Owners of for-profit business models almost immediately began salivating over the marketing and-money-generating potential of social media as soon as this tool of the Digital Age became a viable platform.
But most philanthropic and nonprofit organizations were cool if not downright hostile to the idea of jumping into social media.
Larry Blumenthal is a social media consultant for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Ten years ago, he recalled confronting a litany of doubts, complaints, skepticism, and flat-out denial from the philanthropic foundation staff who hired him to bolster their fundraising activities.
All that has changed today.
Philanthropic organizations have come to realize that social media may be among the most powerful tools they have at their disposal to accomplish what they need to do most — raise money. Just as a business needs cash flow to grow, a philanthropic group needs money to deliver the service it was created for. That might be helping poor people, raising funds for medical research, backing environmental clean-up projects, and so much more.
Social media provides tools that have never before existed in history that can raise funds for philanthropy in exciting new ways. Just consider crowdfunding. Setting up a crowdfunding campaign and then super-charging the effort by dovetailing it with massive messaging strategies across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and more can turn on the cash faucet for charitable causes.
Social media for philanthropy also goes way beyond money matters, however. It is critical for philanthropic organizations to build deep, trusting and even intimate relationships with all the people who have an interest in the mission of the organization. Let’s face it, social media is the best tool for getting that done.
In the past, philanthropy workers spent countless hours making phone calls, writing letters, giving lectures, traveling and talking to key groups to nurture their base of support and draw in added support. Yes, they still do that — but leveraging social media to accomplish the same goal magnifies the effort to an almost incalculable degree.
Social media has the huge advantage of being free, although paying for ads and other enhancements is an advanced option. However, leveraging social media for free or on a shoestring budget is a vital capability that non-profit organizations must have at their disposal.