In an age of ever-expanding ICT opportunities, how can the power of digital platforms and social media best be harnessed for effective communication, engagement, behavioural change, long-term relationship building and fundraising?
Expert panellists at Trialogue’s 2017 Business in Society Conference shared the view that digital platforms, and particularly social media, are powerful tools with which to reach audiences, support relationship building and facilitate fundraising. While they create strong opportunities if leveraged effectively, these platforms can also present significant risks.
Celine Morolong, GlobalGiving’s South Africa Partnership Consultant, welcomed the opportunities that digital platforms provide, to connect companies and other potential donors with non-profit organisations (NPO) and local communities. Digital platforms also facilitate for information sharing, volunteering and calls to action, capacity building, fundraising and supporting programme goals such as behaviour change.
Colin Habberton, Founder and Managing Director of Relativ Group, expressed his enthusiasm for what he described as a “transformative and exciting space”, emphasising the potential of social media to dynamically create and engage networks of people.
Building and maintaining relationships
Andy Hadfield, CEO of forgood, described how his organisation uses digital platforms to harness the power of networks – matching needs with skills and resources. Building scale and efficiency through their platform has allowed forgood to increase support for causes, resulting in increased impact. Using their platform to link volunteers and funders with causes also allows companies to manage their employee volunteering programmes, creating large-scale opportunities for employee engagement and CSI impact.
Panellists agreed that, like so much in CSI, the effective use of social media relies on the ability to build and maintain relationships.
In considering the importance of these relationships, Morolong recommended developing an understanding of a network’s interests and what they find compelling about a cause. These relationships should be nurtured by not only using social media to communicate with networks when support is required, but by also engaging these networks – both online and in person – with relevant information, presented in interesting ways.
Hatfield recommended that non-profits and causes consider the power of digital platforms such as forgood to develop relationships with companies, through their employees. Engaging employees through well-matched volunteering can bring substantial support to an NPO. Furthermore, CSI decision makers value such collaboration and often consider the presence of established relationships when allocating CSI funding.
Habberton highlighted the understanding of these relationships and communication as multi-directional. Information does not only travel ‘out’ from an organisation when these platforms are employed; organisations must recognize the dynamism of these channels and be prepared to also listen to the stakeholder groups or audiences. New levels of transparency are created, which organisations must anticipate, understand and manage appropriately.
The value of varied approaches to communication
The panellists, while enthusiastic about the potential of digital platforms for organisations and CSI impact, also urged realistic expectations. Recognising that NPOs are increasingly looking towards social media as fundraising channels, they argued that it remains one of multiple tools that an organisation must employ, along with traditional approaches.
Key factors for successful online fundraising campaigns were emphasised. Including the need for dedicated human and financial resources, meaningful and regular engagement with the online community, managing content and monitoring and supporting emerging relationships and dialogues. Hatfield said that without these elements an organisation is not well-placed to make use of these platforms effectively or without significant risk.
Morolong added that online fundraising will not be a good fit for all organisations. She explained that, for low-resource organisations that may not be digitally savvy, it may be more effective to engage local community networks in person. She also strongly urged sensitivity around appropriateness of content used on such platforms, particularly with regards to images of programme participants and vulnerable groups.
Panellists agreed that digital platforms, while very powerful, are not necessarily the right platforms for all causes. Delegates were urged to carefully consider the opportunities, risks, and resources required to effectively drive their messaging on social media.
These platforms have evolved rapidly and will continue to do so. If understood well and employed effectively, digital platforms are capable of transforming approaches towards relationship development, fundraising, and the facilitation of increased CSI funding impact.
This session was presented in partnership with
- Andy Hatfield, forgood
- Celine Morolong, GlobalGiving
- Colin Habberton, Relativ
- Shani Kay, Regency Foundation Networx (Facilitator)