Social Media: A key factor in record-breaking Fundraising Appeal

This is a guest article from Graham Richards, a freelance legacy fundraiser and social media champion for charities & businesses.

Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti earlier this year, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), the coalition of several key aid charities, received a record-breaking £70m+ in donations for its Haiti Appeal.

A staggering 48% of the UK population made a donation, according to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).  Never has a disaster appeal had such an overwhelming response from the public.

One of the charities involved in meeting the needs of survivors in Haiti is the children’s charity, Plan UK. Their director of fundraising, Jeremy Cooper, said that social media played a key role in mobilising support. “Within 24 hours of the emergency hitting Haiti, we sent an eAppeal to our supporters.”. He added, “Just minutes after the earthquake Plan staff were using social networking sites to circulate content and updates.”.

In the first week after the disaster, Plan UK alone raised over £100k and puts much of this down to the use of social media to get the message across to supporters.

No wonder then that more and more charities are looking to developing social media strategies to support their more traditional forms of communication and awareness-raising. One of the major factors that social media has over other more traditional forms of fundraising is its immediacy. Just as new services are discovering, people with access to sites such as Twitter can get facts and information out in a matter of minutes to hundreds of thousands of people.

This form of viral communication is not only fast, it is virtually cost-free, using applications that we all have on our mobile phones, PCs, iPads, etc. It’s also two-way, employing both messages from charities to supporters, but also feedback and input from supporters, something traditional communications lack.

However, it isn’t just specific disaster-led appeals that can make good use of social media. Charities are learning how to harness Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other forms of social media to develop their campaigning, nurture potential new donors and grow their relationship with existing supporters.

Whatever your view of social media, from being a glib time-waster to being an incredible communications network facilitator, we will never return to just the old ways of raising funds and campaigning. Social media is here to stay and we ignore it at our peril.