How Pathfinder International Uses Social Media to Engage Donors

If you’re like most nonprofits, you learn best from your peers. Especially when it comes to the constantly evolving world of social media.

Knowing this, I conducted a short Q&A with local smarty, Jaime-Alexis Fowler.

Jaime-Alexis is the Assoc. Director of Public Relations and Online Communications at Pathfinder International, an org ensuring that people everywhere have the right and opportunity to live a healthy sexual and reproductive life.

So here it is in three simple questions:

1. I understand that the number of donors who arrive through Facebook and Twitter is very low for your organization. Playing devils advocate here, doesn’t this mean that social media has poor ROI for nonprofits?

It’s limiting to look at social media for only fundraising. It’s really the whole package that’s important.

More than 40% of people who subscribe to our emails are also on Facebook. That offers an opportunity for us to engage with key supporters both via email and Facebook. So while they may not give directly from an ask on a status update, it might trigger them to remember that email they saw about a giving opportunity earlier in the day.

Just this morning, we posted an action alert for people to email Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A friend of a Facebook fan saw the action on Facebook, “liked” Pathfinder, took the action, and then gave $50—all within a period of a few minutes. If our supporter on Facebook hadn’t shared that action with her friend, her friend wouldn’t now be a supporter of Pathfinder!

2. What role does social media play in the fundraising process?

Fundraising is about developing a relationship. As many people often say, you wouldn’t go back to a friend over and over asking the same favor—or you wouldn’t have many friends! The same applies to email and social media.

Social media provides an opportunity and outlet to engage with supporters beyond simply asking for money.

Whether that’s an advocacy action, a powerful story of an individual served, or simply a picture of a beneficiary of a project, people want to see what’s going on with your organization! And without this regular contact, asks can fall flat in other channels such as email.

3. Can you share a specific example where social media played an instrumental role in fundraising?

Last year, during a matching gift campaign, I reached out to a few of our Twitter all-stars to ask if they would tweet about the campaign. One of them wrote back and said that she knew some people who would be great contributors to the match. As it turns out, the people she mentioned were already in the cultivation process with our major gifts team. The power of that social connection is that while the prospective donors were getting information from our development team, they also received a very personal and direct communication from a friend that we hadn’t anticipated.

We know the strength of peer-to-peer recommendations, and that simple outreach highlighted to me, why we need our social supporters to continue to be strong advocates sharing Pathfinder’s mission across channels—regardless of whether they donate via Twitter or Facebook themselves. They are our social ambassadors, and that’s absolutely critical to brand-raising and fundraising overall.

What to do next?

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John Haydon