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Are charities measuring social media effectively?

19 April 2016

There’s been a lot of debate about the value of social media recently. It makes me wonder – do organisations have the correct metrics in place to measure how effective social media is for them? 

How often have you heard someone saying that raising awareness doesn't pay the bills? How do they know this? As much as we need evidence to prove raising awareness does pay the bills, we also need proof if it doesn't. I don’t believe raising awareness is a waste of time. In this TED talk, fundraiser Dan Pallotta demonstrates how advertising and marketing can make a real difference to charity fundraising campaigns.

There is growing recognition that non-financial metrics are just as important as financial metrics. Fundraisers and marketers need to get better at integrating these two metrics so performance is measured as accurately as possible. Offline metrics should also be integrated with online metrics. Once we get better at attributing value accurately across all touchpoints, we should be able to see how raising awareness supports fundraising more clearly. Most importantly, these metrics need to align themselves with the organisational objectives to have real value and get buy-in from senior stakeholders.

Success in social media fundraising

If you look for examples of successful social media campaigns, you’ll inevitably come across viral campaigns like the ice bucket challenge and no makeup selfie. Although these are great examples of social media raising income for charities, they are few and far between. For something a bit more relatable, here’s an example from a social campaign I worked on in the past. Due to lack of resource in business intelligence the results aren't perfect, but they are an indicator of how social media can work for charities. 

In 2014, I worked on a social media campaign to encourage teachers to sign their schools up to a sponsored reading scheme. The previous year’s campaign involved lots of physical leaflets and even CDs  –  not very cost effective as you can imagine.

The objective was to get 100 schools to sign up, in the hope half would go through to fundraise. The aims were to raise awareness of the organisation and encourage newsletter sign ups. A newsletter sign up may not seem like a huge win, but if one of those sign ups goes on to give a donation, there’s monetary value from social media right there. It just needs to be measured!

A Facebook PPC campaign was trialled to promote the fundraising challenge and reach teachers – the physical resources were scrapped for digital versions. The campaign was targeted at teachers in the UK, with a budget of £1,000 to run over September and October.

The campaign generated 96 conversions and 353 people signed up to receive the newsletter. The Facebook campaign generated 43% of sign-ups, compared to 10% in teaching magazines, 12% by email, 28% from the website and 7% by post.

The total raised from the campaign was over £15,000 — but this is as far as the analysis got. Why? A lack of understanding and resource. We pushed to find out exactly how much was raised from the Facebook sign ups but for one reason or another it didn't happen. However, we do that know that one of the schools that signed up from Facebook raised over £1,000, which covered the cost of the campaign anyway. 

In my new role at Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we've already seen encouraging results from social media for our SeaWorld campaign. However, I think a lot more needs to be done to really understand the financial and non-financial value social media brings charities.

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Clair O’Neill

direct marketing officer, Whale and Dolphin Conservation

Clair is direct marketing officer at Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), where she is helping to shape their digital fundraising strategy. She has also helped improve digital strategy in previous roles at international development charity Send a Cow and renewable energy supplier Good Energy. Clair is also a studying member at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.