For our final event of 2021, we heard from Kenneth McElroy, Director at the Caithness Broch Project and Education & Volunteer Officer at Kilmartin Museum.

Kenneth explained how he’s used social media to promote and run large online crowdfunders and smaller creative fundraising projects for organisations in the heritage sector, all while sharing helpful tips.

Building Your Social Media Presence

This may sound obvious, but before you start running fundraising campaigns through these channels, it’s important to make sure that your social media presence is up to scratch. You want to be providing compelling, regular content to build an engaged audience before you ask followers for money or to share your campaign. If you don’t have a product/organisation worth buying into, people won’t support it.

Social media success can be hit or miss and certainly involves a little bit of luck. But there are things you can do to give yourself the best chance of success:

  • Get your tone right – the Caithness Broch Project, for example, has an informal tone · Consider using memes which are relatively quick and simple – get on social media yourself and see what’s trending. What do you see people adapting? Just make sure you’re fast so you’re staying relevant.
  • Consider how to make the thing you’re promoting (an archive, site, building or collection) relatable
  • When sharing pictures, ensure they’re bright, colourful and high-quality
  • Test and try things out – don’t be afraid to replicate fun formats you see other accounts doing online (though Kenneth doesn’t recommend organising “social media world cups” as they’re fun, but incredibly time-consuming)

Turn Followers Into Donors

First things first: consider these questions before setting up a crowdfunding campaign. Is your idea/project worth investing in? Can you get funds elsewhere (and use feedback from social media in the application instead)? Generally, Kenneth uses online fundraisers as a bit of a ‘last resort’. You don’t want to ‘bleed your audience dry’ as there might be bigger and more important projects down the road, and you may really depend on your supports then.

If you’re using a platform (and not just asking people to donate through your website), choose carefully. There are plenty options out there nowadays including Crowdfunder, JustGiving, Buy Me a Coffee, Patreon, Amazon Smile, Kickstarter etc. Sometimes it’s good to mix and match platforms but running multiple at the same time is not recommended. In Kenneth’s opinion, Buy Me a Coffee and Patreon are not suitable for the heritage sector. Also, be sure to check you know what percentage these platforms are taking.

If you prefer to think outside the box, there’s also auctions. In [year?], the Caithness Broch Project created an online auction of Caithness artwork which made over £8,500, but it took a lot of time.

Get Your Message Across

Now it’s time to get the message out there:

  • Provide clear messaging with regards to what amount you need and what the fundraiser will result in
  • Present the public with simple and actionable instructions on how to donate
  • Don’t over promote it – people might get a bit tired of seeing the same fundraiser again and again so balance out your content.
  • Find a catchy hook, action or message – for example “Help Make Caithness Colourful!” for the Caithness Colouring Book
  • Ensure you’ve got a good balance between seriousness vs humour
  • Use engaging imagery wherever possible, including videos and colourful images

And finally…

Thank your followers! Keep them updated and let them know what their donations have helped to achieve.

P.S. Don’t forget to take a break from social media. Taking a detox from time to time will benefit you and your project

Want to learn more? Follow Kenneth on Twitter or check out the article he wrote for Dig It!.

Header Photo by pixelliebe

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