I was enjoying a spirited debate the other day with one of our staff – a person with whom I have regular spirited debates – about the effectiveness of social media for fundraising purposes. The gist of her argument was that social media hasn’t proven itself yet. She’s right, of course, (she is always right!) but while we can argue whether social media tools work as well as other fundraising tools (such as direct mail or face-to-face strategies) in terms of solicitation, I think social media has demonstrated its place as a fundraising “tool.”

While very few actual donations are being processed through mainstream social networks–like Facebook and Twitter–or through other fundraising tools du jour in the social media space (see www.socialbrite.org for a list of the most current tools), as fundraisers, we know that the “ask” through any effort is just one part of fundraising. The real power of social media is in delivering the message. Creating awareness, even passion, among thousands or even millions of people – in an instant! No need to wait for the mail to be delivered or to get an appointment with a hard-to-reach donor. From Kony to Komen, there are many examples of how social media is being used to reach, motivate and, in some cases, dissuade donors. Social media is a fundraiser’s dream – or a fundraiser’s nightmare. During the Great Recession we have all learned how important it is to cultivate your donors, to keep them informed and to keep them on your side.

But make no mistake, social media is a force to be reckoned with and development professionals must understand how to use it to their advantage as part of a multi-channel fundraising campaign.