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Season 2, Episode 23

Are you making the best use of social media to promote your organization, your events and your campaign? Julia Campbell combines social media and fundraising savvy. Her new book, How to Build and Mobilize a Social Media Community for Your Nonprofit will come out next month. And she will reveal some of her insights to campaign experts Amy Eisenstein and Andrea Kihlstedt.

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This episode was recorded as part of a live webinar held Monday, January 24, 2022. To participate in future webinars, register at ToolkitTalks.com.

Amy Eisenstein:
Good news everybody, we have a special guest today, so we’re going to get started. As always, I’m Amy Eisenstein, and I’m here with my co-host Andrea Kihlstedt and we are the co-founders of the Capital Campaign Toolkit. We are delighted to be with you. Today, we have a very special guest with us. And Julia Campbell, I’m going to read a little bit of her special bio, but Julia and I have known each other for years now in the nonprofit speaking circuit, I guess. We meet around the country. Julia’s from Boston, Boston, right? Are you in Boston proper? So she has been named as a top thought leader and one to follow by Forbes and BizTech magazine. Julia’s a nonprofit digital consultant on a mission to make the digital world a better place. She is host of the Nonprofit Nation podcast, and she’s written several books for nonprofits on social media and storytelling.

She’s got online courses and webinars and talks that she makes all around the country. And sometimes we bump into each other at conferences, which is so fun. She really wants nonprofits to make a shift to digital thinking and raise more money online. And you can learn more about her and her business at jcsocialmarketing.com. And I’ll let her say that again towards the end so you won’t miss it.

So, listen, obviously because of Julia’s expertise, we’re going to be talking about social media and fundraising and capital campaigns and how they all relate. And let’s go ahead and get started. So Julia, we are going to kick you off with the topic of the latest changes that you’re seeing in social media and how they’re affecting fundraising. So why don’t you start us off with a little overview there.

Latest Changes in Social Media Pertaining to Fundraising

Julia Campbell:
Oh, great. Okay. Well, thanks so much for having me today. As we know, social media, whether it be Facebook or Twitter or TikTok, WhatsApp has been in the news a lot lately. Some of the most recent changes that I’ve been paying attention to that have really been affecting our ability to reach our fans and followers, number one, the algorithm has shifted and always is continuing to shift. So especially on Facebook and Instagram, as I’m sure a lot of you know, it’s getting very, very difficult to organically reach, which means unpaid posts to reach the majority or even just a tiny little percentage of your fans and followers. So that is not necessarily a change, but I do know that they’re shifting the algorithm also away from political conversations, from conversations around causes and issues. And they’re paying a lot of attention, I’m speaking about Meta specifically, but whatever Meta Facebook, Instagram do, a lot of the other platforms tend to follow.

So they’re shifting away from incendiary conversations or conversations that they deem controversial. And for a lot of us, even if we’re not working directly in the political or advocacy space, we might be seeing our posts, our accounts, and our ads being flagged as such. And I wish I had more insight into why that happens, but that is something that I’ve been seeing across the board. I’ve been working with a little museum here and their posts have been flagged as political, which they could not be less political if they tried. So that’s something that’s happening. The second huge shift is the shift towards data privacy, where people are much more likely to be turning off all of the settings that online marketers tend to rely on to target and to reach new people and to even reach their fans. So an example is the recent iOS update.

If you have any Apple products, you have the ability to turn off being tracked online. And that means Gmail open rates, that means Facebook, Twitter, any time of advertising, Google ads. So that’s great for us as consumers, but for online marketers and for people using social media to really amplify their missions, it is kind of challenging now. So with everything else, my philosophy is talk to the people that want to be talked to, reach the people that want to be reached and engage the people that want to engage with you. And we can’t fight the system, we can only work within it and I always recommend, and I’m sure we’ll talk more about this, don’t put all your eggs in the social media basket. Not that you ever should have, but in 2022, it’s especially important to diversify your communication and to be looking into multichannel and not just focusing on say Facebook or Instagram.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. I think those are such good, practical, specific, tangible tips. And I think one of the big questions that nonprofit leaders often have is how much time should I devote? It’s one tool, it’s one tool in your fundraisers toolbox and I’m so glad to hear you say Julia, that it is not the end all be all because sometimes new or whatever, maybe not just new organizations, some people feel like they’ve got to put everything they’ve got into social media. And here you are, a social media expert saying, no, you’re not going to put everything you have into social media. So one more question from me to get the conversation started, so where should nonprofits be on social media and how do they decide and how much time should they be committing? I know that’s a big question.

