Blog archive


Current themes around social media and fundraising

Max and I did a presentation last week on the current themes around social media digital and fundraising (well, c’mon, digital is pretty much all social now, right?). Here’s a few of the big ones as we see it:

  • Social proof
  • Gaming
  • Micropayments
  • Geo-social
  • Fundraising for campaign comms
  • Corporate social sponsorship / partnership
  • Crowd-sourced products / transactional donations

What I noticed when looking for examples for each of the above, was the overlap. Every example I found wasn’t just an example of one of the above, but usually a combination of three or four. I think this is key – there are failures and successes within each of the categories. JUST doing ‘social proof’ alone is likely to fail. But pair it with microdonations, a corporate partnership and transactional donations and you’re on to a winner.

Social proof

This is beneficial in two ways. Firstly, by showing people that others have already donated, it shows a movement, a behavioural expectation – “other people are doing this” which should hopefully make people think “I want to do this”. This could be supplemented more strongly by incorporating people’s social graphs via Facebook etc. so that “other people are doing this” becomes “my friends are doing this”, providing a much stronger psychological motivator to join in yourself.

Secondly, when you have donated, if you’re provided with an opportunity to brag about the fact, you get to say “I’m a nice generous person because I’ve donated to this cause” and in doing so get kudos, or social capital. The charity gets some advocacy, and your friends get motivated to donate too.

Social proof example: Unicef’s ‘Own a colour and save a child’s life’ campaign, a new take on the old ’1 million pixels’ sites. Social proof because it allows you to see who else has already bought a colour, and to publicly share the colour you’ve bought. The campaign also uses:

  • Corporate partnership (with Flexa paints).
  • Transactional donations (you’re buying a colour).
  • Micropayments (minimum £1).


There are many examples of games being used for fundraising. Usually, there is a pre-existing game with an active gamer community, and the charity partners with the game app developers for a special campaign. Gamers donate by buying an in-game item, often related to the charity cause. The fundamentals driving participation in games (game mechanics) can teach us a lot. Social proof, reciprocity, risk and reward, goals etc. can feed into our strategies when we’re planning engagement with our audiences.

Gaming example: game developers Zynga partnered with Save the Children and raised $1 million for their tsunami relief fund. This campaign also used:

  • Corporate partnership (with game app)
  • Transactional donations (you bought an in-game item)
  • Micropayments


Checking in to physical locations via a mobile app is still quite a niche behaviour, but it is growing, particularly with the ability to check in to events on Facebook. Check-in apps are usually highly reliant on gaming mechanics, with scores, badges and rewards for participation. Add to that the ability to do-good at no personal cost, and there’s an extra motivation for users. Foursquare have charity checkins, as do Gowalla, then there’s charity apps like Causeworld.

Geo-social example: CauseWorld, where participating retailers fund the donations to a participating charity of your choice, based on credits earned by your check-ins in their shops. This app also uses:

  • Corporate partnerships

Fundraising for campaign comms

So we’re all used to restricted donations where they have to be used for a goat or a well in a village etc. We’re also used to the criticisms all charities face about how they use their money and how much of it goes to the end cause. Whilst most of us acknowledge the need that charities have to campaign, for awareness raising, for advertising, for PR, for education, for lobbying etc. as well as the service delivery / end user support that they’re focused on. So some charities are confronting this disparity between their real operational needs and the pressure to portray themselves as 100% service delivery, by openly fundraising for these ‘other’, absolutely critical, needs. This usually takes the form of fundraising for offline campaign comms, for advocacy, education, or lobbying.

Fundraising for campaign comms examples: 38 degrees (many, e.g. fair votes newspaper ads), British Humanist Association (atheist bus campaign). 38 degrees has also used the following alongside such campaigns:

  • crowdsourcing (the ad creative)
  • micropayments
  • social proof
  • crowdfunding (multiple donations to make one specific project possible)

Corporate social sponsorship

There’s tonnes of examples of corporates piggybacking off charity’s highly engaged, passionate audiences in social spaces, in return for payments for the privilege. This can be very successful, as Pedigree Chum has seen through its ‘write a post, help a dog’ blog posts for donations campaign. There have also been many, many ‘if you retweet XXXX then X Brand will donate £1 up to £10,000′ etc. campaigns, which have been successful.

Corporate social sponsorship is however something that needs to be handled very carefully, or, as Bing discovered, a backlash can occur if the corporate is seen to be benefiting through PR from a disaster or sensitive issue.

Crowd sourced products

Getting your audience to design products that are then sold to raise funds for your cause has a great potential, as can be seen in Threadless’ charity campaigns. This also uses designers’ networks to raise awareness as they compete for the winning design. This plays on the desire people have to showcase their creativity, and their competitive nature. The Threadless example also includes:

  • Corporate partnership (with Threadless)
  • Transactional donations (you’re buying a T-shirt)

In summary, fundraising on social media HAS to be so much more than simply asking for a direct donation on Twitter. Unless you get a celebrity re-tweet, that’s pretty much not going to raise significant funds. But by combining some of the above strategies and tactics, there is a sweet spot for digital / social fundraising which can be very worthwhile indeed.

This post was filed under Data, Marketing & PR, Not for profit, Social media, Technology, The future, Training, Working culture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , Comments are currently closed.


  1. Thought this article was relevant – experiment showing when you crowdsource campaign comms, people are then more likely to donate more to the cause. I’ve seen this method employed successfully by 38 Degrees.

    Posted 1st December 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  2. Rianne

    Dear Beth or anyone who’s reading this ;),

    Do you know if there are any scientific research articles about the subject of fundraising and social proof on social media? I’m interested in this subject for my masterthesis, but I can’t find if there has been any research done yet! Thanks!

    Posted 14th November 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink