Are Fundraisers Wasting Money On Digital?

Here’s a great article from Matt Collins, who makes the totally sensible statement that charities “need to think carefully about how resources are allocated.” With such dismal response rates on social media, Matt argues that we should shift our time and money to places that’ll give a better return.

“It’s time to step away from the belief that charities have to be on social media and need to invest in it.”

The responses have been…energetic. And the responses to these sorts of articles usually focus on the same areas:

“Social media is about raising awareness too!”
And that’s lovely…but awareness doesn’t pay the bills. I would much rather have some spondoolas. And you know what? Good fundraising also raises awareness.

“Social media increases income in other ways and I’ve seen it work first hand!”
I would LOVE to see those results! Please share them…because nobody seems to share the actual figures of their successes. Or, they say their social media fundraising works great but they don’t compare it to any other form of fundraising.

“Would #nomakeupselfie or the Ice Bucket Challenge have worked without Social Media?”
They might not have worked if ALS, etc. didn’t have social media accounts. But yeh…they would have still worked if you weren’t sitting there checking your Twitter every ten minutes.

“Brand X are doing it! So it must work!”
Possibly…or maybe they don’t know what they’re doing. If it takes 10 years to become an expert at something then we’ll only be getting our first round of Twitter experts in March 2016.
Even if it does work, be careful. If you’re a small organisation you shouldn’t really be comparing yourself to a big one. Large charities begin to put more time and money in to digital after they peak in other areas. You’re probably further down the ladder and have yet to fully tap in to Community or Corporate fundraising.

Overall I think some people might have missed the point.

What Matt is saying – and what many people say – is that yes of course it can work and it does work for charities…but we have to prioritise. Fundraising is a percentage game and we have to maximise the chances that our efforts will raise the most amount of money.

We’re reasonably #blessed in fundraising, in that if you put a Monthly Donation form on a table in the middle of the street eventually someone would sign it. If your charity posted out enough BRE envelopes and nothing else you’ll still get a donation.

So yes…those methods ‘work’. But they’re still a waste. You’d be much more likely to raise more money if you used your resources to phone some people instead.

Personally I don’t think you should shut down your social media accounts…I don’t think anyone does. If you can take part in every form of fundraising and awareness building then great…do it! But most people praising social media in fundraising are peddling snake oil.

But for a small charity like mine – where we have to pick and choose what we’re able to do – I think it’s hard to justify spending more than an hour a week on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Bebo, MyFace and Tinder.

4 thoughts on “Are Fundraisers Wasting Money On Digital?

  1. Thanks so much for this Simon! Excellent points. I think it’s important to know what channel is good for what, and allocate resources accordingly.

    A lot of the responses outlined what sort of things social media can be good for. I knew a lot of them – do they know what the other channels are good for? As long as resource is allocated with that knowledge, then awesome.


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