What Social Media Channels Should Nonprofits Use?

Julia Campbell:
Right. So I love this question because this question is impossible for me to answer without asking you specifically maybe 10 other questions. So the analogy that I always give is, if I’m at the grocery store and I walk up to a complete stranger and they ask me, “Where should I buy a house?” I would say, “Okay, what’s your budget? Do you like freezing cold weather six months out of the year? Because you might want to consider Boston. Do you have kids? You might want to live near a school.” So you get the point. There are a lot of questions that I would need to ask and you need to ask yourself before saying, where do I set up shop? Because so many different organizations have different purposes. So a great example is, I do work with Boston Public Schools and they were running a campaign.

They got a grant to increase FAFSA completion, the federal student aid document that you complete and studies show that if you complete a FAFSA, you are 80% more likely to actually apply and enroll in college. So for Boston Public Schools, that was our huge goal to get people to enroll. They came to me and wanted to do a social media campaign targeting high school students and they wanted to use Facebook. And I thought, okay, there’s a little disconnect here. If you want to target teachers, practitioners and parents, yes, we can run a whole campaign on Facebook. If you want to target high school kids, first of all, you don’t want me talking to high school kids. We’re going to have to get some ambassadors. Also, it’s a majority minority community in Boston, so we want it to be cognizant of that. We wanted to really have people that were from the community that reflected the diversity of Boston.

And then also considering the channels, we were thinking TikTok and maybe Instagram. So depending on what you’re trying to do, and depending on your goals and your audience, that’s how you’re really going to determine where you set up shop. But you’ll be happy to know, I don’t think you should be everywhere. I think for smaller nonprofits especially, you should pick maybe one or two platforms. And another analogy, you said, you asked me how much time should I spend? This is another one that’s really difficult to answer. And the way I look at it is like exercise and wellness. So if you are aiming to run the Boston marathon, you’re going to have to do a lot more training than say if you’re me and you just want to go to the gym 20 minutes every three days or something like that. So it depends on your goals.

If you are really trying to ramp up a marketing campaign and visibility, that’s going to really determine how much time and effort and budget and capacity that you put into it. So there really is no right answer. I do teach a webinar social media in 20 minutes per day, but that’s for people that have a million other responsibilities on their plate and they just kind of want to get started and they want to start on one platform. So I really don’t think you can do it in 20 minutes a day if you are aiming to use 10 different platforms and accomplish a million different goals. So we have to be reasonable in our expectations and just understand that it really is like a marathon and not a sprint. It’s really about consistency and playing the long game.

Amy Eisenstein:
And I think that’s true for all fundraising.

Julia Campbell:
Yes. Exactly. Look at it like all fundraising. It’s just a piece of it. The principles of fundraising still apply in social media, the main principles of fundraising. It’s not this light switch that you can kind of turn on and then miraculously money rains down.

Amy Eisenstein:
Right. All right. Let’s turn our conversation to capital campaigns. Andrea, do you want to start or do you want me to keep firing away with questions over here?

Social Media Goals for Capital Campaigns

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Well, why don’t I just put my nose in a little, certainly social media is not my area of expertise, so forgive me if my questions are not quite on target, but it’s always interesting to me to think about, well, if I were going into a capital campaign and wanting to ramp up my social presence, what kinds of goals might I set out for myself?

Julia Campbell:
That’s a really great question. Well, when you know that you’re planning a capital campaign, social media is a piece of your strategic plan. So you’re going to create the whole plan and the whole calendar and social media is that piece of communication where you want to make sure that donors really understand what you are doing, what you are doing day to day, telling fantastic stories about your work and how the work isn’t done and how people still need to invest and still need to partner, but staying away from specific fundraising asks and staying away from the announcement of the campaign.

I think we’ll talk about when specifically to use it, but it should be looked at as like a runway. So paving that runway and getting people excited and proud to be a part of your organization, sharing these little mission moments of what’s going on, talking about the staff. You could even tease talking about the vision. We’ve got really fantastic things in store. We’re so excited to share with you what we’re planning. Just things that get people excited and interested and help them feel proud to be a part of what you’re doing so that when you kind of have the big unveiling of your public phase of your campaign, social media is one of the drivers, it’s one of the amplifiers of that message.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah. And to have a sense of whether you are successful and at getting your message out, that would depend, you would look at the number of people who are following you, the number of responses you get, how would you calibrate? It’s one thing to put information out. How do you know if it’s actually landing anywhere?

