Use Twitter like a dating site, says BHF relationship manager

Nikki Bell tells the IoF's annual convention that, as with dating, the internet is now the place to go to find supporters and build relationships

Charities should use Twitter like an online dating platform to find and connect with potential supporters, according to Nikki Bell, relationship manager at the British Heart Foundation.

Bell was speaking in a light-hearted session called "What fundraisers can learn from Tinder" at the Institute of Fundraising’s annual convention in London this week, alongside Victoria Ward, head of fundraising at the British Youth Council.

As it was with dating, said Bell, the internet was now the place to go to find supporters. She said the BHF had had "great success" using Twitter, because it was a platform on which people were willing to engage with strangers.

But she added: "You’re not going to get anywhere just putting content out – you need to engage with potential supporters."

Fundraisers should use the advanced search functions to find people in a particular geographical area who had mentioned the charity or words and phrases associated with its cause, she said, and then begin "liking" and retweeting tweets.

People who had been involved with event fundraising for the charity before might also have links to their online fundraising pages, containing information about their interest in the charity and its cause, she said.

"If I think there’s a potential for a long-term relationship with someone, I’ll be following them, engaging with their tweets, and I hope they’ll be following me back," Bell said.

Interacting with users this way was "wonderful for the supporters because they feel like they’ve been noticed out of the millions of users on Twitter", Bell said. "They don’t know that you’ve put them in a category for volunteers or supporters. All they care about is that they’ve been noticed."

Once a rapport had been established online by direct messaging, she added, it was important to arrange a meeting in the real world as soon as possible – again, much like online dating.

"It’s not great to try and find the spark on social media platforms," she said. "You need to have human-to-human interaction. You need to be asking these supporters out on a ‘date’."

Twitter could be used to connect with potential supporters, but making contact in the real world was the best way to move the relationship forward, she said.

Despite the humorous tone of the session, Ward added a warning that donor engagement should never come at the expense of fundraisers’ safety and urged fundraisers to speak out if they encountered sexualised comments in relation to acquiring donations.

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