How to find supporters for your charity on social media

Rotary Club of Grantham used social media to identify and bring together key supporters around the world to launch a successful campaign – without spending any money

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People often unite on social media because of a common interest or goal – providing an unrivalled opportunity for charities and social enterprises to connect with people who share their values. So how can organisations make the most of that opportunity and attract new donors and fundraisers to their cause?

In Friends with Money – our free guide to fundraising on social media published in partnership with Justgiving, we explain how social media provides a valuable set of tools that help facilitate the entire fundraising process, from identifying new potential supporters and cultivating relationships, to asking for donations and saying thanks.

Here is a case study how one charity has used social media to identify and join together key supporters around the world in order to launch a successful campaign – without spending any money.

The Rotary Global Swimarathon

For over 23 years, the Rotary Club of Grantham, England has held an annual Swimarathon to raise money for local charities. Inspired by the 2012 London Olympics, the club set out to take their event global and break a Guinness World Record.

A team of three club members took to social media, using Facebook to cross time zones and language barriers. They searched for key contacts through “interest indicators” such as likes, comments and shares on Facebook and the Rotary hashtag on Twitter. They tapped into existing Rotary networks on Facebook and Twitter, pinpointing enthusiastic contacts. Then, they shared a goal with their new contacts: break a world record and raise money for Rotary International’s ‘End Polio Now’ initiative at the same time.

Paul Wilson, global event co-ordinator for the Rotary Club of Grantham, says: “These contacts became our champions, driving events forward locally in each club, region or in some cases, at the country-wide level.”

That year, over 4,546 swimmers in 23 countries took part in a world record breaking simultaneous swim, raising over £60,000 for End Polio Now.

A simple message

Today, the Rotary Club of Grantham continues to use social media to increase participation in the annual event. They host Facebook discussion groups to exchange event ideas and best practice, and offer awards to the highest-grossing clubs, inspiring local groups to seek out as many swimmers as possible.

Sharing videos, images and inspirational stories from around the world also helps show new potential supporters how they can help eradicate polio by taking part in next year’s event.

The message is simple: gather a crowd, have each person do a little bit, and make a huge difference. “It’s that feeling of being part of something much bigger that really encourages people to join in with us,” says Wilson.

By identifying and inspiring enthusiasts on social media networks, the Rotary Club of Grantham turned a local fundraiser into a global movement. Since 2014, the three Swimarathons have raised £350,000 – providing 1.2m polio vaccinations around the world.

Why it works

Fundraising success doesn’t usually happen overnight. But, by tapping into existing networks on social media where people share common values with your organisation, you build up advocates who will help you spread awareness and interest gradually.

“The Rotary Global Swimarathon worked so well because they took the time to build and nurture relationships, using Facebook as a way to collaborate with fellow Rotarians,” says Kirsty Marrins, content and community manager at JustGiving.

She says that the Rotary Club’s identification strategy flourished because they had a motivational hook, a common goal, and they told stories to position the event as a global challenge anyone could be a part of.

Three lessons

There are three things you can come away with for identifying new supporters on social media:

• Look for key ‘interest indicators’ – social media is a sea of potential supporters. Use hashtags and social activity to find like-minded people and build relationships with them on social platforms.

• Tap into existing networks – reach out to existing Facebook groups, Twitter chats and other online communities where people share common values with your organisation. Building a relationship with one supporter can quickly turn into many.

• Keep your message simple – use straightforward messaging that won’t overwhelm new supporters or donors. Show people they can be part of something big by doing something small.

To read more about the Rotary Global Swimarathon, as well as more case studies, tips and interviews with the experts on social media fundraising, download the free guide – Friends with Money.

Carlos Miranda is founder of Social Misfits Media and Alissa Steiner is a digital marketing officer at Turn2Us.

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The charity money hub is funded by CAF. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled advertisement feature. Find out more here.


Carlos Miranda and Alissa Steiner

The GuardianTramp

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