Julia Campbell:
Well, you can look at reach. You can look at engagement. I tend to want to look at things that are a little bit more tangible, but I think as long… It’s hard when you’re sharing stories if you share a story and you share a photo, which tends to of course get the most engagement on Facebook. That’s what we really need to understand is that it’s so hard with this kind of marketing to draw that red line where you can say, “Oh, I posted this story in March. And then at the end of the year, the donor gave me a gift.” But we have to think about it like we think about maybe our newsletter or just educating people or providing this great information to our donors, to our supporters, to the public. We really have to look at it as sort of putting deposits in a bank.

We can’t just constantly be withdrawing, withdrawing, withdrawing, asking people to do things for us. We really have to be providing this information to them. So the metrics really are determinant on your goals. So if your goal is a public awareness campaign, website traffic could be great. Email signups is always a great metric of success because if you do get people to your website, get people on your email list, you can then retarget them, build a deeper connection with them. If you have a video, video views is always really great. Comments, I think comments, getting shares is really difficult, but comments and shares are always a really great metric. And it also depends on the platform as well because each platform has its own set of analytics and metrics.

Amy Eisenstein:
I think it is really complicated. It’s a whole world for fundraisers to get into. So going into one social media channel at a time is probably a good goal, but picking the right one carefully for your audience as you’ve shared. All right, let’s talk just for a few minutes about how and when to use social media during a campaign. We’ve touched on it a little, but what are some specific tips about when we really want to leverage social media specifically for a capital campaign?

When to Leverage Social Media During a Capital Campaign

Julia Campbell:
Right. Now I want to say I am not the expert in capital campaigns, so the way that I counsel my clients is whenever you are announcing the public phase of the campaign, so for some people at 70% of the goal, 8% of the goal, other people might be 90% of their goal, but definitely not in the very beginning when you have no money in and nothing really to announce because social media should just be pushing you over the finish line. It shouldn’t be something where you’re asking for money for, I mean, what does the average capital campaign last? How long does it last?

Amy Eisenstein:
I don’t know.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Up to three years.

Julia Campbell:
Exactly.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Between two to three years.

Julia Campbell:
So people are going to get very sick of hearing that same message on social media for three years. So you’re doing all this work in the background so you can make this splashy launch, and that’s what works on social is this excitement, this announcement, maybe do a Facebook live when you’re announcing the public phase and you’re announcing your goal and you’re thanking people and you’re really saying, “Oh, we have this much left to raise. Can you help us get the finish line? Can you help us reach that end goal?”

Because it has to be urgent and relevant and exciting. It can’t just be, “Oh, we’re raising money. We’re going to be asking you every day for the next three years. And there’s nothing new and there’s no angle, there’s no hook.” People love new. They love new. They love interesting. They love things they haven’t heard before. They really respond to that, especially online. So making sure that it is completely in alignment with however and whenever you announce the public phase and that the messaging is tailored for social media.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah. It’s interesting, when we talk to people about the quiet phase of the campaign versus the public phase of the campaign, there’s often a lot of misunderstanding about what is it to have a quiet phase. And the reality is that a quiet phase of a campaign is simply the period of the campaign during which you are actually raising money, but you’re not talking about the goal. You’re not really talking publicly about the campaign itself. Now you can, during that whole quiet phase of the campaign, be talking about the case, be talking about why the organization is needed, doing mission minutes or whatever, telling stories about clients who are being helped by the organization. And I assume that in social media that it parallels that idea that communication strategy quite closely, where in the quiet phase, you can be talking as much as you want on social media about the organization.

Julia Campbell:
Yes. So the framework that I give in my courses to my clients is 80/20 rules. So 80% of what you’re sharing on social media should be just like you said, things that you’d be sharing during the quiet phase, not asking anyone to do anything. You can share blog posts, but something that’s informative, helpful, entertaining, valuable, something that’s a value add to me that is going to really show me that I want to be a part of the work that you’re doing.

