Adam Britten is a senior Marketing Management major and student social media strategist @SyracuseU. Next year, he will be pursuing a Master of Digital Marketing at Hult International Business School. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBritten

If I asked you all to think of businesses with social media success stories, I’d expect a lot of the same companies to be mentioned.  Zappos, Comcast, Starbucks, Dell and other massive brands are often considered the champions of this new form of communication.  The power of social media can be applied to nonprofit organizations as well, and this can yield fantastic results.  Organizations ranging from the Red Cross and the American Cancer Society to even your local animal shelter can benefit from growing their digital community.

A strong presence across selected social networks is a great way to target massive amounts of small donations. Instead of focusing on larger donations from sponsors, consider the value of reaching thousands of people in your community and asking for a small amount.  Even hearing back from a fraction of them is valuable and wouldn’t cost a lot to implement.

An alternate approach is getting sponsors to agree to donate a small amount to match the amount of ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ a certain page or post receives.  Free the Children has been able to raise almost $600,000 to date from their We Day campaign on Facebook. More on that here.

Even on a local scale, social media marketing can help nonprofits.  I’m currently a senior at Syracuse University, and our school is in the middle of a competition with Georgetown to raise more money for our Relay for Life event.  The organizers of the event have been promoting this friendly competition on Facebook and Twitter, and this expanded social media effort has helped the donation efforts.  “We just raised $1,000 at Funk’n’Waffles tonight, and the event was primarily publicized through a Facebook event” said Janae DeRusso, Co-Chair of the 2011 SU Relay.  The Syracuse event’s official Twitter reported that donations as of March 1st were at least $1,000 over the same time last year.

Social media is a low-cost, effective way to reach potential contributors and turn contributors into advocates.  Just like B2C companies are learning to harness their communities and turn them into a band of loyal followers, nonprofit organizations can do the same thing.