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PayPal Nonprofit Research: The Effectiveness of Celebrity Spokespeople in Social Fundraisers

PayPal Nonprofit Research: The Effectiveness of Celebrity Spokespeople in Social Fundraisers

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Online celebrity fundraising efforts are hit and miss, and often get outpaced by lesser known web-based personalities or weblebrities who have deep ties to their communities. Research across a wide range of PayPal customer fundraisers, from Network for Good and Operation Smile to DonorsChoose.org and TwitChange, reveals three key reasons about what makes lesser weblebrities succeed:

1) They have a personal story to tell about the cause;
2) They are willing to engage a pre-existing tight knit community that interacts with the spokesperson on behalf of the cause; and
3) They have an authentic tie to the cause that resonates with that community’s knowledge of the weblebrity.
Online celebrity fundraising efforts are hit and miss, and often get outpaced by lesser known web-based personalities or weblebrities who have deep ties to their communities. Research across a wide range of PayPal customer fundraisers, from Network for Good and Operation Smile to DonorsChoose.org and TwitChange, reveals three key reasons about what makes lesser weblebrities succeed:

1) They have a personal story to tell about the cause;
2) They are willing to engage a pre-existing tight knit community that interacts with the spokesperson on behalf of the cause; and
3) They have an authentic tie to the cause that resonates with that community’s knowledge of the weblebrity.

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Published by: PayPal for Nonprofits on Oct 28, 2011
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07/23/2013

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TheEffectivenessofCelebritySpokespeopleinSocialFundraisers
AWhitePaperbyGeoffLivingstonandHenryT.Dunbar,Zoetica
PresentedbyPayPal
 
2
Section1:ExecutiveSummary
Examinationofseveralonlinefundraisingcampaignsthatcombinecelebrityandonlinepersonality(orweblebrity)presencewithsocialmediarevealsthatmanycelebritiesdonoteffectivelyraisemoneyfornonprofits.Instead,lesserknowncelebritiesandweblebritiesfairbetter,inparticularthosethat1)haveapersonalstorytotellaboutthecause;2)arewillingtoengageapre-existingtightknitcommunitythatinteractswiththespokespersononbehalfofthecause;3)andhaveanauthentictietothecausethatresonateswiththatcommunity.

Astimehasprogressed,socialmediabasedonlinefundraisingbestpracticeshaveuncannysimilaritieswithtraditionalfundraisingbestpractices.Firstandforemostisfindingthattrulyengagedpersonality.Movingforward,helpingthecelebrityorweblebritycultivatedonationswiththeircommunityisreminiscentofthewhitegloveservicelargedonorsreceivefromtheirfavoritecausesinorganizingprivateevents.Intraditionalfundraising,havinggreatnamerecognitionanddevotedfanscangenerateincreasedawarenessandraisefundsifacelebritycaresaboutthecauseandinveststime.Yet,onlinecelebrityeffortsarehitandmiss,andoftengetoutpacedbylesserknownweb-basedpersonalitiesorweblebritieswhohavedeeptiestotheircommunities.Withanalmostubiquitouspresenceonsocialmedia
1
,morenonprofitsareexperimentingwithsocialnetworkfundraising.Nearlyhalf(46%)ofnonprofitsinthestudyreportedsomefundraisingviasocialnetworksin2010,upfrom38%in2008.Thevastmajorityofthenonprofitsocialfundraisersraisedlessthan$10,000in2010.Atinygroupof“MasterSocialFundraisers”(just0.4%ofthestudy’sparticipatingnonprofits)raisedmorethan$100,000.Nonprofitshaveturnedtotheircelebritypartnerswithfansandfollowersinthemillionstoraisemoney.Thenumberscanbeastounding,bothpositivelyandnegatively.SavetheChildrenjustranacelebritycampaignonsocialmediawiththelikesofLadyGagaandJustinBieberthatraised$100,000inthefirstday.However,deeperanalysisshowedthefundraiserachieved$0.0001percelebrityfollower.Aswithtraditionalmediaanddevelopmentpractices,nonprofitswrestlewithhowbesttoleveragetheircelebrityrelationshipsinordertoderivetangiblebenefitsfortheirorganizations.Thoughthemediumisnew,thelessonsfromtraditionalboardsandfundraisersapply.Onlinecelebritiesworkbestwhenyourecruitindividualsthatarealreadypassionateaboutthecause,andarewillingtoengageonyourbehalf.Nonprofitsneedtovettheseonlinecelebritiesfordeepandstrongtiesintheironlinecommunities.Manywebcelebritieshaveapresence,butnotstrongengagement.

1
Nearly90%ofnonprofitshaveapresenceonFacebookin2011accordingtothe3rdAnnualNonprofitSocialMediaBenchmarkReportbyNTEN,CommonKnowledgeandBlackbaud
 
3
Severalrecentsocialfundraisingcampaignsandconteststhatusedcelebrityparticipantstogenerateinterestanddonations,haveshownthatlesserknown,butbetter-engaged,personalitiesproducedstrongerresultsfornonprofits.Someofthecampaignsinclude:
 
Acampaignon
Facebook’sCauses
toraisemoneyforanewchildren’shospital.Init,a9-year-oldcancerpatientwithvirtuallynoonlinepresencegeneratedmoredonationsthananyotherindividual,includingtelevisionstarAshtonKutcher.
 
A
DonorsChoose.org
fundraisingcompetitionamongbloggers—includingTechCrunch’sMichaelArringtonandAllThingsD’sKaraSwisher—wasdominatedbyabloggerofferingtoparadearoundinatomatosuit.
 
Thelaunchcompetitionof
KevinBacon’sSixDegrees
socialgivingwebsite.Despiterecruitingmorethan60celebritiestocreate“charitybadges”onthesite—includingNicoleKidmanandAshleyJudd—thetopfundraiserwasawomanwhoblogsaboutscrapbookingandhasanautisticson.
 
The
PayPal-sponsoredRegifttheFruitcake
campaignonFacebookwaswonbyOperationSmilewiththehelpofFilipinasingerChariceandherengagedfans.Othermorenotablecelebritiesparticipated,butdidn’tdeliverCharice’simpact.
 
TwitChange,
whichhostscharityauctionswherefansbuymentions,follows,andretweetsfromcelebritiesonTwitter.Throughthreeauctionsin2010,twoofthecelebritiesdrawingthemostattentionandhighestbidshavebeenactorZacharyLevi(ofTV’s
Chuck 
)andcelebrityphotographerJeremyCowart,beatingstarssuchascountrysingerLeAnnRimesandcelebritygossipbloggerPerezHilton.Ourreviewsuggestsauniversalthemeacrosssocialfundraisers:Thebestresultsdonotcomefromthemostwell-knowncelebritiesandbloggers,butthemostengagedones.Realsuccessinsocialchannelsoccursbycultivatinginfluencers(celebrities,bloggers,etc.)withthesameskillstypicallyusedforhigh-valuedonors.Therestofthispaperexaminesbestpracticesgleanedfromtheseexamples.PayPalhopesthatnonprofitscanlearnfromtheseexamplesandextendthemtotheirowneffortsonandofflinetoproduceonlinefundraisersthatachievemaximumimpact.

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