Detroit-Area Charities Seeking New Donors Via Social Media Sites

Hoping to tap new sources of giving, Detroit-area charities are cultivating potential donors through social media Web sites such as Twitter and Facebook, the Detroit News reports.

While giving decreased nationally by 2 percent in 2008, according to the Giving USA Foundation, online giving grew by 4 percent, due in part to charities becoming more savvy about building their Internet presence. As the 2009 holiday season comes to a close, some industry observers predict that Americans will have donated $4 billion during the final weeks of 2009, up from $3.1 billion last year. "The growth rate [of fundraising online] is not only increasing, it's increasing at a faster rate every year," said eTapestry CEO Jay Love.

Technological advances have enabled online giving to develop beyond "donate now" buttons on nonprofits' Web sites, as organizations use more innovative approaches to build their donor base. For example, in addition to the traditional red kettles stationed outside grocery stores and shopping malls, the Salvation Army for Eastern Michigan collected donations through an online interactive game and a Facebook widget.

Similarly, Forgotten Harvest in Oak Park used Twitter to coax last-minute gifts of canned goods and money while recruiting volunteers during a two-week-long food drive. On a recent afternoon, as many as one hundred volunteers — about 20 percent of whom were recruited online — packaged 11,000 meals, said Forgotten Harvest chief development officer Russ Russell, who now posts every fundraiser on Twitter, the organization's Facebook page, and his personal page. "Organizations that are moving forward without [using social media], they're going to miss the boat," said Russell.

Catherine Jun. "Charities Tweet on Social Media." Detroit News 12/28/2009.