GOOD Thinking thumbnails socialfundraisingIt makes a lovely change to hear people say social media is coming of age for fundraising. About time too. Even my Grandad checks Facebook daily these days. Now that we’ve stop stopped asking ‘if’ we should use social for fundraising — let’s start asking ‘how’.

There are some brave and successful examples of social raising money; Twestival, NipNominations and the Plumpy Nut challenge to name a few.

But these are all one-off wonders. Big spikes of acquisition for 1 day or 1 week a year, picking up lots of little stand alone donations. You can’t hold a Twestival for every charity every weekend. So can social only be used for charity fundraising in big one-off events?

We’re missing a trick here I think.

We keep trying to measure the ROI of social by looking at funds raised from specific tweets or Facebook posts alone. But that isn’t really how people work. We have to think broader and more long term.

If a stranger sat next to you on the bus and asked you to give them a fiver every month, you’d probably ignore them politely, shuffle to the exit and get off at the nearest stop.

But imagine you meet someone you really liked at a dinner party. You bump into them at a few events after. You meet up, you get to know them quite well and grow to understand what makes them tick. If a month later they asked you to give a little money to a project they cared deeply about — then you just might.

We believe charities should use social to build relationships and trust between their brand and with prospective and existing supporters over time. But this shouldn’t just be fluffy sentiment.

We should look to measure how social content warms up donors and increases conversion rates on leads across all other channels.

After all, people don’t live in media channel bubbles. They’re checking Facebook and Twitter as they read the Metro in the morning and watching TV at night.

This isn’t a new approach. We’ve been warming up prospective donors through more traditional channels for decades. In 1999 NSPCC’s Full Stop campaign began pioneering the approach with TV, warming people up with a heartfelt ad enough to ask for a donation via doordrop later on. St. John’s Ambulance do the same with a more personal value exchange, offering a free first aid guide which collects data to convert to donations later on.

And yet social can offer far greater and more cost effective targeting options that any of these more traditional channels. We can speak directly to people in the right demographic group, with the right interests. We can input emails into Facebook’s Custom Audience tool to reach a database of leads directly — or use Lookalikes to find new leads that match the profile of our existing supports exactly.

No doubt, Save the Children will use this retargeting to capitalise on the 27m people that have seen their Second a Day YouTube video and the 274k people who have shared it on Facebook. We certainly made the most of these sorts of tools and insight for RNLI when we delivered H2Only for them.

I’m glad people have noticed social is maturing. It’s time charities looked to build a long term strategy for warming up donors through social, not expecting immediate donations from one off bursts of activity.