Quite often businesses approached by organizations collecting donations or in-kind gifts for fundraisers turn them down because they just can’t be bothered or because the requests are so numerous. What businesses may not realize many of these organizations or the internal departments delegated to run and collect funds also operate Facebook pages and Twitter accounts which post, support and, market the businesses which support them. While most businesses would find it difficult to fulfill the requests of all fundraisers, especially at the monetary level these organizations would like, I still believe it would be prudent to make even a small contribution or gift in kind especially if one knows the organization uses social media outlets frequently.
Extortion! One might yell, however, allow me to illustrate using two examples. A recent event in my area created a Facebook page which not only promoted the upcoming event and where all proceeds would go, it openly engaged members of the page (community), thanked individuals when they shared the page, asked members if they were joining as teams or sponsored groups, posted pictures of past participants, and continually liked, shared and posted the pages of all businesses which gave – in whatever way the business could afford. It also encouraged people to gather at local sponsoring businesses for food and beverages after the event, however, it did not sponsor an actual dinner or event at any one business. This Facebook page made it onto my newsfeed a hundred times due to the number of people I know sharing, promoting (either the event or a contributing business) or by virtue of someone attending the event. The turnout and response to the fundraiser was overwhelming. The community saw it as a self-reflective and healing time for great cause – children and families. The event even garnered news coverage. As an attendee, I felt good about joining a community of people who were coming together to help the widows, widowers and children left behind due to a national tragedy. As a business owner who has a firm rule of only giving in-kind gifts and not cash donations, I still felt good. I wanted to participate and gather a group of people to sponsor and experience the event. The post event wrap up was a heartfelt Facebook thank you with an array of pictures highlighting the families and participants. This is something I will definitely participate in next year and I am grateful to the organizers for all their hard work.
The second event has been run for several years by a large non-profit in the area. Once again, it is an event which raises money for children and families, primarily under-served or underprivileged youth in the area. It, too, has a Facebook page but that’s it, it’s just a page which was opened and now sits languishing waiting for someone in marketing to breathe life into it. The page has a minimal description, no pictures, reaches out to no one. I believe it has seven likes and it likes no other pages or business. While the heart of the fundraiser is about community and reaching out to those in need, one wouldn’t know it by the event page, nor would any business know what it was donating to or how to donate should it so chose. As a potential participate, it leaves me feeling empty. As a business owner, it has one bonus – in kind gifts to be raffled – other than that, I’ve got nothing. The department which handles the event does little outreach into the online community but does post flyers within public and private spaces in the community and has received news coverage in the past. The majority of its outreach is word of mouth to past participants or within the closed group of its members. Oddly enough, higher- ups push the department responsible to increase the number of participants and the amount of donations but levels have been stagnant and management – which does little itself to promote the event – cannot understand why.
So we know who clearly benefits from these two events – children and families in need, in which ever form that need might present itself and potentially the organizations which run the event either through increased membership or attention to their group. Who also benefits? Communities. Communities of people totally separate from one another whom, while coming together to help those in need, find healing themselves. But who is the last to benefit; in ways they may not realize (especially those who might not realize the power and significance of social media)? Businesses that sponsor these events see soft ROI through goodwill within the community or through hard ROI when they realize an increase in sales or traffic during and the event.
Businesses which participate in community activities can see both soft and hard ROI when partnering with organizations and events that utilize social networking platforms and media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. Businesses can also increase the “bump” these organizations receive by reciprocating the exposure through their own social media outlets and channels. The relationship becomes symbiotic not only in donations and revenue but through a perceived sense of goodwill by the community. These feelings are easily and readily expressed through word of mouth and social media thereby generating a greater exponential return.