So that’s stories and data and statistics, it’s kind of all mixed together in that 80%. And then the 20% is asking. That could be, for social media for a digital fundraising campaign, that could be giving Tuesday, that could be year end. I know Mother’s Day campaign, Earth Day campaign, that could be during those times. But unless your organization is in the news all the time, you should not be fundraising on social media all the time, like every month, every week, no. If you are something that’s in the news a lot, like when there were a lot of wildfires in California, or I know the bush fires in Australia or immigration reform, there’s topics that are in the news all the time that are getting headlines, then maybe you can capitalize on that. But if you’re a local small organization, you definitely don’t want to be fatiguing people with that ask all the time, because then it won’t be as exciting when you announce the campaign launch.

Playing the Waiting Game

Amy Eisenstein:
I think those are such good points. Often we’ll have a board member, sometimes nonprofit leaders joke that these people want to go rogue and they’re talking on social media or they’re ready to announce things on social media before the timing works for the campaign, or you have an eager executive director who’s ready to ask right away at the beginning of the campaign on social media. And I think it’s one of the biggest mistakes that a nonprofit can make is starting out their campaign by asking for money on social media and making the mistake of thinking that they’re going to get all these new donors or all these donations from social. And that just isn’t the reality. And a capital campaign amplifies that. You really do spend the first half or two thirds of your campaign working individually with donors on individual solicitation strategy. And at the very end of the campaign, you turn to the public and then you can do other things like crowdfunding or asking for money online. Andrea, it looked like you were ready to say something else.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah. I have a question for you that to me is always a conundrum when it comes of to social. And here’s what it is that those of us in business are tempted to hire someone to do our social for us, as opposed to doing it ourselves because it takes time and it takes energy and it takes thoughtfulness and we’re all busy and we have many other things to do, but it strikes me that someone who really does a good job from within the institution, who becomes the face and the voice of the institution, who really knows what the stories are and who could be posting little videos, for example, about a particular story in a particular case is probably far more effective than hiring an outsider. I’m interested in your thoughts about how an organization should handle that.

On Outsourcing Social Media

Julia Campbell:
There’s just no way to effectively 100% outsource this kind of work. That would be like outsourcing 100% of your donor relations and donor communication. It’s just not possible because you understand the organization you’re in there every day, whether you’re working virtually or not, you know the ins and outs, you get the questions, you know the myths, the misconceptions and the stereotypes, and you know the education in the news what’s going on. And if you outsource it, first of all, you have to understand agencies and people that outsource, if you give them a lot of great content, they could craft it for you and help you potentially make it look great for Instagram, make it look great for Facebook, Twitter, but you have to give them the content. They can’t just make up what’s going on in your organization.

There might be some photos on your website, but that’s going to get exhausted pretty fast. And those aren’t up to date pictures. Those aren’t in the moment. The way that I think about it is you should think about it not like creating perfect content, but you should think about it like documenting. So even something that you think is really boring and mundane to your day to day, your donors might not think so. Like at the Boys and Girls Club, they always just share pictures of playing UNO after school or pictures of doing homework or pictures of tutoring, I don’t know, pictures playing basketball, because I’m sure to the people of the Boys and Girls Club, they think that’s boring, but to donors, they really love that, and to supporters and it looks great in the feed and it reminds me that they exist and it reminds me of the work that they do.

So if you think about it less like, “Oh, we’ve got to create this perfect content week after week,” and much more like, “I’m just going to take out my phone, take a picture. Or I’m just going to take a quick video of myself talking about what’s going on today.” A lot of organizations do that, either the development director or the executive director, they say, “You know what? I saw this in the news today and it made me think, and I just have some thoughts.” Because we have to look at ourselves as the go-to resource in a lot of these areas. The nonprofits I follow, I don’t have time to be the expert on all of these different issues. I turn to the nonprofits that I love and that I support to be my trusted go-to resource, and I want to know what’s going on. So we have to really think of ourselves as journalists, as documentarians and less like, oh, we’ve got to create this one perfect video to end all videos.

Amy Eisenstein:
I think that’s such a good way to sort of wrap up this section of our podcast. To me, the example of photos of the Boys and Girls Club and playing UNO or doing homework or playing basketball, things that they do every single day are what donors want to see. That’s what’s happening and it may happen every day and sort of be boring on the inside, but that is the reality of what the benefit that these kids are getting. So I think that’s such a concrete, tangible example. Julia, where can people find you and reach you?

Julia Campbell:
My website is jcsocialmarketing.com. My podcast is Nonprofit Nation. You can find it wherever you’re listening to this podcast or go to nonprofitnationpodcast.com.

Amy Eisenstein:
Excellent. Thank you so much for joining us.

Julia Campbell:
You’re welcome. Thank you so much.


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