Category Archives: not for profit marketing

Mo Cost, High Return?

Last week in my social media marketing class with @peterwagstaff, I raised the value of social media for not for profit organisations who typically struggle with tight budgets and limited marketing resources.

The response was quick and dramatic from within the room – too often organisations inaccurately believe that social media is a low or no cost activity and do not adequately account for the need to allocate employee time and effort into developing content and maintaining a presence online that is current, engaging and responsive.

Whilst social media may be free, social media marketing is definitely not.


Recent statistics suggest that 58% of marketers invest six hours a week on social media activities and 15% average over 20 hours. This represents a significant chunk of the typical 40 hour working week and as the old adage goes, “time is money”. Organisations also often invest significant dollars in traditional  marketing channels to drive traffic to their social media platforms.

So what benefit does social media offer not for profit organisations, if any?

Working for one myself – community agency LifeWorks Relationship Counselling and Education Services – I have found social media to be an invaluable resource. Two years ago, the majority of LifeWorks’ (limited) marketing budget was swallowed up by exceedingly high cost listings on Yellow Pages directories and sporadic advertisements in local newspapers and radio. As a result, the organisation’s exposure was limited to a single channel and it was unable to afford the frequency necessary to leverage traditional media.

Through the use of social media, we have had access to an unprecedented level of marketing resources that have allowed us to diversify our activities and build a meaningful brand. For us it is not about having a Facebook page (but we encourage all ‘likes’ here!) as our often discrete work in counselling, mediation and family violence have limited the desire for people to promote their patronage of the service.

Rather, social media has provided access to information, resources and connections that we can use to improve our profile and reach.


  • Rather than purchase expensive stock images we have used Facebook and to recruit volunteer models, photographers and makeup artists to conduct our own photoshoot and build a library of unique, high resolution images to use on our website and across all our marketing collateral for under $500.
  • Through blogs we learned of the Google Grants initiative and now have thousands of dollars worth of adword campaigns running online at no cost.
  • Rather than spend money on print advertising, we have gained exposure in the press by using to gain positive PR and build relationships with journalists to the extent that we are now on the speed dial of The Herald Sun relationships editor and even Channel Ten’s ‘The Project’.
  • Most recently we have made tentative steps into ‘digital storytelling’ with free flip cameras from donortec and hosting on Vimeo. (Check out our first video here!)

All this has been achieved in under eighteen months, at less than half the cost of the Yellow Pages ad and we have already seen a positive impact on website traffic and client numbers.

But…for many not for profit organisations, marketing is not just about building awareness and profile, but about actively sourcing funds and converting support into donations.

So the big question in this space is how does social media rate as a fundraising channel?

For causes such as Movember, there is no doubt that social media has played a dramatic role in terms of building both visibility and contributions. As co-founder Adam Garone acknowledges, social media provided the vehicle to amplify word of mouth exponentially so that the 450 Australian moustaches they grew and $54,000 they raised in 2004 exploded into 450,000 moustaches and $81 million in donations globally in 2010. Wow!

Social media is also opening up new ‘crowdfunding’ resources such as kickstarter and givenow and locally, Deloitte Digital partner Pete Williams (@rexster) harnessed the power of Twitter to organise 1.5million in donations and temporary housing for Flowerdale in the wake of the 2009 bushfires.

These examples showcase real social media successes for NFP organisations and causes but at the same time, a recent report quantified the fundraising value of Facebook supporters at $161.30, a figure significantly less than the $214.81 of those acquired through other channels.

Could this be because supporters feel they have made a sufficient contribution by ‘liking’ a cause or charity through social networking sites? Or is it that channels such as direct mail still do better at converting passive support into financial action? Is it just because this is a new activity or do not for profits need to be more creative in the social media space?

Would love to hear what you think!

Have you ever made a donation via Facebook or kickstarter?

Have you seen any great cause marketing online?

Until next time…

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