The Chronicle of Philanthropy has posted a video that shows six examples of what are purported to be online and social media fundraising successes.
I work with clients regularly to shape and integrate their online and social media messages with other traditional message vehicles. However, I remain a bit concerned that we aren’t being as thoughtful as we need to be.
Look at the video and you’ll see what I mean. Emory University is cited as having increased undergraduate giving from $300 to over $9,000 in one year due to the social media campaign of “The Blue Pig.” Extremely creative, no doubt. And the execution was very well done – that’s a nice increase in giving totals. But here is the question:
Did we just teach the Emory undergraduates about values-based philanthropy, or we did raise money based on a gimmick? I fear the latter.
And here is why it matters. Having worked in the non-profit arena my entire career and for higher education institutions for the bulk of it, I have come to know that repeatable annual gifts and major gifts occur when donors become convinced that supporting your work will make a difference in something they care about. They have to care and you have to evidence making a difference.
Therefore, I view the work of development professionals more as teachers and facilitators than as “gift-getters.” As teachers, our goal is to open the hearts and minds of donors so that they can fully appreciate and embrace a compelling vision of how whatever it is they care about could be much better. As facilitators, our goal is to shepherd donors through the giving process, enhancing the experience as robustly as possible.
My concern, then, is that “The Blue Pig” concept, although creative and well executed, teaches these young donors little about values-based giving and more about making a gift to support a gimmick. Sure, the institution received more money than last year, but how much money did they leave on the table because they failed to truly educate and then facilitate these young donors through a giving process based on values. I’m not sure I would call this a success.