Raising $20 Million on Facebook

You have probably seen the viral fundraiser called “Reunite an immigrant parent with their child.” (see the WaPo article that sums it up here).  As of this writing, this Facebook fundraiser raised about $20 million for RAICES, an organization in Texas with a $7 million operating budget.

Chances are your boss or board members are seeing it too and are asking how to replicate something like that for your organization. But this type of fundraising is less about having a strategy and more about chance. Just like in the case of natural disasters, you might not be able to predict when it’s coming, but you can be prepared if your organization happens to be doing the right work at the right time.

Key to success

Let’s get one thing straight. This campaign is successful because of the reaction to the news, not because they have a great social media strategy. Just like the ice bucket challenge took off because of individual efforts, not organizational efforts; this kind of campaign is a little out of your organization’s control.

How to replicate this fundraiser

Do work that directly impacts the issue.

Not “sort of” and not indirectly. Your organization will need to be on the front line making an impact where it’s needed most.

Make it easy for people to find you and see your connection to the issue.

Consistently demonstrate your expertise to your board, current supporters, and anyone that already knows you. Communicate your work, your history of success, and efficacy. This increases your chances of people stepping up to make a difference. When your issue is covered in the news, post articles on social media, and clearly communicate your connection and impact. Maybe you’ll have time to pitch a story to a media outlet, but the success of RAICES shows the importance of talking to your existing groups via social media, your website, and email.

Have multiple easy ways for people to make donations.

Sign up now for Facebook donate and be ready to go. Please note, I wouldn’t use Facebook donations as your main fundraising strategy because it’s harder to follow up with Facebook donors (you won’t always get their email address). But in reactionary fundraising, you’ll benefit from having this easy tool for donors to use and share. You should also have capabilities ready for peer-to-peer, text-to-give (great if you’ll be on TV or radio), and a smooth checkout process on your website.

Use all communication channels to give updates on your work.

Communicate what the funds will be used for, how that action addresses the issue and any additional help you might need. You will have millions of people waiting for instructions from you, so think of ways to keep them engaged.

Have a wonderful thank you process.

Acknowledge donations immediately with email receipts and ensure your new donors receive a heartfelt thank you email (also automated) from organization leadership within a few days. For donors that do not opt to share their contact information with you, share thank yous on social media and make frequent updates on the impact of the funds.

Move your social media followers to your email list.

Regularly communicate to your social media followers how to receive email updates by signing up for your email list. Social media interest wanes over time, but your email list is what performs in fundraising.

Update your Guidestar profile.

Make sure people feel comfortable and secure giving you funds. I checked out RAICES  Guidestar profile and think they could have had more robust information there.

Control the story.

Get ahead of any backlash by proactively talking about your impact and about how the funds will be used. I loved seeing the RAICES team on Facebook Live talking about how the donations will be used. It helped create helpful articles that make donors feel comfortable.

Stay in touch. 

Renewing donors is about engaging them. An easy way to engage them is to stay in regular contact with them. Make sure you have the ability to send regular impact emails, newsletters, touchpoints, and updates to your audience. In instances like this, chances are you’ll only retain a small percentage of these donors, so set your expectations accordingly.

So while you might not have the ability to make a viral fundraiser happen, you can be prepared if boatloads of attention come your way.