Social Media--Not Just a Passing Fancy

More and more of my clients are asking me to include social media as part of (and, occasionally, in lieu of) a larger planning process.  At first, I demurred.  I’m an old lady, and social media is a younger person’s game.  But then I realized that I actually use social media quite a bit.  This blog, for starters.  My e-newsletter.  And I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. I admit, I use those last three less than I might, but that is a decision I’ve made and frequently revisit.

In the beginning, particularly with Facebook and Twitter there was a fair amount of “I don’t care that you’re drinking coffee at Intelligentsia , why would you care that I’m at the Conservatory for Coffee,"? involved.  As time went by, I got that most of it wasn’t about that at all.  But, I am a sole proprietor and time—my time—is at a premium.  So, when I might be reading Twitter feeds or putting out tweets, I could also be doing something for a paying client.  And you know all about that golden rule, right? S/he who has (in this case pays) the gold, rules.

And when I didn’t have billable things to do, there is always administrative work and—yes, where I spend a great deal of my time—working to get new and repeat clients.

This turns out to be a whole lot like major gift fundraising.  I identify suspects, qualify prospects, cultivate them and solicit them.  And like major gift fundraising, the closer, more personal I can get with my potential clients, the more likely they will become real clients, if not now, sometime in the not too distant future.  And the more likely they will be to refer me to another likely prospect.

Social media, on the other hand, is a lot like marketing, outreach and your annual fund.  It gets your name out there; tells people what you or your organization is doing; tells them how to reach out to you. And, some infinitesimal percentage of them do. There is a value in that.  But again, one must consider ROI.

Return on Investment.  Beloved phrase of all my MBA professors all those many years ago.  I learned to hate that expression, except that, really, you gotta love it.

Investopedia  defines ROI as “A performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments.”  Visually that looks like this:

In other words, are the results of what I do worth the time, money, stress of what it takes to do something worth what you get from doing that something?

Another term my MBA professors loved was opportunity costs.  That is, what might you have received/accomplished if you had done something else?

So as I think about social media, and the resources (just me!) I have to put toward social media, I have to think about effectiveness.

In fundraising, effectiveness is generally considered to be the number of yes answers you get relative to the number of solicitations.  So the effectiveness of any mass media (such as social media) is far lower than the effectiveness of face-to-face encounters. It follows in consulting.

Building that base has real merit.  Oftentimes, your major donors start out as an annual or occasional donor.   But if you, like me, are a one person office, you want to spend the bulk of your time on what will give you the best results.

Social media, for most of us, is pretty low in those rankings.  So I write my blog and produce my newsletter first and foremost because I really enjoy writing and producing them.  And I love the occasional conversations that ensue.  Mainly, however, I hope they bring value to my readers—regular as well as random.  I keep a low or non-existent presence elsewhere in the social media world because the value to me at this time just isn’t there.

Which is what I say to my clients.  It is good that they are thinking about social media.  It is good that they want a social media plan.  But they must be practical and start by considering their needs and their resources, because the one thing they don’t want is for social media to make them (wait for it!) Too Busy To Fundraise!

Janet Levine works with nonprofit and educational organizations helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and use their resources effectively.  Learn more at