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My most recent experiment involved Twitter, fundraising, and an integrated offline component at the Gnomedex Conference in Seattle. I was able to raise $2,657 to cover the costs of college tuition for Leng Sopharath, an orphan in Cambodia in just 90 minutes. By the end of the conference, the total had climbed to $3,774. I've been a little shell shocked for the past few days, but wanted to share this reflection and analysis of the Gnomedex fundraising experiment.
The secret sauce to success for nonprofits and social media is reflecting in action. This is a technique I've used as a trainer, but it also works beautifully for social media projects. I'm going to call it AMORE.
RE= Reflection on results - rinse and repeat.
To monitor and reflect, you need collect both quantitative and qualitative data. Avoid data collection for the sake of data collection or you will pollute your reflection. And while you can use this method to do an ROI analysis, the real gold is the deeper understanding of what works and what doesn't. It's called double-loop learning.
Here's my AMORE step-by-step recipe:
- Set up a simple and small experiment, identify some outcomes and metrics
- Watch it closely as it unfolds
- Use feedback in action to adjust as you go
- Document in action in as much detail as possible
- Integrate quick email interviews as you say thanks with donors, pattern analysis of comments or blog posts
- Wait a few days and do an after action review or deeper meta analysis (this post)
- Apply your learnings to the next project
How did I raise $2,657 in 90 minutes? Why was it a success? It replicable?
First, let me repeat the caveat that my smart colleague, Katya Andresen points out:
These results are not typical. This story is the fundraising equivalent of the bikini-clad woman in the Slimfast ad - a special success story.
(Although I did learn from a commenter on Katya's post that I'm not alone - Flower Dust raised 1800 of it in 18 hours, 800 in 15 minutes).
This is something you probably can't duplicate if you're just starting out because I've spent five years using social media to build and nurture a network and banking social capital. It's the network, stupid! And the network weaving. Plus the Whuffie factor. That's a prelude to all of this.
I started with very small and modest projects and have used AMORE along with intensive experimentation.
Second, let me omplain about analysis tools at my disposal with the hopes that some smarter readers can point me to some better tools. What you see above is a social network analysis I created with Gnomedex schwag (and some pennies I borrowed from Chris Brogan) to illustrate the type of report I would like to be able to generate automatically.
I need social network analysis software as the back-end to the donation software that tracks who donated because of whom or at least heard about it via one a friend. So, I did the above analysis manually -- taking the spreadsheet of donor names and comparing it with the list of gnomedex attendees, previous donor lists, and tracking the tweets or blog comments or guest book that mentioned someone else. So, this is rough ... Here's some numbers:
- 30% repeat donors to a Leng Sopharath campaign
- 70% new donors
- 50% gnomedex attendees (not including the pass the Fez which was 30% of total dollar amount)
- 35% friend of friends
- 15% friend of friends of Beth
- 35% are names of people that I didn't meet at gnomedex, people I know or read my blog - strangers
The numbers don't tell the whole story.
The 30% of repeat donors came from my blog posts and repeat donors who saw it on the Twitter stream. Right before I went on the state, I sent an IM to two really connected people who I had just helped with their campaigns - and asked them to retweet it.
Call it the "geek ATM", but personal fundraising doesn't work without that personal appeal. Just watch Beth's presentation, see how much of herself she puts into it. You can't help but be moved to act. On that note, what can companies and brands learn from social cause fundraising? Viral and word of mouth campaigns often rely on buzz and flash to spread. What if they could instead put more passion and personality into the "call to action"? Can a company excite the passion and conviction, that personal connection that Beth can? I don't think a company could -- but *people* at a company could.
So the motivations to donate from people in the room were clear. The repeat donors and those who read my blog, the motivations are clear. What about those donors who didn't know me or were friends of friends?
Dave Delaney, who was in the room at Gnomedex, attributes it to the trust economy.
"Beth's presentation was a real eye-opener on how we can use this stuff for the greater good. Her presentation also taught many people, perhaps without even realizing, what the Trust Economy is all about.
I have my own history with Beth, last year she was trying to canvas money using Twitter to put a Cambodian girl through school. I didn’t know Beth and ignored the request, because I thought it sounded like a scam (I can be pig-headed sometimes). It wasn’t until Chris Brogan tweeted a request to help that I actually did. I trust Chris, when he put the word out I knew it was legitimate. We all have that power to help spread the word on important causes, rather than using Social Media simply as a brand-building machine."
The ask itself - a simple and easy ask of $10 played a factor as Katya Andresen notes, "The simpler and easier the ask, the bigger the conversion. Asking people to make a $10 with a few clicks is not a big request, and so it’s hard to say no to it." And, this checked out with some of the responses I got via email right from the donor's mouths or err fingers which lead to the "Why Not? Theory"
"I'd say the cause more than anything else, although there was a lot of "why not" in my reasoning as well."I'll spend more than that on drinks tonight, so why not drop a few bucks for a good cause".
But, I probed a few folks a little bit further: "I would love it you might consider expanding on your thoughts. I am trying to understand motivations to give a small amount to someone you don't even know..."
Here's one very insightful answer:
1) I noticed your tweet and that it was a young woman from Cambodia. My finance is half-Cambodian so the personal connection to the beneficiary made the cause more memorable for me.
2) I thought it would be good will to promote the cause myself, since others were doing so. This would fulfill my need "to belong" and be recognized.
3) Then, I started asking myself: "How many people are tweeting and donating?" and "How many people are just tweeting?" As a marketing person, I would be annoyed if every promotion was successful and extremely hyped but did not somehow lead to a sale. Suddenly, my needs changed and I needed my profession to be validated.
4) PayPal was an enabler. I had some money in my account.
5) The specific dollar amount was an enabler of convenience. As someone with limited time and attention, I don't want to think about how much money to donate. Just tell me how much you need and I will give it to you. People will offer more than the recommended amount if they feel so inclined.
But What About Traffic?
Opps forgot to look at that! So, ran a google analytics reports on visitors and there was definitely a rise on the day I gave the presentation. Several days later, Jonathan Colman set up a digg and announced it in the NpTech Friend Feed Room. It got 189 diggs. Here's the report.
John left this comment/question: If many people and nonprofits adopted this method of fundraising would it flood the market and become less effective? Is the success due to the novelty? I don't mean to be cynical, but merely ask the question about its sustainability.
I wonder how nonprofits are working with with wired fundraisers and the hyper connected and adopting these strategies for fundraising. Once we get past the early adopted, will this cause major donor fatique and get in the way of fundraising success or will it become as accepted as direct mail, email fundraising, and on-air pledge drives?
John Powers, left a response
It's a good question and don't have an answer. What stands out to me is stories. When you told us about Leng Sopharath's surgery, I gasped. From your stories she was no stranger to me. Tools and techniques may get worn from overuse, but new stories can always be told. The fund raising is an impressive story, really just floors me! Still I think it's important not to focus too much on the "how" of it and retain attention to how important telling stories is for all of us.
What do you think?