If you’ve been to a conference session about fundraising using social media, you know there is always someone that eventually says “yeah this is nice and all, but how much money did it raise?”
Stop asking that question.
What you need to start asking is “how did you track your fundraising results?” because all the keyword strategy, timing tests, creative tests or anything else is worthless, if we can’t adequately track the true fundraising results. Innovation tomorrow will come when our present-day strategies prove worthy of investment.
It is not easy to give a satisfactory and truthful answer to how much social media is actually raising for your charity at any given time. It’s an answer that always comes with an asterisk attached.
The challenge stems from visitor behaviour rarely being as linear as we would like it to be. An example of linear behaviour would be that someone sees your Facebook update, clicks it, lands on a customized donation page, and of course donates. They are then forever tagged in your database as a donor acquired by Facebook. But, what if someone sees your Facebook update and decides they want to donate, then they go make a sandwich. Three hours later they remember they meant to give a donation so they Google your charity, hit the donate button and donate. See that crack? Your social media donor just fell in it. Good luck taking any credit for that one.
Here are four suggestions to better track the fundraising success of a social media campaign:
Create custom donations pages for each channel, campaign, etc.
Depending on your service provider, you may be able to quickly and easily replicate an existing donation page which will appear identical to your visitors, but you’ll be able to code the donations apart from general gifts. Unfortunately this may not be an option depending on your online donation processing system.
Get to know your way around Google Analytics
Use Google’s URL Builder to track visitor behaviour on your site with Analytics. It only takes a minute before sending a tweet or posting a link on Facebook to first drop by this free tool to embed some important tracking info into your link so that you can measure the incoming traffic in Analytics. You can take this even further by setting up a goal to tell you how many visitors finished their donation.
One caveat though, a limitation here is that a well-placed conversion tracking code can tell you if a donor completes a donation it can’t tell you how much they donated. That’s a private transaction between the donor, the charity and the credit card processor.
Sometimes there is no substitute for digging into the data to discern a trend. The challenge here isn’t dealing with piles of data, it’s your fundraising calendar won’t likely be a mirror-image as the last year. Have there been events or email appeals that have varied one year to the next? Current events, investment priorities and even staff changes could have an impact.
Asking donors where they came from
If at all possible, include a non-required field in your standard donation form to ask how they heard about your charity. This tactic won’t give you granular results to attribute to specific tweets or posts, but it is still money that you can credit to social media.
These suggestions won’t solve all your measurement woes, but it will get you closer to a clear picture of your results. Combine two or three of these, and you’ll get you even closer.
So please, don’t be that person that leans back in their chair, crosses their arms and asks “how much money did it raise” because the answer changes nothing and makes you look like a stick in the mud.
Someone that wants to see our profession evolve will ask how success was measured, so we can all benefit from knowing.
Brock Warner is the Donor Programs Officer at War Child Canada, a long-standing AFP Greater Toronto Chapter member and volunteer, and blogger at iamafundraiser.com. Connect with Brock on Twitter at @BrockWarner.