How Facebook Can Help You Raise Real Dollars

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“Standley” visits a Mad Men dinner party!

Here’s a facebook campaign that was charming, silly and actually brought in some money.

And it uses fun and playfulness to capture the attention of supporters.

You know how hard it is to get people’s attention!  Here’s how you do it in our media environment today – with surprise and delight.

Can Facebook help raise money?

Nah!  (at least that’s what I used to think!)

I used to be very dubious about Facebook as a fundraising tool.

Sure social media is great.

It helps generate buzz, visibility and friends – all important backdrops to successful fundraising.

And I personally love Facebook!

Warren Hyer, the creative CEO of the Central Ohio Symphony

Warren Hyer, the creative CEO of the Central Ohio Symphony

But it’s just way too easy to turn off your supporters if you go after the dollars too hard on social media.

So when Warren Hyer of the Central Ohio Symphony shared with me his successful facebook campaign for – of all things – new music stands – I was amazed.

Raising money for new music stands would be a tough call!

Ok, Imagine a music stand.

"Standley" visits a neighboring town!

“Standley” visits a neighboring town!

It’s a dull metal object. It’s sorta ugly, isn’t it?

Not very sexy or appealing to donors.

How on earth do you raise money for a music stand – please tell me!

So the Central Ohio Symphony organized a totally FUN Facebook campaign.

And they created a Facebook character named: “Standley.

Everybody fell in love with this silly character named “Standley.”

They only needed to raise $600. And each music stand would cost the donor only $50.

(I would have advised them to make the price much higher!  But, hey, it was their very first effort like this on Facebook. They weren’t really sure how it would go over.)Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 8.52.02 AM

Now, Standley captured everybody’s attention quickly – even well outside their community.

Amazing results from the Facebook campaign:

“The Standley project received an article in the local paper with a picture. (Social media generates coverage from traditional media!)

“Several stands were donated by individuals  from outside our service area, suggesting greater awareness of the Symphony and the fun of the campaign.

“Many people in our community have mentioned the enjoyment of the campaign, with smiles and acknowledgement of the creativity.

That is direct feeback that we are reaching them. It was also friendraising!

“We have had additional inquiries about more stands or donation opportunities.

I have been able to suggest alternative way to support us during those calls. (This is a huge success here!)

“We had a big surge in facebook participation that sustained for some time.

“Standley also appeared in the community Christmas Parade and on Thanksgiving he enjoyed dinner with friends.

Standley hangs out!

Standley hangs out!

“We don’t know the effect on the Annual Drive since Standley did not participate.

Standley is going to have a terrific future!

Warren understands Standley’s true potential. (the comments are mine.)

We are considering developing Standley as a mascot of some sort. (I would totally do that.)

Standley may be the first step to develop a tribute donation program since people gave stands in honor of others. (Yes yes!)

We may turn him into our facebook advocate and use Standley in the lobby during concerts for collecting comments or a donation bucket.  (Love this!)

We may follow up with a “Where’s Standley?” campaign – Note the picture of Standley in nearby Waldo, Ohio!

We are considering developing a personality for Standley.

And Warren really nails the overall potential of a fun, playful icon:

Standley can be a presence where we cannot be. He can help spread information on the Symphony and what we do. He can be a community display that would be unique.

Now wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could pull all this off for your own organization?


Now here are my take-aways:

  • Be creative and be willing to take some risks with your brand – particularly in social media.
  • Have some fun and you’ll raise more money – because you’ll attract people to your cause!
  • Get people’s attention first and then ask. Don’t be about the money all the time.
  • Make a specific dollar request for a specific project – that appeals far more to today’s donors.
  • Tie social media into your fundraising efforts. There’s no reason not to!
  • Many donors are hanging out on social media to have some fun – and you can reach them there.

Here are some of the facebook posts from the Standley Campaign:

friend standley2

This is just one of the many posts on Facebook.

Warren was kind enough to share with us the full Standley Campaign Layout. Just click on the link to download a pdf file to see the entire campaign.


