Do You Know Your Supporters?

Post by Frank Barry - 4.8.2010 - Follow me on Twitter

Nonprofits have an interesting challenge facing them. The ever growing social networking landscape makes it difficult to know if an existing or new supporter of yours is active on any of the current social networks (let alone the ones that haven’t been dreamed up yet).  How do you figure out if someone who volunteers for you is using Facebook or if a donor is active on Twitter? How do you know if an advocate is using YouTube to promote your case or Blogging to increase the public’s awareness of a topic you support?

Do You Know Your Supporters?This isn’t a new challenge by any means, but it is one that’s becoming more complicated to solve. It’s sort of like going from basic math to solving Trigonometric Theorems. Remember Ptolemy's Theorem? Yea, me neither.

You might be asking you self, why? Why does it matter if I know whether or not a donor is active on Facebook or Twitter? Or you may be thinking that your organization doesn’t use social media or any social networking sites. You could event be thinking that this is all too overwhelming and that you don’t have the time to figure out which of your supporters is using a particular social networking site. That’s understandable, but I’d ask that you keep reading. I’ve got a few ideas that you should consider and a great tool to help you solve this problem.

Targeted Communication

Knowing if one of your nonprofits supporters is active on a social network like Twitter gives you the opportunity to tailor your communication.  It’s like segmenting you email list to target you message to people that live in San Diego California versus Charleston South Carolina.

I’d suggest you think long and hard about how you communicate with people using social networks. Folks who use social networking tools are growing increasingly used to consuming smaller bits of information – The longer your message the greater your risk of them not paying attention or getting distracted with other things.

These supporters might also prefer to be communicated to on Facebook or Twitter versus email. It’s the same as when people prefer email versus direct mail. Same issue, different communication channels. Knowing how people want to be talked to is key to your communications strategy.

Action Step
: Find out where your supporters hang out online and make sure to capture that information in your CRM system.


Deeper Engagement

Social networks give you a unique and exciting opportunity. A low cost ability to engage with your supporters on a regular basis. This ability to regularly chat with people about everyday life, things that matter to them, how they’re supporting your organization and how you can support them is huge! Email doesn’t give you the chance to do this. People don’t use the tool that way and don’t expect you to either. Direct mail cost too much. These mediums were not intended to be used for this level of engagement, but social networking and social media were.

If you know someone is actively using Facebook wouldn’t you want to go spend some time with them there? Wouldn’t spending time with them like that deepen your relationship with them and in turn make them feel more connected to your organization?

Action Step
: Find out where your supporters hang out online and start regularly talking to them there.


The Power of the Network

Facebook has shown us that their average user has about 150 “friends”. I’m not sure if that’s the average across all social networks, but let’s imagine that it is.

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter make is extremely simple for your supporters to share things with their personal network of friends. If one of your supporters makes a donation to you or participates in an event and shares that information with their networks you indirectly benefit from that action because all of a sudden 150 potential new supporters heard from one of their trusted friends.

The power of one becomes increasingly important because the ability to spread the word has moved from the small local neighborhood to the huge World Wide Web! Think about that for a second.

Action Step
: Make it simple for your supporters to spread the word about how they are engaging with your organization online.


Solutions ...

You might be thinking to yourself, how on earth do I find out what social networking site my supporters use. There are a few ways you could go about solving this problem.

  1. Send an email out to your current list and ask your supporters to tell you what social networking sites they participate on and if they’d like to hear from you there. Make sure you’ve got a way to capture this information in your CRM system. Ideally you’d have a link in the email that takes them back to your web site where you ask them to fill out a simple form.

  2. Use a tool like Flowtown. You can import your email list and the tool will go find social networking information about the people on your list. Pretty cool, eh?! Once you’ve got this info. make sure to bring it back into your core CRM system so that you can continue building the complete view of your supporters.


Ok, you’ve heard enough from me for now. What are you thinking? How does knowing which social networks your supporters use help you build deeper relationships with them?

Photo by masepack


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