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Social media and the internet have affected almost everything in our lives. But for philanthropic endeavors, that isn’t always a bad thing.

According to Natalie Leek, CEO and president of Providence House in Cleveland, social media and the internet allow for new ways to reach donors.

Providence House uses social media to bolster and mirror current direct mail endeavors, as a majority of the organization’s donors are over 40 years old and don’t use the internet as their primary means of communication.

“Whatever we produce in print, we also deploy digitally,” she explained. “That print message, whether a newsletter or direct mail, also goes into our social media platform so there is a presence. We make sure as we’re developing materials, we have a social media strategy behind everything produced.”

Leek added social media is also used for “in-the-moment” requests, where they post a message to ask for items needed for immediate donation.

“People respond well to that,” she said. “We also know we have to figure out who we’re communicating with on all platforms, like Facebook is for the older donors and younger millennials are on Instagram and Twitter. It’s all about tone shifting.”

With that in mind, Leek reiterated social media and the internet as a whole have an effect on fundraising that can’t be ignored.

“Everything we do with mobile responses, no matter where you open it like your phone, computer or tablet, you’re getting the full experience,” she stated.

With how short attention spans are now, Leek said organizations “have to grab people.”

“Donors want to get your content, understand what they have to do and take action,” she explained. “It’s about making everything digestible. It’s also the ease. People know what they want to give to, so get to them quickly so they can act quickly. Social media is perfectly tuned to that strategy.”

As the use of social media and the internet have evolved, Leek said the approach fundraisers use has also shifted.

“Many organizations still have a lengthy grant process that hasn’t streamlined or gone social,” she said. “They’re very institutionally based. Social media at the individual donor level is where you’re seeing the traction. One of the areas that it is challenging is planned giving. Most planned gifts are from older donors, so they aren’t communicating the same way online.”

But as fundraising continues, social media and the internet will continue to complement it.

“It is the wave of the future,” Leek said. “So, while person to person is always going to be important, the competition is already fierce and it’ll continue to grow. At the touch of a button, people will be able to donate where they want to. ... People give to people. The more we get donors to leverage their social media to talk about the causes they believe in, the better. Though digital, the people to people piece is still critical.”

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