Crawford, talking about how the British Red Cross was one of the first charities to successfully start fundraising on TikTok, and how they made it work.
This all sounds great, but how do I get started?
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