I get weird looks from development directors when I ask them what their social networking strategy is and how it is used in the overall strategic plan with their major gift program.
“What? That’s handled by our mass communication team,” or “Huh? Major donors are not that into Twitter or Facebook.” Or even worse, “What strategic plan?”
I say, ”Nonsense!”
Social Networking and Major Gift Programs are made for each other.  In a  three part series I’m going to outline how your organization can best use social networking to enhance both your program and your major donor’s experience.
There are three distinct areas I want to cover.

  1. Research/Deepening the Relationship with Donors
  2. Cultivating and Reporting Back to Donors
  3. Raising Money

Today I want to discuss Research/Deepening the Relationship with Donors.
Good research is key in trying to understand your donors.  Remember, we want to know and understand who our donors are, what makes them tick and what they are involved in, among other things.
Google Alerts, TweetBeep, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all great ways to deepen your understanding of who your donors are.  In fact, if you have a caseload of donors, there is no reason you should not have all your donors on Google Alerts and TweetBeep right now… seriously, go do it right now.
Okay, now that you have them all signed up let’s continue…
Both of these free services allow you to track your folks if they pop up on-line or Twitter.  Let me give you an example.  Let’s say you work for an east coast non-profit and one of your donors lives in California.  Your donor receives a humanitarian award in their hometown and that event is posted in a local on-line newspaper.  That night you get an alert from Google about your donor receiving that award.  You then send a nice e-mail, Tweet or Facebook post on your donor’s wall congratulating them.
How awesome is that?  Your donor will be blown away!
Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are great ways to connect with donors and get great information.  You will find out what they think about life, what they’re reading, working on, who their friends are and what they are passionate about.  This is all great information to help you understand these good people.
Now, don’t get discouraged if your donors don’t accept your friend request on Facebook or don’t want to connect with you on LinkedIn.  That is also giving you great information.  Respecting and understanding your donor’s wishes on how they want to communicate with you is a key element in your relationship with them.
And, of course, not all your donors will be using social networking…but many of them will be which is why you want to understand it and use it as another way to make a connection with them.
Don’t delay.  Get on board.  And, if you currently use social networking tools, tell us how you do it and how it’s worked for you.
Next time we’ll talk about cultivating and reporting back to donors through social networking.  It’s going to be good!
Follow me on Twitter @jeffschreifels
Series details:

#1: Deepen the Relationship with Donors
#2: Cultivating and Reporting Back
#3: Fundraising using Social Networking
…or read it all in our free White Paper: Social Networking and Major Gifts