Mike Farwell may very well be the face of the future of social media fundraising for charities. He is not a fundraiser nor has he ever worked for a charity. Yet annually he raises thousands of dollars for Cystic Fibrosis Canada through his use of social media.
Farwell is not simply sitting behind his computer or staring at his phone and repeatedly asking for money. He sets a financial goal and establishes an attention-grabbing challenge. Then he leverages his relationships through social media to achieve them. One year he promised to skydive for the first time if he reached his financial goal. In 2014, he offered himself to do any type of work, from power washing swimming pools to being a soda jerk, on the condition that his wages go to Cystic Fibrosis.
How Mike makes it work
Although Farwell is a Waterloo Region media personality, his fundraising is a personal effort and communicated almost entirely through his own social media presence including Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Without him Cystic Fibrosis in Waterloo Region would not have the same profile nor achieve the same results for its annual fundraising efforts.
Mike Farwell is an influencer. He is active year round on Twitter and Facebook. His content shows that he is interested in his community and cares about making it better, but 11 months of the year he rarely talks about cystic fibrosis. In May however, he makes it his prime focus. He shares his compelling personal story to gain support from his social media connections to pursue a cure. His attention-grabbing challenge gives him content to post and inspires others to give and share forward.
Farwell shows how social media allows someone committed to a cause to help a charity strive for its vision and deliver on its mission.
Charities - use social media for connection first, fundraising second
What is important for nonprofit fundraisers to take away from Mike Farwell’s story is that using social media is not all about having your organization use it directly to ask for financial gifts. What is more important is to use social media to connect people to your cause and over time enhance their commitment to it. That relationship-building process assists you to identify influencers who can use their own networks to benefit your work.
Influencers are all around you. Having a public profile such as being a media personality can help, but social media gives everyone the tools to become an influencer and help your charity strive for its vision and deliver on your mission.
Results flow from effective social media use
Mike Farwell aimed to raise $5000 for Cystic Fibrosis in 2014 through his #Farwell4Hirechallenge. When he quickly exceeded it, he raised his goal to $10,000. By the end of May, he raised $20,590 and Waterloo Region raised about $150,000 the second highest total of any community in Canada.
Before social media, Farwell would have had great difficulty raising that amount all by himself. Even with social media, he needed to be active year-round on his chosen platforms by building relationships and sharing content with value rather than continuously asking people for money, especially too soon. As a result, he has built online communities that care about his personal cause. His efforts from previous years have also built a foundation for future success.
Tips for successful social fundraising
Mike Farwell’s story demonstrates a number of lessons for successful social fundraising:
If your organization can connect with people, especially influencers like Mike Farwell, over the long run the results will follow, and you will see your social media use enhance your number of supporters and the strength of their commitment
Improve your ability to deliver your mission and strive for your vision.
Then you can reap the benefits of social fundraising.
This is an excerpt from James Howe’s chapter on social fundraising in Excellence in Fundraising in Canada, vol. 2. Buy now to save money on the pre-publication special offer.