Interview: Scott Goodstein

The online element of the Obama for America campaign raised $500m (£336m) from more than three million people. Can charities learn from its success?

Scott Goodstein
Scott Goodstein

Scott Goodstein is one of eight digital media experts worthy of the title 'Barack Obama's web guru', according to a satirical piece on influential US gossip website Gawker.com.

Now that Obama is in the White House, many on the list are keen to 'share the learning' from the highly effective online element of the Obama for America campaign, which raised $500m (£336m) from more than three million people.

Goodstein's digital track record is impressive. He founded a mobile marketing company called Revolution Messaging and was the Obama campaign's external online director, developing its supporter pages on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. He also devised the campaign's mobile phone communication strategy.

He will share his techniques with charities in the UK next month when he appears as a keynote speaker at the virtual international fundraising conference held by the International Fundraising Congress, which will be conducted live online.

But how likely is it that charities will be able to achieve similar success without the appeal of Obama himself? Goodstein believes there are lessons for all not-for-profit organisations.

"Obama for America had the right message and the right messenger, sure," he says. "But once supporters were excited, they stayed involved. We used technology to build on that energy.

"The campaign was a wake-up call to organisations not engaging with these tools. It is no longer enough to put out a press release and give one interview, then expect your supporters to connect with your cause. To recognise the change in how people are digesting information is a big step forward."

His challenge, he says, is to persuade charities to invest in social media while understanding that they won't see an immediate return. "It takes time," he says.

Instead, Goodstein will encourage charities to view digital media as a way to converse with supporters over a long period. The key, he says, is to match the right message intelligently with the right channel.

"Digital media is a long haul," he says. "But if you have something interesting to say and it holds your supporters' attention, they are going to be there with you."

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