Posts Tagged ‘Florida Aquarium’

Social Media and Fundraising: The Florida Aquarium

September 4, 2012

Mark Haney

Continuing my pursuit of how social media can be used to raise cold hard cash – or not – I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Haney, Vice President of Advancement at The Florida Aquarium. I will admit to being distracted by the stingrays entertaining visitors in front of us, but it made me aware of what a picture-intense, storytelling powerhouse opportunity the Aquarium has in social media. So what are they doing?

Tweeting It Up

A couple of years ago the aquarium hosted a Tweet-up event. They invited all of their Twitter followers and some hand-picked bloggers to join them at the Aquarium for free. The friend-of-friend reach was fantastic. Their Facebook page, which had fewer than a hundred friends a few years ago, as of this writing has 25,537 likes with 1,086 people talking about them. The objective was to raise awareness – and the Tweet-up did a great job of it!

Asking for Cash Gifts+

This growth in social media activity is important for the Aquarium because direct mail is a small percentage of their fundraised dollars. Especially through Facebook, Mark tells me they have been very successful promoting their special events. But they have also been able to use social media to raise cash gifts.

Remember the cold Florida winter of 2009-2010? More than 4,000 sea turtles were distressed by the cold and needed help. The Florida Aquarium sent the message out through Facebook and Twitter asking for all kinds of help, including cash gifts. The Aquarium raised $5,000 in less than a week! It was a time-sensitive, specific ask – and it worked. Social media is extremely low cost compared to traditional direct mail.

Mark mentioned a relative newcomer to social media platforms – Pinterest. The Aquarium hasn’t made a plan yet, but the picture appeal of animals is transparent. How to raise money from Pinterest is not clear, but I’m confident they will figure it out!

About Those Major Gifts

But what about major gifts? Is the Aquarium using social media in their major gifts program? Mark told me that they have been successful at getting traditional media coverage of their major gifts. Now they are piggybacking on this success and using social media to expand the reach of those messages. As we were wrapping up our conversation on the subject, Mark took me to see the Aquarium’s donor recognition board.

The Florida Aquarium Donor Recognition Board

Wow! We couldn’t get close and play around with it because there was a mom and her son engrossed in a digital game just beneath it. The Florida Aquarium has a digital donor recognition board made up of four panels. As you can see from the picture, the left panel currently has the various gift levels which also line the tops and bottoms of the other panels. Because it is digital it can be completely changed at any time.

The truly exciting bit is that coverage of major gifts could be used in all sorts of ways with the digital display. Major donors could be interviewed, benefits touted and pictures displayed. Mark couldn’t resist another benefit of the digital donor recognition board – revenue! When the Aquarium hosts events the board can be rented out. Plug and play makes it all possible.

Coming up next…

Visiting The Florida Aquarium is always a fun time and Mark took me out the long way, showing me the new animals. My next member interview is with an entirely different kind of organization. Justine Burke and Jim Alexander from Metropolitan Ministries share how they use social media to raise more gifts. Their tactics may surprise you.

Other Posts of Interest

Social Media and Fundraising: Tampa Metropolitan YMCA

About the Author, Jen Filla

Jen Filla is a roving reporter on the AFP Suncoast Communications Committee. She is president of Aspire Research Group LLC where she uses her direct fundraising experience to help you close major gifts, translating your donor information into actions you can take to raise more money now!

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Mix and Mingle Event a Swimming Success!

April 6, 2012

Big thank you to Judy Anderson, Mark Haney and staff at The Florida Aquarium, for helping the Membership Committee put together a fun free mixer event at The Florida Aquarium’s outdoor Cantina. Surrounded by more than thirty AFP Suncoast members and friends, networking was taken to a new level as various animals introduced themselves to guests – including a four-foot alligator, Hootie the great horned owl, and the majestic falcon!

In addition to friendly networking, the event had at least two prize drawings. One lucky winner received a Florida Aquarium gift basket full of souvenir goodies and tickets to the aquarium. Other lucky winners received free lunch vouchers for AFP Suncoast monthly lunch meetings.

If you have ideas for future member events, or just want to get on the most animal-friendly committee in our chapter, contact Tammy Leventis, AFP Suncoast Membership Committee Chair, at tammy@mailcofla.com or call 727-460-3149.