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Social Networking Widgets - What are They?

 A recent article in the NonProfit Times discussed the many ways a nonprofit can leverage its supporters and social networking tools to raise money. The article talks about widgets that can be used to raise money (more on that later). But first it is important to mention three key points from the article before any additional discussion:

1) Fundraising is all about going where the people are - and right now many are networking online:

The reach of member communities, which includes social networking and blogging sites, increased 5.4

A recent article in the NonProfit Times discussed the many ways a nonprofit can leverage its supporters and social networking tools to raise money. The article talks about widgets that can be used to raise money (more on that later). But first it is important to mention three key points from the article before any additional discussion:

1) Fundraising is all about going where the people are - and right now many are networking online:

percent in active reach in the past year, according to a Nielsen report… Time on Facebook increased by a mammoth 566 percent, from 3.1 billion minutes in 2007 to 20.5 billion minutes in 2008. Member communities even beat email in active reach by December 2008, according to the survey.

2) Donors are slowly beginning to leverage their social networks to fundraise:

And some nonprofits are more than happy to help give supporters the necessary tools to fundraise on their behalf. "The people who are going to use it are already using the Web in other ways and those are the people who will be most successful with the tools," said Melissa Temme, public relations director at The Salvation Army. "We tried to target those people where they are already."

3) These online tools have not been proven to be strong fundraising tools yet

"I think it's important to keep in mind that Facebook and others like it have not been proven to be strong fundraising tools," Temme said. "They are relational tools at this point and that has to be at the forefront of your thinking when you decide to put any sort of investment, time, money, into using these tools."

So what does it all mean? That 3rd point may be the most important: don't expect these efforts to reap huge amounts of actual money raised in the short term. However, remember that much of fundraising is in relationships; these social networking tools are incredibly powerful community-building and reconnection tools. Always consider your efforts online with these thoughts in mind.

Now, back to the "widgets." Widgets are small "programs" that can be placed on a website or blog or someone's personal profile on Facebook; they are usually easy to create - no coding required. The NonProfit Times article mentions a few of these widgets that can be used for fundraising. ChipIn.com allows anyone to create a widget that requests money for a particular "event." Money raised is placed into a PayPal account. An organization can create a ChipIn widget that is integrated with a new or existing PayPal account to accept donations. PayPal's expenses range from 1.9 - 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction. ChipIn shows a small thermometer that calculates how much of the goal has been achieved so far. There is an application on Facebook that allows users to include their ChipIn widget on their profile.

SixDegrees.org allows users to create a widget that processes donations to a 501c(3) through Network For Good. (Network For Good charges 4.75% per transaction.) An organization can include an image, some text, and even a video within the widget (they call it a badge). The widget can then be shared on websites and blogs, although we had difficulty getting the widget to appear on Facebook.

And, of course, there is always the most famous Facebook fundraising application called Causes. Causes is linked to Network For Good like SixDegrees.org. The application allows users to show their interest in a cause, recruit their Facebook friends, and donate money. We discussed some of these options in our blog post about Online Giving.

Have you tried any fundraising widgets? Had any success? Let us know in the comments!