10 social media tips to help pastors ramp up results
Mobilizing social media tools for fundraising efforts is well worth the effort. Research shows one donor posting to Facebook leads up to 68 percent of his or her contacts to learn about your effort, and 39 percent to make a donation. Moreover, Twitter mentions of fundraising events can yield up to 10 times more in donations.
So, the case for using social media tools is clear. To set the wheels in motion, consider these 10 tips.
1) It’s OK to ask for money. Really. Although pastors tend to fear fundraising, asking for money is something Moses, Hezekiah, Nehemiah, David and Paul all did.
As church leaders, we can ask for money without fear because those who are growing closer to Jesus are more generous.
2) Larger gifts require face time. While social media should be used for casting the vision, large asks are better done in person. Securing a generous gift takes lots of lead-up, and it requires talking to top donors and inner family first, face-to-face.
3) Don’t always be closing. If all you’re doing with social media is “pitching” a fundraising initiative, this comes across as crass. It won’t work. The proper approach requires getting R.E.A.L. — Research, Engage, Ask, Love/Like/Live. Love/Like the person anyway — they’re always more important than the gift.
4) Lead with the vision. A lot of churches assume online fundraising will be an instant jackpot, but social media is only a tool to communicate the vision. In the context of the vision, it’s important for church members to know that it will cost X dollars just to sustain operations at the church.
5) Whatever you do online, do it regularly. I use an aggregator called Hootsuite.com to pre-schedule social media posts. For example, on Sunday night, I cut and paste my church’s daily schedule into Hootsuite, knowing they’re going out every day that week at 4 p.m. via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
This communicates that church is a seven-day endeavor, not just a Sunday scenario.
Marc A. Pitman is on the speaking team of a brand-new conference for senior pastors, online pastors and others sharing the faith through social media: Going Digital for His Kingdom.
6) Listen first. As church leaders, we should definitely use social media more for the relationship steps of “Research,” “Engage” and “Love.” Ask the congregation what social media outlets they’re involved with, and where they’re viewing that content — at home, at work and so on.
Also ask for their Twitter handles, and watch what they say. As you see what people respond to and retweet, you can craft your fundraising “pitch” much more effectively.
7) Think like an event planner. Truly effective fundraising involves deadlines and creating teams with specific responsibilities.
The best approach is to drive followers back to your church’s website or giving page. Statistically, people give more on your site than when they’re asked to give right there on Facebook or Twitter.
8) Twitter tips. Twitter is the most effective tool for peer-to-peer fundraising — walk-a-thons or bike-a-thons. Ask for people to retweet your post. Also limit your posts to 120 characters (compared the 140 characters allowed). This way, members or givers can retweet without the post being cut off.
9) Go beyond the norm. Today, Pinterest is generating really good results; you can “pin” just about anything that has a photo. Business-focused LinkedIn resonates well with some people who are normally averse to social media. Using a Google+ page for your church helps train Google how to classify it in normal website searches. Bufferapp.com optimizes sharing of posts at times when most of your members are likely to see them. Also consider podcasts; just use the sermons you’re already preaching. Podcasts expand your audience and can be cross-promoted across all your social media platforms.
10) Publicize your social media activity. People won’t follow your church’s social media activity if they don’t know you’re out there. Church bulletins are a surprisingly effective way to do this. And don’t just say “Like us on Facebook;” actually list your church’s Facebook URL (Facebook.com/YourChurchName), as well as its Twitter handle.
Marc A. Pitman is an internationally recognized nonprofit organizational development consultant, author and founder of FundraisingCoach.com. He has compiled Bible stories of people asking for money — including Moses, David, Hezekiah and Nehemiah — available here.
The next frontier for fundraising
5 more social media tips from Marc A. Pitman
1) Put yourself out there. As a pastor at a Vineyard church, I wasn’t doing social media, or publicizing my activity, until my congregants asked me to. In my experience, it’s even less common for pastors to use social media for fundraising.
2) Connect donors with the impact. In this regard, churches need to get out of their own way. It’s the volunteers — not the church — out there feeding and clothing the homeless. So, show that! Share photos of people doing outreach. On social media, people respond best to faces.
3) Mobilize members and staff, online. Be aware that only about 17 percent of the people who “like” your church’s Facebook page are actually seeing its posts in their newsfeed. To get more people to see the posts, you’ll need “likes,” comments, and shares. So, the inner leadership team should immediately “like” the church’s posts to generate interest in these messages. And ask your congregants and staff members to comment, like and share your church’s posts.
4) Moderate posts — but be cool about it. In your church’s social media pages’ “About” sections, it’s important to qualify that you will delete inappropriate posts; but don’t just automatically delete anything contentious. Have a thick skin and a tender heart. If you see an “off” comment, it can be helpful to email some of your congregants with a link to the post and ask if they agree with the troublesome post. When it comes to perception, it’s better if that person says he doesn’t agree than for the church to take issue with it right away.
5) Be realistic about results. When it comes to crowd-funding, by and large, most projects don’t get funded — even in churches. Your best effort will still be offline. But with the average American giving only 2 percent of their income to nonprofits, there’s a lot of room for growing generosity — even in the church.