Thursday, June 19, 2008

Social networking: the next big thing for raising lots of money... OR an unwanted distraction?

I work for a brilliant fundraising organization called Pareto Fundraising. We exist purely and simply to help charities help their beneficiaries.

Right now I would argue that social networking as a way to raise money is an unwanted distraction.

Having worked with fundraisers around the world for the past 7 years one of my greatest sources of frustration is charities (and those within charities) getting distracted by things that just really don’t make a difference. Or in other words, don’t make them any money. Which in turn, doesn’t help their beneficiaries.

One such recent example of distraction is fundraisers trying to use social networking sites to raise money.

Now there has been lots written about this in recent times. And everyone has their 20 cents worth. I believe in looking at facts. Data. Evidence. And the evidence so far shows that as a fundraising mechanism (I am not talking about activism, campaigning, lobbying etc) - social networking has not been the 'next big thing' that some suspected it might.

Take the 'causes' application on facebook for example. If you look at recent reports, over the last 12 months just $2.5m has been solicited in gifts for 19,445 charitable organizations. That’s at an average of a mere $126 per organization! A pittance.

Now I could blog all day about other more effective fundraising efforts, but I won't. The point is, right now, social networks are not the answer for raising lots of money. The simple reason is there is no direct link between the charity and the individual and no real reason for them to support.

In time I may be proved wrong. But the point is, let's (as fundraisers) stop getting distracted or torn away from the stuff that ‘helps us help our beneficiaries’. Let's get better at thanking our donors, let's meet more donors face to face, let's develop more brilliant stories to be able to tell our donors or others we may reach out to for support.

Let’s get on with focusing our efforts where it really matters.