By Chris Taylor
NEW YORK Jan 25 When Doug Haslam gets on his
bike, it's for personal as well as philanthropic reasons.
Of course, the 44-year-old social media consultant from
Newton, Massachusetts, derives intrinsic joy from riding his
Specialized Allez Sport.
But, having lost relatives to cancer over the past couple of
years, including his father, he's keen for his pedaling to raise
as much cash - for charitable causes - as possible. Like when he
saddles up for the annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, a two-day
fundraising bike-a-thon for which he rides about 170 miles.
To get the maximum bang for his fundraising efforts, Haslam
taps his sizable social networks. He has 1,776 friends on
Facebook, and 28,376 followers on Twitter, and he also runs a
personal blog. By getting the word out on social media, he
raised about $7,500 last year for Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer
"These days people don't go door to door anymore," Haslam
says. "To raise money, you have to go outside your own
neighborhood. That's why I turned to Twitter and Facebook
Haslam is in good company.
Over the past five years, peer-to-peer fundraising revenue
has more than doubled to about $1.8 billion annually, according
to Blackbaud, a Charleston, South Carolina-based firm that
provides software solutions for nonprofit organizations.
And those who incorporate social media in their campaigns
beat other fundraisers by more than 40 percent.
"The number one reason why someone gave to a new charity
last year, is because a friend asked them," says Aaron Zifkin,
senior vice president of Toronto-based Artez Interactive, which
helps charities set up 'friendship-powered fundraising.'
"Now, with tools on Facebook and PayPal and
mobile apps, people can go out there and effectively solicit
When mining your social network, though, tread carefully.
Friendship and fundraising may not always make for a happy
union. You risk annoying your network with pleas for cash, and
having them unfriend or unfollow you if the campaign gets too
strident. If a close friend doesn't contribute to a cause that's
close to your heart, it could fray those bonds.
Indeed, not everyone digs the idea of plumbing one's social
networks for charity dollars.
As an avid runner and vice president of Brooklyn's Prospect
Park Track Club, Michael Ring is inundated with opportunities to
sponsor races, either by raising funds himself or as a
contributor towards his running buddies' efforts. But it always
makes him feel a little queasy.
"I donate a fair amount to charity, but I don't feel right
asking other people to do the same," says the 49-year-old Ring,
who lives in New York. "Maybe my charities aren't important to
you. I feel like it's a bit of an intrusion."
Ring says people always ask: "What are you running for?" His
answer is simple: Athletic competition.
"Why do I always have to have a cause? It strikes me as kind
of weird," Ring says.
If you do decide to mine your networks for charity, the
opportunities to do so are growing, with an array of Facebook
apps and iPhone and Android tools that
simplify donating to a few clicks.
In addition to plain old e-mail - where solicitations
between friends have a solid 25 percent success rate, according
to Artez Interactive - think of all the social media accounts
you have these days. You might be on Facebook, and Twitter, and
LinkedIn, and can make separate appeals on all of them.
"People are understandably hesitant to ask their friends for
money," Zifkin says. "But social media are what's called a
'softer ask'. If you post on Facebook or Twitter, it's less
nerve-wracking than asking someone face-to-face."
Keep in mind, though, that not all social media are equal
when it comes to raising cash.
An Artez whitepaper reveals that Facebook is the 800-pound
gorilla in the space, a much more powerful venue for fundraising
than its competitors. On Facebook, clicks to a friend's donation
form result in giving 23 percent of the time; on Twitter, only
one percent of the time. That could be because more people use
Facebook more frequently, and those folks tend to be closer
friends than the ones who follow you on Twitter.
How do you raise funds for the causes that are important to
you without damaging your social media relationships?
Here are tips from the experts:
THINK OF FUNDRAISING AS SECONDARY
Don't use social media as a "sophisticated begging tool, but
as a way to share ideas and passions from which finances will
eventually flow," says Jason Saul, author of The End of
"For instance, I'm on the board of the Hyde Park Art Center
in Chicago. But instead of just saying on Twitter and Facebook,
'Can you cut me a check,' I'm hosting a salon at my house
introducing friends to emerging artists. Ultimately, it will
help with fundraising, but that's not the only point of the
DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
If your friends pony up for your favorite cause, great. But
if not, don't take it as a personal slight.
Perhaps they've already given to other causes this year, or
maybe they're cash-strapped and focusing on more pressing
concerns like the monthly mortgage. Be understanding, and don't
DON'T FLOG YOUR CAMPAIGN AD NAUSEUM
Be judicious in mentioning your campaign; there's a delicate
balance to be struck. You want to get the word out, but you
don't want to browbeat your friends until they're too annoyed
with you or tune you out altogether.
"It can't be 24/7," says Patricia Rossi, a business
etiquette consultant and author of Everyday Etiquette. "It must
be brief and discreet, not a constant heckle."
If a friend chips in to your campaign and then doesn't hear
back, it's going to leave an empty feeling and make them less
likely to donate in future.
"Involve them in the cause," advises Saul. "Always follow up
and say, 'Thank you so much for helping. This is the impact we
had, this is how many lives we saved, and this is how many
mouths we fed.'"