JTPR

When social media works

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, Two Wheels Good on January 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Last year, I participated in The Ride to Victory, a two-day, Louisville-to-Lexington-and-back bike ride. Part of a bigger Ride to Conquer Cancer series of rides, it was an inspiring and well-organized event and an incredible experience.

Like all of the riders, when I signed up I committed to raising $2,500 for cancer research. As a person who dreads asking anybody for anything, I was more than a little intimidated by that figure — in fact, I was more daunted by the idea of “making the ask” of friends and family than the prospect of pedaling 150 miles in two days. As a result, I initially begged off when invited to ride.

When I finally did commit, it was with the realization that I would probably have to make a big donation myself in order to reach my goal.

But then a funny thing happened. I posted my intent to ride (and my fundraising goal) on Facebook. Dollars came in. Then I started writing a blog through a personal page provided by the Ride to Conquer Cancer website. I linked that blog to my Facebook page. More dollars. I Tweeted each time I added a new entry.  Still more dollars. Finally, as the fundraising deadline approached, I sent out an email appeal. More dollars.

As a result, without a single begging phone call or face-to-face shakedown, I exceed my fundraising goal. In fact, when it came time to make good on my pledge to match my largest single gift, I was able to apply that donation to someone else’s goal and still surpass mine.

Now, I’m not suggesting that any of this happened simply because I embraced social media. On the contrary, I’ll humbly suggest that I did a few things right. For example:

  • I never simply said,”Please give so I can reach my goal (and enjoy a great weekend bike ride).” Instead, I told stories about friends and family members who have experienced cancer. I explained the purpose for the ride. I shared a few details about my training and how things were going. Sure, I always closed with “an ask,” but that was always a minor part of the conversation.
  • I sometimes re-tweeted my own Tweets at different times of day to make sure people saw them.
  • I engaged in conversations with people who responded to postings, thanking them for their comments regardless of whether they gave.
  • I treated everyone who gave or responded the same, regardless of whether they gave a little or a lot. 
  • I offered occasional updates to nudge people who might have intended to give but never got around to it.
  • As promised, during the ride, I tweeted tributes in memory of people identified by my supporters.

The bottom-line result was obvious: I exceeded my goal. But what fascinated me more is the way I reached that goal. I received support from people I never would have asked directly. Some individuals gave more than I would have expected. People were touched — truly touched — by the stories, seeing them not as appeals but as simple glimpses of the pains and joys we all have in common.

The big question, of course, is whether I’ll do the ride again and, if I do, whether I’ll experience the same success with similar tactics. One challenge of social media fundraising is that it can be remarkably successful as a one-time shot (a number of organizations have found success in short-term social media blitz campaigns), but there is little evidence that it engenders the kind of deep connections and long-term relationships that drive ongoing, sustaining support.

In case you’re interested, here’s an address for my Ride to Conquer Cancer blog site (although I’m not sure how long they’ll leave that up since the ride was in September) http://ky09.ridetovictory.org/site/TR/Events/2009Kentucky?px=1062402&pg=personal&fr_id=1030 . I’ll let you know if I intend to ride again. In fact, I’m sure that, if I do, this blog will be a key part of my fundraising. After all, why ignore something that works?

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