How to show your funders some love -- social-media style

When a corporation funds your nonprofit, saying "thank you" requires more than sending an acknowledgement letter and grant reports.

As a fundraiser, you need to create content that is about the grant’s impact on your nonprofit programs, and your nonprofit’s appreciation for the funding.

This “impact and appreciation” content should be in a format that can be easily forwarded and shared.

Using social media to thank corporate funders is key because corporate foundations face internal pressure to show their value.

While the typical family foundation was established with the purpose of giving money away, a corporate giving program may be viewed as a revenue drain by other parts of the corporation.

This perception puts constant demand on a corporate giving program to justify its existence to other divisions of the company.

As a nonprofit fundraiser, you can help corporate giving officers build enthusiasm about the company's philanthropic strategy.

A corporate giving officer can talk all day to her bosses about the value of the grants they make, but the bosses will be more likely to respond to recognition that comes from outside the company, via social media channels.

Here’s how to use social media to thank corporate funders.

  • Your nonprofit's blog and email updates: If your nonprofit actively blogs or sends emails to its supporters and fans, start your thank-you messages here. Create a blog post about the grant that highlights the grant's impact on your mission. (The point isn't to brag that you got a grant, but rather to show how the grant is making a difference.) If you have the technology, include in the post a video of the grant-funded project in action (more on video in the point below). Include an announcement of the grant in your next email update, linking to the post. Going forward, you can use the blog post as a "landing page" for all other social media references to the grant.
  • Video: Online videos don't have to be incredibly polished or scripted to be effective. I love videos that feature the beneficiaries of a grant saying thank you directly to donors. Washtenaw Community College Foundation in Michigan includes videos of students who received scholarships saying "thank you" in the Foundation's emails to donors -- wouldn't you want to continue giving to the scholarship fund after watching these students share their sincere thanks? Check out the Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University's School of Business 10 Tips for Doing Video for Social Media -- among the ideas shared are to post your videos to YouTube for Nonprofits, and to title and caption your videos.
  • Facebook: Craft a Facebook post for your nonprofit’s Facebook page that directly thanks the corporation by name, and ideally, includes a hyperlink to the company’s Facebook page. Be sure to use a photo or infographic and go light on the text. Try to phrase the post in a way that will encourage your friends to “like” it. Then, ask your staff and supporters to share the post on their own timelines (if appropriate). Once this is done, let your contacts at the company know about the Facebook posting. They may choose to share it on their page, or just forward the item to their colleagues.
  • Twitter: Your Tweet needs to mention the corporation by name (using their Twitter handle/username if they have one) and say something intriguing about the grant – in 140 characters. For example, if your nonprofit got a grant from the Macy’s Foundation for a women’s shelter in New York, your Tweet could start out, “Thanking @Macys for keeping 135 NYC women safe this holiday season…” Include a shortened link to a blog post or other landing page that provides more detail about the grant’s impact on your nonprofit. Photos and video are always good to include on that page! Email your supporters who are active on Twitter to ask them to retweet the Tweet, and, as with Facebook, let your contacts at the company know about the Tweet.
  • Voicemail: The phone is the original social media tool! Voicemail left on a corporate foundation officer’s phone after hours can be “forwardable content” that is just as valuable as a Facebook post or a Tweet. At a training I attended, a corporate program officer told the audience that one of her grantees serves low-income, vulnerable kids. The grantee made a couple of thank you phone calls to the program officer's phone line, having the children themselves leave brief messages of thanks. She said it was awesome because she was able to forward the voicemails all over her company and staff thought the messages were adorable. She liked how the kids got to practice making a professional phone call, which is a good life skill. (Personally, I’d be leery of doing anything like this, but it sounds like the grantee handled it well and the program officer was thrilled.)

The bottom line is that corporate philanthropy staffers need to sell the corporate giving program to their peers and higher-ups, especially if corporate giving is not part of the company’s overall marketing budget.

They have to make the case that their past grants were worth making, and their future grants will be money well spent.

The nuggets of digital information that you share can be forwarded and otherwise disseminated across the company.

This can make it easier for corporate giving officers to tell the story of how their grants are making a difference in the community.

It can also pave the way for future funding for your nonprofit!