The Best Fundraising Appeals of 2016

The Best Fundraising Appeals of 2016

Turning Leaf is a nonprofit organization based in Charleston, South Carolina that works with jailed men and women to encourage them to think differently about their crimes and their lives.  As part of their year-end fundraising campaign they sent out an email with short introductions to their clients and their progress.  For the full content see their website.

This campaign stands out because the story line is simple.  The case histories highlight the mission of the organization and the fundraising appeal is clear (if understated).  You do not need to beat up your donors...let them see the progress you are making and let them decide for themselves.

One of the best of the year and even better, one of the easiest to use as a model for your favorite cause.



Flipping "Tragedy" to "The Comedy of the Commons"

Flipping "Tragedy" to "The Comedy of the Commons"

The power of social interaction to create social good (if appropriately tapped) is becoming more evident as electronic social media networks grow.  The science behind this is only now catching up.  

So why haven't you heard more about GoodCoins?

So why haven't you heard more about GoodCoins?

The business model of The GoodCoin Foundation is to be a facilitator of charitable giving.  We seek new sources of funding for charities by working with businesses to create compelling reasons for customers to flock to them.

Have a look at this video.  The lack of attribution you hear is The GoodCoin Foundation doing its best work.  We make Community Pod look good by making the connection between their product and the life-fulfilling purpose of their customers tight, seamless, and easy.  Their message is uncluttered with our logo and unadorned with a cameo shot of our CEO.  Community Pod can focus on the coffee, their customers on making a good purchase and making a difference, while we focus on the "behind-the-scenes" logistics of giving.

Our key insight is that while someone must have said at some time within your hearing "all publicity is good publicity" we take it one step further.  No publicity ain't all bad either...provided your service proposition is to facilitate.  Good deeds are contagious.  Community Pod customers and charities know us even if the newscasters don't.

The Wisdom of [Local] Crowds

The Wisdom of [Local] Crowds

A worthy cause in Western Australia asked why The GoodCoin Foundation would not give to them.  They do good work.  They have been identified by customers of Community Pod, a Perth-based provider of coffee, as an organization that should be funded from the pool of GoodCoins generated from the proceeds of coffee sales.

So what’s the rub?

Transparency and Trust

Transparency and Trust

In a networked world, transparency and authenticity are the currency of trust. We trust those who are open and honest.  In a networked world we trust those who members of our own networks trust.

Nearly half of new start-ups are prosocial

Nearly half of new start-ups are prosocial

According to a recent well-respected survey, 44% of entrepreneurs in the US and Australia are leading or are part of the team leading a start-up social benefit organization. 

So how many followers do you need to make Twitter worthwhile?

When you look across the Twittersphere you will see that some organizations have thousands, even millions of followers. There is a correlation between the number of tweets you have tweeted and the number of followers you have. This makes sense because it takes time to build a following.

In a survey of 168 twitter users who are charities funded or soon to be funded by The GoodCoin Foundation we found that half of them tweet each day. Three quarters of them are tweeting at least every week. That means it is going to take time for you to build a following. Most organizations are only tweeting one or twice on the days they are active on Twitter. Do not overwhelm your followers.

But before you start pounding away on Twitter, as yourself “How many followers is enough?”

Twitter is a great tool for staying in touch. You can monitor the thoughts and mental state of dozens of people, hundreds of potential supporters, or literally thousands of voices from across the globe. Frankly, the broader your reach the less you can listen.  At some point you simply start skimming.

So more followers is not necessarily better. It depends on what you want to accomplish. But if you are asking “is it worth it” here are some benchmarks.

First you have to decide what kind of tweeter are you. Are you reaching out to employees and volunteers and providing them with inside information and updates on each other? Are you listening to them and sending them direct messages of encouragement or empathy? If so, let’s call that a Family tweeter.

Are you tweeting about organizational events, fundraisers, friendraisers, success stories, and staff goings on? Are you combing the network or your followers for interesting posts you can retweet? If so, you are a Friends tweeter. 

And finally, are you a Community tweeter, almost like a radio or TV station that broadcasts the news. Do you make the news and focus attention solely on your cause or related issues? 

As you can see each of these have different standards of success.

