Web 2.0: Not just for sharing cute cat pictures

How tools such as blogs, Facebook and Flickr can help you influence donors.

How tools such as blogs, Facebook and Flickr can help you influence donors
Beth Kanter advises people to open their kimonos, if they want to get their clients to fork over some cash.

No, Kanter is not a madam. She’s a blogger who’s spent her whole career working in the nonprofit world. And “opening the kimono” is a strategy she advocates for nonprofits.

According to Kanter, organizations need to allow possible donors to peek at their inner workings. They need to get personal. Intimate. And they can do it via the World Wide Web, which is not the cold, impersonal place that cyberspace might have seemed not long ago.

Social media can perform fund-raising wizardry

Kanter shared her fund-raising strategies as part of the keynote presentation she gave at this year’s Making Media Connections conference, June 11–12 in Chicago. “The Wizard Behind the Curtain: Nonprofits and Social Media” told participants how they can use tools such as Facebook, Flickr and Twitter to raise funds, based on Kanter’s real-life examples.

Kanter knows what she’s talking about. Earlier this year she used social media as part of America’s Giving Challenge, a fund-raising contest sponsored by the Case Foundation. That contest gave people six weeks to find donors using social media. Contestants had to secure not the highest dollar amount, but the most donors.

Kanter’s efforts helped yield almost $100,000 in combined donations and prize money for her pet charity, the Sharing Foundation, which benefits children in Cambodia.

In her speech Kanter opened up her own kimono to reveal how she used social media to help the Sharing Foundation land 1,650 donations between Dec. 13, 2007, and Jan. 31, 2008.

We’re not in Kansas anymore

To explain how Web 2.0 can aid in fund raising, Kanter first turned to the “Wizard of Oz.”

The first iteration of the World Wide Web was Kansas, according to Kanter. People consumed, surfed, read, browsed.

Then came the storm, and the wired world changed forever. Now the Web was for collaborating, connecting, creating and conversation. It wasn’t the same Web.

The Web became a place that spawned the Cute Cat Theory. That theory holds that Web 1.0 was invented so physicists could share research papers and Web 2.0 was invented so we could share cute pictures of our cats.

But what do cute cats have to do with fund raising? Everything. Because social media are the key to reaching the next generation of donors. Here’s how.

Make it personal

Kanter advised people to make the appeal personal, in order to turn people from happy bystanders (who will merely listen to your request for donations) into instigators (who will actually create momentum for you).

Tell stories

In Kanter’s case, her two adopted children were born in Cambodia. So she told their story and made them part of her fund-raising efforts.

Remember the three Rs of network weaving

Kanter spelled out three principles for networking online: relationship building, rewards and reciprocity.

  • Relationship building: Meet people as people (not as donors, for example).
  • Rewards: Reward people for their actions in creative, authentic ways.
  • Reciprocity: People will treat you like you’ve treated them.

Add fun, humor, ease, urgency, competitive spirit, passion

Kanter advised the audience to inject an online fund-raising drive with several attributes.

Fun: You’ve probably heard it said that the term fund raiser includes the word fun. In her case, Kanter was hoping to get 51 $10 donations for her 51st birthday. So she added some fun to her appeal by having her kids issue the request on YouTube. (Make sure to watch the video in its entirety to see the kicker at the end.)

Humor: Besides the humor in the video, Kanter tickled people’s funny bones by posting old — and bad — photos of herself on her blog, on Facebook and on Flickr. She employed all of those media, as well as Twitter. She even uploaded a nude photo of herself.

Ease: Kanter also made it easy for people to donate, accepting credit cards online and allowing donors to use PayPal.

Urgency: Kanter appealed for donations with a sense of urgency, giving people a deadline. Because America’s Giving Challenge lasted for six weeks, donors needed to ante up by a specific date.

Competitive spirit: Kanter made it clear that she was trying to win a contest. And she appealed to the competitive nature of her donors.

Passion: All of Kanter’s posts showed her zeal for the cause she was supporting. Her passion evoked passion — and compassion — from those she reached.

Say thank you in creative ways

Once America’s Giving Challenge had drawn to a close, it was time for Kanter to thank her supporters. Through her efforts — and those of her fellow fund raisers — the Sharing Foundation placed first in the global giving category, having secured more donors than any other global charity.

So she once again used social media. She posted on Flickr. She posted on Facebook. She also let the recipients of those donations, the children, say thank you for themselves.

It’s hard not to get a warm, fuzzy feeling watching the children who will benefit from those donations. And whether you’re a cat lover or a dog lover, there’s one point that’s hard to argue: Web 2.0 is an effective, personal, collaborative new way to reach people who can support your cause. Just open your kimono.

How are you using social media connect with your audiences? Tell us at ncu@watermark-communications.com.

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