If you’ve been avoiding getting your organization involved in Facebook, here are three good reasons to rethink that decision:
Here are a few guidelines for getting started with Facebook:
First, create a “Page” for your organization—this is similar to a personal profile. It allows members to become a “friend” of your nonprofit, allowing them to subscribe to your updates and engage in dialogue with you and other supporters. To set up your Facebook Page, visit www.facebook.com/pages/create.php.
Second, create a Facebook Group: If you are interested in sending direct messages to the in-boxes of your supporters (and you have fewer than 5,000 followers), setting up a group is the way to go. Without a group, you are limited to posting status updates and having your supporters read them via their Facebook News Feed. To set up your group, visit www.facebook.com/groups/create.php.
Once you are established on Facebook and your supporters are accustomed to communicating with you through this platform, it is time to start raising money. “Causes” is a tool (application) built for Facebook that allows you to fundraise within the Facebook network. Although it’s difficult to build a community within Causes, it’s worth exploring as a fundraising supplement to your Page or Group. Get a better feel for this tool at www.causes.com.
Once you are set up on Facebook, a great tip for integrating fundraising activities is to use the platform generously and frequently to express thanks for member contributions—public recognition helps spread loyalty and reinforces generous support.
Especially since the economic downturn, it’s become much more common for nonprofits and corporations to enter into partnerships that are less focused on direct financial support. In business they say “profits equals income minus expenses,” and similarly for nonprofits, reducing operating costs is just as important as bringing more money in the door. Even in tough times like those we’re going through, many companies are able to provide non-cash support that can be just as crucial as a monetary donation. Here are three budget-relieving examples we encourage you to pursue:
In-Kind Support: Make-A-Wish Foundation of America has been particularly successful at developing what are called “cause-related marketing” partnerships with a variety of airlines, hotels, and travel providers. In their case, the nonprofit receives travel services that can be used in granting wishes. These donations save money that would have otherwise been expended, and is critical to fulfilling, the foundation’s mission of granting wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. Whether it’s donated beer and wine for your next gala, free computers, or getting your airfare comped, how can corporate in-kind support advance your efforts and add money to your bottom line?
Contributed Media: The U.S. Fund for UNICEF has developed an innovative partnership with top advertising agencies. The agencies approach the companies they normally buy ad space from and ask them to donate time to support UNICEF’s Believe in Zero campaign. Each year UNICEF receives more than $10 million in donated media to raise awareness for mission-critical initiatives, allowing them to deliver a call to action to targeted audiences. This relationship has been critical to the UNICEF and has resulted in them saving 2,000 lives every day—that’s direct mission impact. But you don’t have to be a huge global player to secure contributed media—call your local TV or radio station and ask if they’re able to produce a PSA (public service announcement) for you and air it!
Technical Expertise: As part of their relationship with United Way of King County, the Seattle office of a global accounting firm reviewed United Way’s IT infrastructure. They provided pro bono recommendations on how multiple databases could be integrated to provide more timely, accurate information, thereby improving United Way’s service delivery. Although United Way isn’t a mom and pop shop, they wouldn’t have been able to pay for this kind of support. At the same time, the accounting firm enjoyed engaging employees in community building, building team morale. Whatever your size, look for a pro bono lawyer and accountant as well as technical support providers and other volunteer roles that may be filled by talented professionals.
At the very least, definitely sign up for a Google Grant (www.google.com/grants). A Google Grant will get you $10,000 per month in free “AdWords” advertising, so people see your link above the other results when they search Google. It’s an easy way for you to get more exposure for your cause, which is key to raising more money.
Ensuring that an event is fun, profitable, and not overly taxing on your staff is no easy task. Approach events with the same methodology used for capital campaigns or strategic planning: with ample time, realistic goals, and a clear sense of the desired outcome. Anyone who has planned an event knows they are like home renovations—they seem to cost twice as much and take twice as long as you expect.
Let’s talk next about money. Many nonprofits fall into the trap of poor budgeting, investing time and money, only to break even or incur a loss at the end of an event. A budget that is realistic, detailed, and carefully managed is one of the best tools in your toolbox. Envision all aspects of your event, account for every component that has a cost associated with it, and think through how you’re going to raise money and what’s realistic. Identify items and services you need to get donated, but be very conservative with your in-kind donation estimates. Notwithstanding our comments in Tip 7, organizations often erroneously assume that they can throw an entire event based on donated goods and services. Finally, add a 5 percent–10 percent contingency line item to cover unexpected costs without breaking your budget.
Consider the 2-to-1 ratio. If you raise $2 for every $1 you spend, that’s considered a respectable expense/income ratio. Even if you’re planning a modest fundraiser with the goal of bringing in $500 for your project, you still need to create a realistic budget and time line, just as you would for a large gala.
Nonprofits and social enterprises need money to start their businesses, but they often can’t go to the same sources as a small business operator. The “social capital market” is a very different world, with different rules.
“Social capital market” is a term widely used to describe loans, program-related investments, and other financing tools that are made available by foundations, government agencies, corporations, and individuals to support nonprofit ventures. Unfortunately, though, it’s not well coordinated or organized.
Also, the social capital market is much smaller than traditional capital markets, which include bank loans, venture capital, and private equity. Traditional money is usually unavailable to nonprofits since they cannot issue equity (ownership) in their businesses without spinning them off, which creates a series of other considerations and challenges. The social market focuses on social impact—hence the term “impact investor”—before financial return, which is inherently much harder to gauge and monitor. As such it does not have the innate efficiency or discipline of the traditional market.
If you are going to start a social business, be prepared to spend an inordinate amount of time raising money. By most estimates, traditional businesses invest 3 percent–5 percent of leadership time raising funds for a venture, with the rest devoted to making the business work. Many social enterprises spend 20 percent–50 percent of their leadership time raising money, a potentially significant distraction from the actual work of the organization. Be aware of the need to spend this amount of time raising funds, and check out relevant forums such as Investors Circle, Social Venture Network, and SoCap for leads—knowing what you’re getting into is half the battle.