Allison Fine: Turning Friends Into Funders by Rebekah Leopold

July 31, 2012

Ruth Lando Interviews Allison Fine at the 2012 Fundraisers Forum

Local Writer Ruth Lando (left) Interviews Allison Fine at the 2012 Fundraisers Forum, State College of Florida, July 20, 2012


Author, speaker and social media guru Allison Fine gave her much-anticipated lecture at the annual Fundraisers Forum on July 20, 2012– a long-standing partnership between the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Southwest Florida chapter.

Mrs. Fine has been referred to as a nonprofit sector gem, and her talk “Turning Friends into Funders” addressed the value of social media in fundraising and growing networks. Developing a strong social media platform takes time, planning and relationship building, but the “return on engagement” as she calls it, is definitely worth it.

Social networks have always existed, and due to the advent of social media platforms such as Facebook and Linkedin we now have the ability to actually see them. Nonprofits can, and do, use social media everyday to build relationships and networks of people as advocates for their organizations. Thanks to social media, engaged supporters can easily share and spread a nonprofit’s message and information, creating unique connections and facilitating growth.

“Free agents” raise money and support for organizations they are not formally affiliated with. This term especially characterizes “Generation Y” and “Millennials”, people currently 20-35 years old who tend to be tied to causes, not organizations. Still, the fastest growing population on Facebook is over 55.

Often there is concern these free agents will distort the nonprofit’s desired message and image, which can lead to a sense of chaos from using social media. Fine advises against concern about regaining strict control at the cost of excluding advocates and their networks.

Instead, she wants people to think about the difference between controlling and influencing a conversation, and the ultimate effect it can have. Fine urges nonprofits to better inform, engage and listen to free agents, and recommends they “stop rowing and start steering”. It is the organization’s job to motivate and capitalize on ready and willing supporters.

Social media is an indispensable tool in building relationships. It is a common mistake to assume meaningful connections can’t be formed online. “Befriend people online as you would at a cocktail party!” Fine says. An organization should be an advocate for a cause and a friend to individuals, not view supporters as ATM machines. The pressure to fulfill short term fundraising needs frequently influences people to sacrifice long term relationship building. Social media functions as a catalyst for relationships, and it is the task of the nonprofit to cultivate these connections.

Whether you are new to social media or a seasoned participant, practice using online connection tools and experiment with what works and doesn’t for your organization. Fine’s advice is to “get in and play” in order to understand the power of social media. Utilizing social media will be essential for nonprofit success in the future. Over time, those engaged with social media will become loyal advocates and contributors.

Follow Allison Fine on Twitter at @afine, and tune into her monthly podcast, Social Good, for the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Rebekah Leopold

Guest blogger Rebekah Leopold is a recent graduate of Riverview High School’s International Baccalaureate Program and will be attending Boston University this fall to study Economics and Sociology. She is working as a summer hire for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.


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