1,886,434 Ways the Long Tail Beat Klout

Last Wednesday’s Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington netted $2,034,434, including 17,838 donations totaling $1,886,434. The online giving contest benefited 1200 nonprofits. As the general manager of the event, this kind of impact makes me profoundly grateful, and many thanks have already been sent to the donors, nonprofits and partners involved. Give to the Max Day also provided yet another example of how big social media names don’t necessarily translate into great social performance.

On the contrary, the majority of winners in Give to the Max Day Grand Awards were not the big nonprofit brands with sizable influencers locally. It was the little guys, the Little Lights Urban Ministries (Klout Score: 10) and For Love of Children, Inc. (Klout Score: 37) that won most donors and most donations, respectively.

If people were betting on popular nonprofit brands and influencers with big Klout scores to win the day, they would have lost a lot of money. While some participated and performed well, they didn’t take the grand prizes. In the end it was the long tail of small voices that drove the event’s leaderboards, and overall donation flow.

That’s not to say that big brands and influencers can’t succeed. As revealed in the PayPal Research paper, Effectiveness of Celebrity Spokespeople in Social Fundraisers, the secret formula for success in social media is not the most “influence” or size of account, rather it is engaged community, authenticity and a willingness to work. Any online brand can demonstrate that kind of investment and energy.

Frank Warren Book Signing

Two award winners were big influencers, and showed that kind of passion. The first was PostSecret‘s Frank Warren (Klout Score: 69), who won the Care2 Individual Fundraiser Award with his IMAlive fundraiser, which in turn triggered a third place finish for Most Donors for the Kristin Brooks Hope Center. Frank was very engaged in the weeks leading up to the event, asking questions about how to do well. Further, he is authentically passionate about this cause with a long history of fundraising and personal reasons to be engaged.

The second influential example is the fine performance of the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Though you couldn’t necessarily tell by a Klout Score of 49, the Corcoran is one of Washington’s premier institutions in the Arts Community. The Corcoran went all out with its ArtReach campaign, using a matching grant, emails and social media to invigorate its core. The result? A total of 438 donors and $55,189 in donations, good enough for third place in most dollars raised, and fourth place for most donors.

In the end, it’s not Klout or some other social media ranking that creates a success. It’s the passion and drive of the voices behind the effort.

Congratulations to all of the nonprofits who experimented, and learned more about online fundraising this past Wednesday (and the months leading up to it). Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington was a fun contest, and it’s an enjoyable exercise to break down what made a winning campaign. But the real winners in this day were you, the almost 18,000 citizens who supported you, and the region as a whole.

Mashable Outtake: 12for12K’s Susan Murphy

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My column last week on Mashable tied together overarching themes from mega charity events like Twestival, 12for12k, Tweetsgiving and CrisisCamps. To get the information, I interviewed the four organizers cited in the article. Each interview was fantastic and informative in its own right. So with my editor’s blessing I am publishing the unedited interview source material over the next couple of weeks for general consumption, starting with Susan Murphy‘s 12for12K interview.

GL: What makes 12for12K unique as compared to other large-scale social media events?

Susan:I think what sets 12for12k apart is that we started small. It wasn’t about getting the large numbers for us right away. In other words, we weren’t trying to raise a million dollars in a month. Our goal was pretty reasonable. Find 1200 people to donate $10 per month for 12 months.

Since we were already pretty heavily involved in social media, reaching 1200 passionate people didn’t seem too daunting a task for us. We knew we had the capacity within the core team to reach people, and we focused on inspiring people to not only donate, but to help us spread the word. Our idea was to focus on building a community first, and the money would follow.

GL: How does 12for12K attract the long tail (large amounts of people) so successfully?

Susan:We focused first on building a community that cared about the cause. These people became our ambassadors – they were as passionate as we were about helping, and they spread the word. We got the charities directly involved too, and made sure their stories were out there for people to hear. Once we had a passionate community, spreading the word was much easier. When we needed to get a message out, or inspire people to contribute, our community went into action.

GL: In spite of its size, people seem to feel a relationship with you and local 12for12K organizers. How did you achieve that?

Susan: It’s not enough to just find a bunch of people willing to spread the word – that kind of publicity has a shelf life. We needed people to commit to 12for12k long term. We achieved this by empowering our community, not just “using” them for their blog posts and retweets. We wanted our community to feel ownership in 12for12k.

So we encouraged their ideas and feedback, and eventually 12for12k took on a life of its own….people were organizing their own fundraisers, and offering to help with web site design, logos and graphics, content, video production, social media outreach and other tasks. It is a true community effort, and our supporters have been absolutely critical to the success of 12for12k. It was this strong community that raised over $100,000 last year. We are so grateful to everyone that has supported the cause.

GL: What can a cause learn from your effort?

This has been a learning experience for us from the beginning. One of our biggest lessons happened mid-last year when we started to lose momentum. This is a natural thing with any long term initiative, and it’s something that causes need to be aware of.

It took some time to pinpoint the exact issue, but we realized that we’d lost some of the connection with our supporters – we weren’t reaching out to them as often, and weren’t listening as intently. We refocused our efforts on being there for our supporters, and regained our momentum by making sure we were involving our community at every step.

GL: What’s your favorite social media tool that you used for 12for12K?

Susan: Well, my mantra is, it’s not about the tools… but if you insist. ;) It’s important to leverage the platforms where your community resides – in our case it was important to have our home base as the web site www.12for12k.org, where we could share news and promote the charities and events, as well as promoting our strong community and highlighting their tremendous efforts.

Involving our community in conversations on our Twitter and Facebook pages was also extremely important. I would say that our leveraging of Twitter has been extremely successful. Last year we worked with Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) and held a Tweet-a-thon for our March charity, Share our Strength, and brought in over $12,000 in 12 hours, which was remarkable.

We’ve had other amazing 12for12k’ers that have also done their own online fundraising events, like concerts and live webcasts, with great success. But I think a balanced social media strategy is the best approach. Find your community. Listen to them. Encourage and empower them to share the message. The tools come second.