Post 1: Writing a fundraising letter
Post 2: Applying for adoption grants
Post 3: Fundraising sales and events
Post 4: Using social media to raise funds
Post 5: Handling negativity during the fundraising process
Be sure to check back next month about this time to read the final post in the series!
Adoption, Fundraising, and Social Media
These days, using social media as part of your adoption fundraising process is not unusual. In addition to my family’s adoption-focused blog, we had (and still have) a Facebook page, dedicated to our adoption journey. What started out as a page for family and friends to follow along with the minutiae of paperwork and home study and weekly fundraising updates soon because a larger group that included many friends-of-friends and some complete strangers, many of whom were hopeful adoptive parents or people who had adoption on their hearts.
When your circle gets bigger than the people who you love and trust, your guidelines for sharing must be modified. Learn from my missteps and my hindsight.
Here are my tips for navigating the complicated waters of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social life-sharing sites.
First a few words of caution:
1. Exercise Moderation.
You may be tempted, as I was, to share every photo in your prospective child’s adoption file. You may want to share the little details of their story the way you might if it were the birth story of a biological child or a tale of your own parents or siblings. I urge you to be careful.
The child in the file that you are planning to adopt is his own person, and the details in that file may be the only things he has from his past. To share those few small details or those two or three file photos is to share every single thing about their entire life. Imagine your family posting a detailed description of your entire life, including your most painful moments, for all the world to see and judge, without your permission.
Speculating about his birth family or their circumstances is equally dangerous. The stories adoptive parents make up, albeit with good intentions, can be difficult and sometimes damaging to our adopted children as they grow up and find that the truth is different or unknown (possibly forever).
2. Beware of saviorism.
After multiple recent discussion with a group of adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents, I’ve learned that, outside the bubble of Christian adoptive families, the idea of “rescuing an orphan” can be offensive and extremely painful. Children often feel obligated to please their parents out of love and respect; many times, adoptees feel that same burden of gratitude even more acutely because they have been fed a narrative that set their adoptive parents up as the ones who ‘saved’ them from poverty, neglect, abuse, social rejection, etc.
Be wary of emphasizing the concept of your prospective adoptive child languishing in an orphanage or foster home without you. Using a child’s possibly desperate situation as leverage to raise funds is insensitive. I did it, got (rightly) called out, and still regret it well over a year later.
Which leads me to item number three…
3. Be sensitive to other people’s situations.
Remember that your audience may include adoptees and birth families, even if you don’t know of any. The fact that your family is in the process of adoption proves that you are already most likely in a better economic and financial position than your prospective adoptive child and his or her biological family.
One birth mother confided to our adoption discussion group that it greatly demoralized her to watch her child’s potential adoptive parents raise thousands of dollars to cover adoption costs when she knew that those thousands might have enabled her to raise her child instead of feeling forced to place him for adoption. Several others chimed in with similar stories.
This need for sensitivity is the main reason why I recommend writing letters to people you know, holding special events or sales, and applying for grants for adoption fundraising over popular crowd-funding websites like GoFundMe.
Now that I have all of the cautions out there, here are some effective and appropriate ways to share your adoption journey and fundraise on social media:
1. Share your progress through the long adoption process.
Let’s face it; the adoption process is confusing even if you’re the one going through it. Early on, I made a chart that detailed the steps in the adoption process. Then, each month, I crossed off the items that were complete, set the things we were currently working on in bold, and posted it to our Facebook page. I also created a thermometer to track our fundraising progress and added it to our blog.
Each time we surpassed a milestone in the list or on the thermometer, I invited people to celebrate with us. I used a lot of goofy animated GIFs on the blog and cued many happy dances. Surpassing milestones and celebrating them with my followers was one of my favorite things. The comments from followers—even the ones from strangers—were so encouraging, particularly because, at the time, we lived hundreds of miles away from any other family members.
