When I started off learning by trial and error about fundraising from Chinese nationals, I had no idea about the power of the social media giant WeChat. WeChat is like Chinese Facebook. Since Facebook is banned by the Chinese government, WeChat is the most common online social communication in mainland China.
I have managed to comfortably navigate using WeChat with individuals I don’t share a common language with.
As a professional fundraiser whose job depends on supporting the bottom line, I am grateful to be able to do my job using a multitude of emojis and the all important ‘translate’ button. With just a few easy tricks and chitchats, I have been able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars through messaging on WeChat.
After spending months organizing events in major cities in China via email, when my travels brought me to these events I quickly learned about the pervasiveness of WeChat. Our event attendees started networking with each other individually; pulling out their smartphones and positioning them in front of each other I had to ask what their ‘strange’ behavior was to our Mandarin translator. Of course, she knew right away about this Chinese social phenomenon.
Seizing the opportunity to stay connected after our return back to America, my colleagues and I created our own accounts and quickly learned how to scan user’s account barcodes.
With shock and excitement the Chinese eagerly connected with me. When speaking with someone who spoke no English, I knew at the very least I could introduce myself in Mandarin, “Hi! How are you? I am fine thank you,” then show them WeChat on my phone, connect, and send them an animation of a fuzzy fat bear waving hello.
Connection! At the very least I would be able to communicate on WeChat, “Hi!” or, “Happy Chinese New Year!” or, “Have you made your donation?”, which they could then use the translate button to understand. It was simple friendraising and fundraising 101 with a few clicks of a button that easily overcame all cultural and language barriers.
After making my own account and hearing interest in further connection, we created WeChat Groups to connect and view messaging altogether. Their fervent messaging to each other can quickly be understood using the translate button. I now stayed abreast of concerns, excitements, news in China, and communicated happy emojis to my new friends. My most successful interaction on WeChat was requesting a $30,000 donation from a limited English speaking Chinese woman, which she wholeheartedly agreed to send. I then sent a link to international wire transfer instructions on our website.
If you are doing any fundraising in China, or just beginning to fundraise in China, WeChat is one of your most important tools to building and cultivating relationships and soliciting and stewarding funds. Given there are 700 million monthly WeChat users, the company’s upcoming expansion to into the Japanese market, and the additional services WeChat provides such as direct payments to individuals and stores, flight checkins, instant WiFi identity authentication, and more, you need to be on WeChat. Are you on WeChat yet? You can’t go wrong with joining.
Originally posted here on August 19, 2016.