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How the size of your social network influences your fundraising potential

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How the size of your social network influences your fundraising potential

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The topic of so called slacktavism is one that I’ve covered on this blog a number of times over the past few years.  These articles have largely stemmed from the continuing belief that a large presence on social networks such as Facebook are a prerequisite for successful online fundraising and awareness building.

The rational behind such claims are understandably attractive.  After all, the sheer number of people using such social networks are vast.  Surely they can only be a force for good?

Sadly it’s not as straight forward as that.  Studies have suggested for instance, that the more public your show of support for a cause, the less likely you are to offer anything substantial (ie time or money) to that cause.

A couple of recent studies suggest things aren’t quite so bleak for charities on Facebook however.  The first explored the marriage equality campaign run by Human Rights Campaign, which saw supporters adopt the red equals sign as their profile picture.

The campaign attracted considerable support, albeit with a decent chunk of that support often offered in a slightly misguided way.  The authors of the study suggest however that any support is better than no support, therefore the campaign was decidedly positive for the charity.

What about our personal fundraising efforts though?  I’m sure we’ve all seen friends and colleagues attempt to raise money for good causes via various challenges.  We may even have done so ourselves.  What impact does the size of our social network have on these efforts?

A recent paper set out to explore whether the size of our social network on Facebook made a difference in the donations made by.

The researchers trawled through data from the JustGiving fundraising site and discovered a negative link between the size of the community on Facebook and the amount of money given by each donor on JustGiving.

Indeed, the drop was as much as two pence for each extra connection.  It’s largely believed to be an example of the so called bystander effect, whereby we tend to think that others will do what’s needed if we’re surrounded by large groups, so don’t take any action ourselves.

“The problem is that everyone thinks the same thing and therefore the actual amount of money that’s donated is less than it would have been had fewer friends been asked in the first place,” the researchers say.

The scale of your challenge

The paper also found that the kind of challenge we undertake has a big impact on the money raised, with tougher challenges significantly more likely to raise cash than easier ones.

“Whilst running is by far the most popular event on JustGiving, it is in fact individuals who complete triathlons that typically attract the largest number of donations and raise the most money in total,” the paper says. “So doing something physically demanding and asking a small group of friends for their support is much more effective than relying on donations from lots of people for what would be perceived as a relatively less exerting activity.”

The paper goes on to suggest that the primary reason for giving is to help out a friend rather than any real affiliation with the cause.  The act of donation makes the fundraiser feel great, which in turn then impacts upon the giver too.

So if you want to do well with your personal fundraising this year, it seems best to undergo a tough challenge and promote it within a small group.

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