Non-Profits and Social Media: Blazing the Trail

May 6th, 2010 by | No Comments

image from Ben Heine

Here at Social Media Marketing, we often talk about how commercial brands can leverage social media tools to connect with consumers, but non-profit organizations also stand to gain much from social media. In fact, many non-profits appear to be ahead of the curve, thanks to their focus on three key concentrations: providing value, raising awareness, and building community.

Providing Value

In many ways, some non-profits are better aligned with location-based technologies than many of the brands that currently use the tech for promotions, games, or community.  Between Geocaching to connect citizens with nature, interactive Google Maps marked with trails that need volunteer cleaning, and lively Twitter accounts like @charitywater that link to relevant information, photos, and events, some non-profits put commercial marketers to shame in their ingenuity and savvy.

Providing this value is not only important for enticing individuals to get involved, but also to maintaining excitement over long-term initiatives.

Raising Awareness

When Slow Food USA decided to launch a campaign to provide school children with better food, they launched the Time for Lunch campaign. They declared Labor Day 2009 the National Day of Action to get REAL FOOD in Schools, with the hope to gather signatures for a petition to urge Congress to amend a bill that would provide healthy food for school children. As part of the campaign, Time for Lunch organized a nationwide Eat-In, encouraging passionate individuals to plan a healthy potluck for friends and family, and use the platform to raise awareness for the cause.

Eat-In organizers met online to share tips and create invitations, and Slow Food USA launched an interactive map, marking all of the scheduled Eat-Ins so that interested individuals could find a place to connect in their community for the cause.

Eat-In Map

The map above shows over 300 Eat-Ins, where over 20,000 Americans participated. With over 30,000 signatures on the petition and constant communication by the more than 90,000 Slow Food members and advocates, President Obama proposed adding $1 billion per year to the Child Nutrition Act. To more than double the efforts of the Eat-In, the Time for Lunch website also a digital letter-writing campaign to each state representative. The work is still in progress, but the campaign managed to reach over 100,000 individuals who sent in letters to Congress asking for better food for children.

Building Community

More than anything, the non-profits who can build community around their brand are rewarded ten-fold for their efforts. Organizations like Charity : Water, Causecast, TweetsGiving, and many others have created and fostered an active community around their causes. By tapping into the inherent desire to belong, to be a part of something bigger, and using social technology like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube’s Call-To-Action and more, these organizations are able to build relationships with passionate individuals who will invite others to the party.  Further, by leveraging the existing technologies, the channels for connection and expansion are nearly endless. Finally, these communities help to raise awareness and will share the value you provide with others, creating an almost self-sustaining group who will act as warriors for the cause.

If you know of other non-profits doing great work on social media platforms, sound off in the comments below to share with your social media community.

Claire Grinton is a brand strategist and writer based in San Francisco. Find more from Claire or contact her at claire[dot]grinton[at]gmail.

Tags: , ,


Contact us for Free Analysis