Give a lot to get a little: fundraising on social media

In the book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, Gary Vaynerchuk states, “content is king, but context is God.” Vaynerchuk argues that while creating new and changing content is imperative, it is more important for the content to make sense for the nuances of each specific platform, and ensure that your content tells the story that your brand is trying to relay. Vaynerchuk describes this content, which fits seamlessly into the feed of the platform, as native. He suggests that a low-quality photo would be wasted on “glossy, picture-perfect Pinterest” and a post containing links would be wasted on Instagram.

Do: Post striking photos on Tumblr
Don’t: Confuse the Challenger explosion for fireworks to post on July 4…

Creating content that fits seamlessly into the context of the social feed urges your followers to interact with your brand similarly to how they would interact with anyone else on social media. We use social media to tell our own stories. Vaynerchuk argues that companies should be doing the same thing – humanizing themselves through the creation of seamless, native content. By telling your brand story well through a series of “jabs” or posts which are there only to inform or entertain the viewer, you are more likely to land the big “right hook” (most often the sale) when the time comes to turn a viewer into a consumer.

The role of contextual storytelling is especially important in the non-profit sphere where the sale is a donation, and the only thing the consumer gets is the feeling that they’ve done something good for someone else. By feeding the donor a steady stream of informative, pleasant, self-aware content, you’re more likely to have a fully engaged audience when it is time to make the ask. What Vaynerchuk calls Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, we call give, give, give, ask.

In my work as a fundraiser for a private boarding school, I rarely use social media to make a direct ask. Instead, I share photos which may spark pleasant memories and highlight alumni accomplishments to keep them engaged with one another and thinking about how the school helped them on their journeys. We will post months worth of content, information about upcoming free events, or photos of alumni interacting with the school before asking them to register for Reunion or make a donation, two transactions which involve payment.

The website suggests that 80% of non-profit social media content “should educate and inform without focusing on the ask.” I use Instagram and Facebook to keep our followers feeling in touch with one another and the School to support our fundraising efforts through separate channels such as email, mailings, and personal interactions instead of relying on these outlets to make the asks for us.

As I scroll through our Instagram feed, I can see aspects where I stayed true to Vaynerchuk’s theory that content is king but context is God, but I also see instances where I have allowed non-native content to muddy our message, and with my new understanding of jab, jab, jab, right hook, this content looks garish and absurd. Non-profit organizations tend to see the work we do as having a higher calling than sales, although much of the work to secure a donation is selling our story to our constituents. But, attention is the name of the game and people have so little of it to go around. It is certainly foolish to believe that a non-profit shouldn’t follow the same social media marketing rules and best practices to get noticed in such a noisy world as any other company.

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