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Canadian 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollar billsTraditional donations methods like phone solicitation are waning. Athletes and their families can only sell so many magazines or chocolates. How can a sports organization keep up with the rising
cost of sports participation?
The answer: social media.
Though social media has a reputation for “slacktivism,” many organizations report that social media and other online fundraising efforts are playing a larger role in their donations strategy. In the UK alone, £2.4 billion ($3.3 billion) were donated online in 2013. That number is climbing, especially among Millenials.

While social media should not be your sole fundraising focus, adding a digital element to your fundraising campaigns can increase your return on investment. In fact, fundraising campaigns with a social media component earned 30% more than their offline counterparts.

In Social Media Toolkit 33, we’ve assembled the top 11 ways to turn your social media followers into donors.

1. Create a campaign

With a little planning, you can create a cohesive donations campaign that pays dividends. Your online fundraising campaign should have:

  • A timeline: When you plan your yearly communications strategy, identify key times for a fundraising campaign. Most fundraising campaigns tie in to a real-life event such as a sports season or an initiative like Giving Tuesday. Give yourself enough lead-up time to build momentum. Remember: 10% of all annual giving occurs on the last three days of the year.
  • A call to action: The best fundraising campaigns have a clear, simple message that identifies the need the organization is facing and rallies the troops. Your call to action should make your audience feel that the need is urgent.
  • A strategy: Asking for money simply isn’t enough online. What stories will you tell to show the effect of your programs? What content will you create? What look and feel will your campaign have? Who is your target audience?
  • A list of resources: Do you have a large email list? A group of passionate volunteers? Before you begin your campaign, do an audit of any assets that you could leverage in your campaign.
  • A goal: How much money are you trying to raise? Does your fundraising campaign have any other goals, such as increasing engagement or spreading awareness about your cause?

2. Tell your story

St. Bernard puppy playing in the leaves

If you’ve ever donated to an animal shelter because of a tear-jerking Youtube video about abandoned puppies, you know that emotion is the key to fundraising. Luckily, social media is an inexpensive, effective platform from which to tell your organization’s story. Profile athletes or other community members who have benefited from your organization. Create videos, photos and other “rich media” to arm your community members with shareable content.

Using storytelling allows you to issue the same call to action in different, engaging ways. If you simply tweeted “Donate to our organization today to make a difference in people’s lives!” multiple times, you’d annoy your followers. If, however, you told the story of a girl who got better grades thanks to the confidence she got in your youth program followed by the story of a mother who got involved as a volunteer in the program and was inspired to go back to school, you’ll deliver your message from different angles in a way that’s likely to get attention. Click here to find out how to uncover great social media stories within your organization.

3. Connect your campaign

Amplify your fundraising campaign’s reach by putting links on your website, in your newsletters, in your email signature, on posters and much more. Your social media campaign should have the same look and feel as any other fundraising initiatives, such as donations letters. To keep your campaign at the top of your followers’ minds, swap out your Facebook and Twitter cover photos for campaign images. Click here to learn how to create a communications network.

4. Show your personality

A young women sitting in a dunk tank

The best social media fundraising campaigns have personality. They’re emotional, funny, silly or motivating. They make us laugh or cry or think. Showcase your personality through storytelling, and you’ll resonate with your audience. Some fundraising campaigns do this by offering a fun incentive when the target is reached, such as putting a head coach in a dunk tank.

5. Tell people what you need

Don’t be afraid to clearly state what you need your followers to do. Your campaign should have clear, concise calls to action. Want your followers to retweet your campaign story? Want them to share their own stories about how your organization influenced them? Want them to send a fundraising email to 10 of their friends? All you have to do is ask.

6. Find your influencers

A family of kids and adults jumping in the air on the grass

Strangely enough, most online donations campaigns get their biggest boosts from offline actions. Before you begin your campaign, identify 10 – 20 key influencers and ask them to help spread the word. Since sites like Facebook have an algorithm that prioritizes content that’s shared, liked or commented on when it’s first posted, it’s important to get influencers on board beforehand to engage with your donations content early. Your influencers don’t have to be the most important athletes or coaches. Family and friends who love to interact with your organization on Facebook can amplify your message just as effectively.

7. Be flexible

Social media moves quickly and organically. Be flexible to capitalize on trending hashtags or even unexpected real-life events. For example, a news outlet might do a story on an athlete who all made a Canada Games team from your youth program. Capitalize on the increased attention by releasing old photos of the athlete and promoting the message that the athlete’s success today is directly related to the skills she learned in your program. Encourage your followers to donate now to help tomorrow’s athletes.

8. Pick your battles

If you solicit too frequently on social media, you’ll quickly alienate your audience. Instead, choose your fundraising efforts wisely. Many organizations enter large social media granting competitions like Chase Community Giving. Unfortunately, thousands of groups enter these competitions and the likelihood of winning is low. To make matters worse, your audience feels that they already helped your organization out by voting, so they’re unlikely to donate. Instead, select a few key times to make your asks and be sure to balance our your donations content with other social media content to avoid annoying your audience.

9. Climb the ladder

ladder leading up to the sky

Successful online fundraising campaigns aren’t just passing a digital hat around. They’re also interested in engagement. Studies show that 55 – 60% of people who engage with an organization on social media go on to volunteer, donate or attend an event. Smart organizations have a strategy for moving their online fans “up the ladder” to turn them into donors. Often, this process will happen organically if you keep sharing your call to action with compelling stories. For example, someone who enjoyed your profile video might think of your organization when they’re looking to donate before the end of the year. Sometimes, however, you need to give the process a boost. If you’ve discovered that your volunteers are more likely to donate, craft an email to your volunteer list with a tailored pitch. If you find that many young people like your donations videos but don’t have enough money to donate, put out a call to action for volunteers to move them up the ladder to become more engaged.

10. Get competitive

It’s no secret that the sports community loves a little friendly competition. Harness your community’s competitive streak by setting fundraising goals among your athletes, recognizing top fundraisers on social media or in your newsletters, and setting teams against one another to see who can raise the most money. Maybe the top fundraiser gets to throw a pie in your Executive Director’s face. Maybe the top fundraising team gets a pizza party. Remember: many fundraising sites like Chimp allow you to create individual pages for each athlete or team.

11. Say thank you

Colourful words writing Thanks!

Saying thank you is perhaps the greatest way to ensure the success of future donations campaigns. While the campaign is going on and after it ends, remember to celebrate everyone who took the time out to donate to your organization or even like or retweet your content. Remember: even if someone donated online, nothing beats a handwritten thank you card.

Have a question about social media fundraising? Got a tip that wasn’t mentioned? Get in the conversation by tweeting @ViaSportBC or emailing




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Social Media Toolkit

The social media toolkit for sport communicators is intended to help B.C. sport organizations, clubs and other sport-related organizations navigate the confusing and rapidly evolving word of social media.