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Social media is great for connecting with true friends and close family members, but it also creates awkward situations when a friend request comes through from a person who we might not want to let into our private lives just yet.

A co-worker, a distant cousin, a new acquaintance.

What about a fundraiser? Should they accept a friend request from a donor?

Should they dare send the request to a donor themselves?

In this post, I am going to explore both sides of the argument of whether a fundraiser should become friends with a donor on Facebook.

The Case For

Strengthening the donor relationship

As a fundraiser, your job is to build relationships with donors. Sure, you can get by with one-off gifts from people you never truly get to know on a more personal level, but it’s not a path to sustainability.

While there’s no replacement for in-person interactions, and as impersonal as social media can be sometimes, Facebook can still be an amazing way to go beyond a transactional relationship.

Imagine the power of all the information you can glean from someone’s profile and regular status updates, like sending a note of congratulations or condolence when something major happens in their life, or being able to tailor appeals to them based on what you learn about their interests and passions. You might even be able to infer why giving suddenly stopped.

Besides that, there’s an opportunity for direct interaction that you can’t quite get through email or direct mail. At the very least, you can say thank you. Most donors love to put their philanthropy on display, and when you’re connected with someone directly on Facebook it’s much easier to tag them in posts, photos and videos – and get them to share the content published from your brand page (which is very important in light of the latest algorithm changes).

Okay, maybe you’re reading my case for friendship and thinking “that sounds a little creepy, Steven!”

It’s possible that you might alienate a donor by weaponizing too much of their personal information, but consider this: if they initiate the connection, aren’t they opening the door to it?

And what do you risk by not accepting a request from a funder? Couldn’t that alienate them?

Now, if you initiate the connection and put all the info to use, that’s a different story…

The Case Against

Screwing up a donor relationship

Speaking of which, all of those ideas above might not be worth screwing up a good thing!

But beyond that, there’s always a risk of alienating someone (or being alienated) when you open yourself up to the more personal aspects of your life.

Imagine friending a donor, only to have them turned off by your posts (politics comes to mind, but heck, they might even hate your favorite sports team – who knows?) – or vice versa. It might become harder to do your job if you’re constantly thinking to yourself “ugh, I have to meet with that Indianapolis Colts fan today” (author’s note: the Colts are trash #sorrynotsorry).

Sure, professional maturity should prevail, but we are all human after all. So why even open the door to all of this when there are other relationship-building channels that are more effective?

The Case ForCross Examination

If you’re worried that your posts on Facebook might alienate potential donors, it might be time to rethink what you’re posting and why. Besides, even though Facebook is somewhat of a closed system, other social networks are not, and if a funder wanted to see what you’re posting, they could do it pretty easily. It’s naive to think that you can keep your personal/digital life completely separate from your professional one.

Lastly, if you’re going to open the door to nonprofit employees connecting with people on social media, you’re going to need a documented social media policy. After all, they are representing the organization.

What do you think? Have a strong opinion either way? Did I miss anything in either argument? Let me know in the comments below!