2. Track your fundraising successes (and failures, if you have any).
Each time I held a fundraiser, I shared the details on our blog and via Facebook. For the “5K for 6k” fundraiser, the Facebook posts were instrumental in getting people to sign up as participants in the 5K and make donations. Sharing the stories of our fundraising efforts helped people to see that we were working hard to bring us together with our soon-to-be son. People wanted to see us succeed, so they partnered with us over and over, sacrificing their time and energy to see us move forward in our process. It was pretty amazing.
3. Use graphics.
Whenever possible, add an optimized image or graphic to your social media posts. Find out the best size and shape for images for each site so that your posts will look their best when they are displayed and shared. You’ll need to get creative with photos, blurring out identifying information as much as possible. Your agency will probably give you social media posting guidelines, so be sure to follow their rules strictly (some agencies are more rigid than others).
If you are adopting internationally, keep in mind that other countries have different standards of propriety and decency. Do your research to avoid any awkward or potentially damaging situations.
I used a lot of inexpensive royalty-free stock photos to headline my blog posts. If you are going to use photos that aren’t yours, be sure that you are legally allowed to repost them. Copyright law is tricky; stick with images that you can license for free or for a few dollars. (As a graphic designer, I must insist that you PLEASE don’t simply steal images from an online search for your blog or to post on social media sites. Cite your sources when possible, and verify the copyright every time.)
4. Avoid whining.
This one was hard for me. In fact, if you followed my blog in 2013-2014, you’re probably shaking your head at the irony of me telling others not to whine. Impatience is one of the vices I spend the most time fighting, and I spent many blog paragraphs waxing poetic about my inability to wait contentedly for the Lord. I agonized, but it made no difference except to show the frailty of my faith. That said, there is absolutely a time to be vulnerable with the ones you trust and to admit when you are struggling. Just be sure your motivation in sharing is to tell the truth about your journey and not to guilt people into supporting you financially.
Fundraising for adoption can take months (or years, like it did for us), and you’ll almost certainly experience some times of “drought”. It’s easy to get frustrated when the little red line on your thermometer stops moving for a few weeks or you have to put the next step of the process on hold while you wait for the funding you need to continue. In times of drought, find other adoption-related things to focus your social media posts on.
5. Share your story honestly and respectfully.
There’s plenty to say about adoption that doesn’t center on details of your prospective adoptive child’s life story. The people who are following your journey want to hear how you are feeling, what you are learning about adoption and parenting, and interesting stories about your child’s birth culture (if it’s different from yours). Create opportunities for people to interact with you and your story that doesn’t require a donation.
Painting your child’s room? Picking out toys or making a wish list? Knitting a Christmas stocking? Longing to hold your child so strongly that it hurts? Write a blog post and share it. These are the stories that draw people in and connect them to your family.
When people feel connected to you, they pray for you and support you. And, like I’ve said before, you are going to need a prayer army to get you through all of the craziness that comes with adoption.
Social media can be a useful tool for adoption fundraising if you use it correctly. Even more so, the community that comes from the constant flow of interactions creates a virtual support system. Our Facebook adoption page has never surpassed 300 followers, but our biggest, most exciting milestones were “liked”, commented on, and viewed thousands of times.
As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, when you make your adoption journey everyone’s business by posting about it publicly, there may be a few people who will take the opportunity to vent out their frustrations, but, in our case, the support and encouragement far outweighed the negativity. (I’ll talk more about handling that next month.) In the end, our little team of online supporters still means so much to me that eighteen months since completing our adoption process, I can’t wait to tell them about my son’s milestones and how we have all changed and grown since he joined our family.
Now, go and build your team!
Laure Kline and her husband Joel have two children, a biological daughter and a son adopted from Hubei, China, in 2014. She blogs about adoption, faith, fundraising and more at One Thousand for One. You can also follow her family’s post-adoption life at Adopting Baby K. Laure is the owner and principal graphic designer of Lime Creative, a creative studio specializing in design for churches and nonprofit organizations. She and her family dance awkwardly, sing loudly, and pretend to be completely normal from their home in Lancaster, PA.