  • Doug

    Gail, what a compliment to write up our campaign! One other thing we did was write the names of all donors on the stands – my lovely wife did the lettering in a flowing script, in fact! We had some donors who gave multiple stands, and I believe that creating a visible tribute to the donor on them gave them the inspiration and opportunity to honor someone in their life who is connected to music. We took photos of the stands with the names and sent them out. The whole thing only took about an hour.

    Two takeaways from this. First, it creates donor follow-up. A donor gets the pleasure of giving, the pleasure of seeing the stand being used, and the pleasure of a permanent and lasting reminder (and a photo) of their gift. There’s a reason that zoos say “sponsor our penguin!” instead of “give us $300!” and it’s so that they can show their grandkids “their” penguin whenever they go to the zoo. Second, it shows that you actually used their money for what they gave it for. That’s HUGE for trust and reinvestment. Of course you’re going to give again when the last time you gave, they used your gift for precisely what they said they would! Transparency, trust, honesty.

  • gailperry

    Hi Doug! It’s my understanding that your marketing committee did most of the creative – way to go! And you are so correct about making the ask about something specific. That’s what today’s donors really want.

  • Doug

    Just about all of it was done in-house and we are NOT experts. This should embolden other fundraisers. We do not have professional graphic designers, copy writers, social media experts… but we do have thoughtful board members with dedication. I think this project is the result of putting in enough creative time.

  • gailperry

    Doug, what I like about this is that it is not slick, and it’s something that anyone with some creative humor could create! Gail

  • Richard Freedlund

    Gail, Kudos to the Central Ohio Symphony on its innovative campaign. It is creative and humorous, and it really does get one’s attention. I like it, and I will share it with others, particularly with my contacts in Ohio. Thanks for sharing it with your readers.

  • gailperry

    thanks Richard! they get real credit for heading out of the box!

  • Glynis

    This is absolutely brilliant! I love it! As someone who used to work at a symphony, and is still involved in a local choir, this is so appropriate for the audience. Kudos!

  • Jeff Schreifels

    I reviewed the whole campaign, yet I did not see any results. Do you have results from the campaign? I know the goal was pretty low, but it would be good to know how many people responded, how many were new donors, what the revenue was and average gift.

  • gailperry

    Hi Jeff, yes it raised all the money they needed plus some. I should have included that in the post!!! thanks!

  • gailperry

    Glynis, I am challenging my nonprofit friends to see if they can come up with an icon or some theme that can capture people’s hearts and make them laugh too!

  • Doug

    The campaign was fully subscribed and quickly! I think it took about three to four low-intensity weeks. As it says above, we needed $600 and each gift was $50. Specific amounts, specific gifts. Don’t have the data on new donors in front of me ATM.

  • powerorgmath

    Genius…and engaging. I love this!


    Great tip! Being creative with your campaign can definitely help your results!

  • Chasity

    Great information Gail! Thanks for sharing.

  • Standley

    Gee everyone, I’m blushing with all these comments! I’m really a modest guy and just love being part of the Central Ohio Symphony. Now that I tried it, I LOVE Friendraising!

    I am flattered that you like this campaign so much. Come visit us some time for great concerts and I will introduce you to all of my new friends.

    Here is what two members of our marketing committee wrote about Gail’s post:

    That’s great! And I’m glad it’s because of Standley; it couldn’t happen to a nicer music stand. Margo

    I agree with Margo. I cannot imagine a nicer music stand: quiet, unassuming, always standing by ready for rehearsals, willing to uphold whatever musical role he is assigned, truly a paragon among stands. Warm regards, Jed

  • Lenora

    LOVE THIS – So creative.
    Standley is definitely outstanding in his field! Imagine a field of Standleys with one higher than the rest.

  • gailperry

    Lenora, we all have a lot to learn from this campaign don’t we? : )

  • Janet Grimmer-Kempf

    Great idea and very well executed! I appreciate you sharing this and I loved it…truly put the “fun” in fundraising. Bravo!

  • Tonya

    This is a great article about how to incorporate social media to find and connect with your target audience. Social media seems to be the “meeting spot” for many people and therefore an easy way to identify and connect with your audience. I also read this blog that talks more about maximizing school fundraiser awareness via social media.

  • Ann smith

    please everyone donate and look at my page