When Nepal suffered a devastating earthquake in April that killed more than 7,000 people, the airwaves were inundated with pleas to send a text to donate $10 to help the survivors.
When political candidates need to fundraise, they often fill email inboxes with requests for $10 or $25 by midnight.
Social media has become the way to donate these days when everyone is attached to a Smart phone.
However, it’s not the method of choice for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, said Avital Ingber, the organization’s chief development officer. Federation’s fundraising practices focus more on building relationships and creating donors for life, she said.
“Building relationships one-on-one gets the most money.”
When young adults attend one or two events, their average donation to the federation is $180, Ingber said. When they become regulars, attending three or more events, their donations greatly increase, averaging “upwards of $500,” she said.
“If you build the tradition,” enabling people to become active, they are more likely to become donors for life, Ingber said.
However, that doesn’t preclude the federation from utilizing social media to raise funds.
Birthright attendees are encouraged to set up a personal Facebook fundraising page, fill it with personal stories and photos and send it to all their friends as a way to raise money for Reverse Mifgash. That program brings the Israelis that they met during their Birthright trip to the Washington, D.C. area, further creating lifelong bonds between friends and a commitment to Israel.
Friends of Birthright attendees who go onto the Facebook page are apt to donate to the person they know, even if their commitment to Israel would not normally convince them to give money, Ingber said.
“It’s a new way of fundraising,” she said. “We are trying lots of different things.”
Another way the federation tries to optimize the amount of funds it raises is by requiring event attendees to Impact DC to donate money before they can even walk in the door, Ingber said.
Michelle Pearlstein, development associate at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, agreed that the center’s best donations do not involve the internet.
However, her organization does raise funds through impulse buying, urging people to donate an extra $18 online when they go to check out to pay for an event they will be attending.
“Here and there, we have raised our profile a little with Facebook and Twitter,” she said. But most of that involves participation on already established local or national fundraisers.
The JCC participates in online events like Giving Tuesday, an annual global day of giving in which donors give to the charity of their choice. Last year, more than $45 million was raised in a single day.
Said Pearlstein, “I’m not going to turn any gift down.”