If you are just starting out it will take you at least 100 tweets (they can be original text and images or they can be retweets of the tweets of others) before you can really judge if you are attracting a following. The GoodCoin Foundation grantees that are just starting out have only a hundred or so followers at this stage. In fact, you are doing great if you have only 100 followers after 500 tweets. Some organizations follow hundreds of others in an attempt to get them to follow back. This builds follower numbers quickly but you create a strange audience. They are not your friends, family, or even your community. Your twitter feed will be filled with news you can’t use.  It might boost your ego but it will not boost your core following.

So go easy on yourself. Watch what the leading organizations in each of these categories do.  For example:

FAMILY: Are your twitter followers employees and volunteers you want to mobilize in the case of a crisis (funding shortfall, wildfire, pending vote on legislation) AND you want to encourage and motivate them to stay in touch?  Check out:

FRIENDS: Are your twitter followers supporters you want to keep informed about events and news, a kind of insider’s view of your organization but for the general public AND you want to comb their network for ideas and opinions? Have a look at:

COMMUNITY: Are your twitter followers the entire community and you want to keep them up on the news in your area much like a radio or TV station AND you are not really looking for their ideas or opinions? Look at these two:

Twitter can be a great tool if you are tweeting to FAMILY and have only 200 followers, provided they are the right 200 and your tweets provide a kind of intimacy not found elsewhere in social media.

If you are tweeting to FRIENDS you should have 2,000 followers and to COMMUNITY upwards of 5,000 or even 10,000 would be considered successful.

So, 1) be patient, 2) build the right audience, 3) be authentic to your organization and mission.

Social Media for the uncool, at least for those uncool thus far.

So what does it mean to be one of the cool kids “on Social Media” if you are a nonprofit?  It is not just having a list of colorful icons on your website.  In fact, you can tell who is really rocking it just by the type and number of social media avenues they fill…and let’s be clear, more does not mean better.


We’ve just completed a survey of the 238 nonprofit organizations that are recent grantees or soon to be new grantees of The GoodCoin Foundation.  They are spread around the world but are predominately in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States.


Eighty-four percent of them are on Facebook and 73% Twitter.  Ignore Snapchat (and stop worrying about how to use it) as it is nowhere to be seen even though it is a media darling at present.  Pinterest is used by organizations (only 7% of the total) that tend to be colorful, often hybrid for-profit/nonprofits, and Instagram (used by 31%) by those heavily event oriented.  Many organizations (52%) have YouTube channels where they post volunteer testimonials, informational videos, and client stories.


The upshot?  Stay on Twitter and Facebook while you develop your sense of direction.  Get a YouTube channel for future use as you develop professional-looking videos.


Oh, and it is amazing to find that less than half (actually 46%) of our grantees have a Donate Now button on Facebook.  What’s up with that?  It is free and simply directs people back to your donation webpage.  Be there or be square.

We are all just experimenting here...

In interviews with real live professional Social Media Managers, GoodCoin Foundation’s Martina Buchal (find her on Twitter @MartinaBuchal) learned that trial and error remains the best way to build a social media strategy. Each organization is different and so should be its approach to social media. Experiment. See what works for your organization.

But before you experiment, consider the need for authenticity. Nonprofit organizations get shamed for spending too much on glitzy photography, overly designing their collateral materials, and for throwing lavish (and expensive) parties. Don’t overthink or overpay for your social media efforts. Do make them reflect the purpose of your organization and the personalities of the people who are posting. Authenticity comes through after dozens or hundreds of posts.  Be consistently YOU.

Focus on just one or two social media channels. As one interviewee said “you can’t water all of the plants and expect them to grow at the same rate. Pick one or two [channels] and rock at that.”

Contrary to what professional fundraisers and media consultants are tell you, don’t put out calls to action, indirectly ask for things, share a story and then a link to a donation page…let your followers make up their own minds and follow their own path to you. Treat it more like a friend asking for help than a company asking for money.

And here is my personal favorite from Martina’s work: “Don’t get spammy…just because you can automate doesn’t you should free up your time but take away time from those who are following you.”  

So the great insight is “relax, nobody really knows precisely what will work for you.” Loosen up and experiment. Just be true to you.