The Blue Dog Scientific Blog: A Paradigm Shift for Fundraising Online. Part 1.

A Paradigm Shift for Fundraising Online. Part 1.

I have been working for some time with a team who are creating a game changing online Communication, Community and Collaboration tool called Carii.

One of the main applications we've had in mind from the very outset is its use as a breakthrough tool for charitable and non-profit organizations and causes. So I am very pleased to announce that we now have developed the system to a mature state: it is now fully functional for this purpose and I recommend that fundraisers give it their full consideration. In this article I will explain all.

So What's The Problem with Social Media?

Let us first consider the fundamental issues with social media and digital marketing in the context of fundraising. Using tools like Facebook and Twitter, fundraisers currently seek to get visibility, to grow their audience and following. It is a form of mass marketing through engaging people in conversation, rather than directly asking or emotionally blackmailing them for money. On the whole, it has proven a much more effective way to generate donations when used strategically than traditional advertising methods. But it still a highly sub-optimal solution. Why?

In fundraising through social media, we try to draw attention and entice people to visit our social pages, to like and share our posts among their networks, thus spreading the word and raising awareness. This has, in fact, become a hard game because the social media channels are so incredibly noisy: there are now too many competing voices. This makes organizations tend to want to shout and they stop listening to their audience. We call it "Selling by Yelling" - it doesn't work!

A fundamental flaw in this social engagement approach to fundraising is that we are seeking to pull our audience in, when in order to achieve our actual goal - raising funds and donations - we have to push them away again. There is simply a large disconnect between where we create our social posts and where our donate facilities are online. Typically we are trying to pull them in to social media while pushing them out again through repeated "calls-to-actions": we need to ask them to click through to websites, send a text or create standing banking orders, etc. In others words, in order for them to give we are asking them to actively go.

The other major issue which fundraisers need to face is that the current dominant "social" platforms are set-up by the providers as aggressive advertising and marketing businesses. In essence, they derive the mainstay of their own income through forcing us to pay to advertise. There is no doubt these platforms have become seriously gamified, meaning they present us with false hopes and then greatly restrict or throttle the visibility of our posts and social presence. They limit how many people we can follow and force a unnaturally slow pace of growth on our accounts. Only if we pay, or play a very long game, do we ever get to the high visibility we need to convert enough viewers in to funds.

The third barrier that Fundraisers face is that the social platforms go out of their way to prevent organizations making money themselves by exploiting the large online presence they may have eventually built up. Community advertising, sponsorship or affiliate marketing is usually strictly against the terms of service for social accounts. This is one of the few terms that the providers do rigorously enforce.

Carii and the Fundamental Solution.

Carii is different because our concept from the start was always as the solution to these pain points that the social media providers have caused us. The very essence of Carii is to enable organizations to freely communicate, get their message out as widely as possible and grow their communities and audiences as rapidly as possible.

In terms of fundraising the essential idea is simple and common sense, although not yet common practice. It is to exploit the full power of social media engagement strategies and online community development, while providing a simple, easy and highly visible way for that community to donate to the cause. I think this is one of those cases where a picture paints a thousand words, so please let me show you the concept graphically via appealing to an example, in particular this showcase Carii Fundraising Community "National Foundation for Cancer Research: Dave Bjork: Cancer Research Evangelist".

Here is how Dave's Community looks:

We see the familiar aspects of social media pages, except note the prominent and tailor made donate button which is visible to all visitors all the time. Thus now we don't need to push visitors away from our online community in order for them to donate. Nor do we need to constantly call them to action. The task becomes simply to pull people in to our community and provide them every reason why they would want to hit the donate button and support our cause. Clicking on the "Donate Button" brings up a bespoke form in which a variety of payment options, amounts and frequency can be set up very easily.

However, the potentials of Carii for fund raising go far beyond this fundamental solution.

Carii and the Role of Social Media.

Social Media still plays a crucial role, but now that role is as outreach to pull everyone back to the Community. Carii posts can be shared to Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter, with a graphical link back to the community and the post. So the philosophy is that Carii becomes the hub, where all the content is created and archived and each post is then shared outwards across social media in order to drive followers from every channel back to the center.

Carii and Sponsorship

Unlike all the social platforms, Carii encourages Communities to monetize themselves through paid advertising. We believe that Community owners should be able to profit from or support the large amounts of time and effort that is required to build and maintain a high quality forum. Therefore Carii includes options for Community owners to go and find sponsors. In the view of Dave's Carii community above you will see an advert for sponsors of his group. Note also how this advert also appears in every post too. Once Community sponsors are found then, the highly visible advertising space is where their details will go. Most fundraisers will already have sponsors and partners and hence this may represent an immediate way for generating new income. Carii works this facility through a revenue share system. We take a percentage of the revenue which the Community and their sponsors have negotiated in return for creating and maintaining the bespoke sponsorship space.

One point I have just noted is that currently the donate button part of the advertising space is not appearing on the individual posts. I have requested to the designers that we should also definitely feature it prominently here too. That way every click on every share of the post includes this all important "Call-to-Action". Readers then do not have to be pulled all the way back to the central Community even.

This is also another important difference between Carii and other online providers. They go out of their way to find solutions and meet the needs of Communities at an individualized level.

Carii and More...

While this post seeks to highlight the fundamentals, there is very much to Carii than this too which will enable fundraising organizations to step-change their online returns on investment. Furthermore, we are always developing these ideas too and have big plans. I will describe these additional benefits in sequel posts, but for now I will leave you with this quote from Carii's CEO, +Denise Hayman-Loa

"Also, the new fundraising enhanced functionality is coming very soon - in just days hopefully - and it adds significant features to our capability in this area including running multiple campaigns, a common source on the platform to display all open campaigns, create teams who raise money for a campaign and creating campaigns for causes instead of only for registered charities. And the most powerful aspect - fundraising posts! To keep donors informed and engaged - no one else has this."

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this wonderful and comprehensive explanation of how Carii works and our philosophy Gary!