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Facebook emerges as new way to draw in donors

Oct. 12, 2012 - 04:37PM   |  
By SARAH CHACKO   |   Comments

Combined Federal Campaign officials say they are increasing their use of Facebook to connect with and engage federal donors.

CFC of North Puget Sound in Washington state created a Facebook page this year to reach more people, said director Chris Coté.

“We are aware that Facebook is blocked by many federal agencies, but it is not by [the Defense Department] and our campaign is nearly 50 percent military,” he said in an email. “We think this will allow us to reach the younger donors and increase participation.”

The campaign uses its Facebook page to share campaign videos, notify employees about events and showcase incentive gifts for donors.

Melanie Manista-Rushforth, director of the CFC of South Puget Sound, based in Tacoma, Wash., made her campaign’s Facebook page public this year. The campaign created its Facebook page in 2010, but it was largely unused until this year because the previous director wanted the page to be private, Manista-Rushforth said.

Since going public, South Puget Sound’s Facebook activity has increased as people comment and share pictures from events and links to CFC stories.

While some agencies have blocked Facebook at work, people can go to the site when they get home, Manista-Rushforth said. That allows CFC to engage with participants and potential donors outside of the office, where they usually meet campaign volunteers and hear about events, she said.

Most people do not want to check their work email after they leave the office, but they will check Facebook, Manista-Rushforth said.

“It’s a way to combine leisure and work into one venue,” she said.

Like South Puget Sound CFC, the Heart of Alabama CFC created its Facebook page a couple years ago but posted infrequently. Heart of Alabama CFC Director Xavier Lewis said his staff is also working to develop the campaign’s Facebook presence.

Being more active on Facebook is “certainly on the top of our agenda,” Lewis said. “You want to connect with your donors in a way they’re accustomed to being connected with. Facebook and social media is a way to do that.”

Nonprofit organizations, such as those that manage and benefit from CFC, still rely largely on emails and in-person interactions to recruit participants, according to a report released in August by marketing firm Constant Contact.

Of more than 300 nonprofits surveyed by Constant Contact in late April and early May, 86 percent listed emails as an effective marketing tool, 73 percent listed in-person interactions and 58 percent listed social media. Of those that use social media, 88 percent said that Facebook was the most effective, compared with 5 percent for Twitter and 3 percent for LinkedIn.

CFC officials say social media cannot replace the face-to-face contact between volunteers and employees. In-person interactions are meant to add a personal touch to the campaign and allow for more in-depth conversations about the impact of CFC giving, officials said.

Facebook adds to that personal interaction with fast, fun and easy snippets about the campaign, Manista-Rushforth said.

Facebook’s format also encourages participants to spread the word. If an employee is shown in a photo that is posted to the campaign’s Facebook page, he is likely to share that picture on his own page, Manista-Rushforth said.

“That might spur some conversation about what CFC is or what they were doing with [a charity],” she said. “It gets people talking.”

Marketing through social media may be lagging because more than half of the nonprofits surveyed said that was an area they needed help with, the Constant Contact survey showed.

“While more nonprofits understand that social media can help them attract and engage supporters, it’s still a bit of a mystery to them in terms of how to actually use it themselves,” Alec Stern, Constant Contact’s vice president of strategic market development, said in a news release about the survey.

Nonprofits need to know the basics of using social media, but also how to build an engaged community by sharing through social media, such as by posting stories and images of people who have been helped by charities, he said.

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