Making a Difference Through Interactive Media

For most of history charitable organizations have been providing resources and support for the disadvantaged – starting with churches in biblical times, expanding in the late 1800s due to Josephine Shaw Lowell and the Charitable Organization Movement, and now exploding to over 1.5 million charities in the US alone. But for all the different types of causes that are benefiting, each of these organizations has one thing in common: FUNDRAISING.

Now more than ever charities and non-profits are having to compete for a piece of the donor pie. With the frequency of new 501(c)(3) organizations being created – think how many were set up after Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti – your non-profit may get lost in the mix and potentially lose its donor base. Yet while many of these larger and seriously well-funded nonprofits (The Red Cross, American Cancer Society, etc.) are putting millions of dollars into advertising and spreading their information globally, that doesn’t mean that you have to be left behind.

Starting a fundraising campaign via social and interactive media tactics can be an inexpensive yet effective way to increase awareness of your organization and ultimately secure more donor dollars, but there are some important steps you must take prior to launching this type of promotion. First, however, lets take a look at a few recent successful interactive campaigns.

Raising curiosity, not cash…

You may recall last year (it’s happened a few times over the past 5 years) women on Facebook seemed to be posting strange, cryptic messages on their status updates, generally revolving around a color – take a look:


Courtesy: “What is you Bra color?” Facebook group

The social media-turn-viral campaign started as a simple Facebook Group, asking women to send a message to their friends telling them to post on their wall the color of the bra they are wearing. The “game” was designed to raise awareness of breast cancer. While neither Susan G. Komen for the Cure, or any other organization involved with breast cancer research took credit for creating the group, spokespeople for those organizations said they were very pleased with the free publicity. And publicity it was! The day the colorful statuses took over facebook, the phrase “color status on Facebook” was number 11 on Google Trends, a system that tracks Google searches worldwide.

So while this wasn’t an actual money-maker, you can see the power that an interactive viral campaign can have on piquing curiosity and getting media attention.

Celebrity Power

You may not have a big-time celebrity backing your non-profit and helping you to get donors, but the way in which celebrities are using their online presence to raise money for charities can teach us something about what the public responds to. Take for example when Alicia Keys announced that she and her celebrity friends would be “digitally dead”  to raise money for her charity Keep A Child Alive that helps fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. Keys used her star power to get her famous friends and active Twitter users such as Lady Gaga (8.6 million followers), Justin Timberlake (4.1 million followers)  and Kim Kardashian (6.6 million followers), among others, to inform their followers that they will “die”, and will not tweet until $1 million has been raised for the Keep A Child Alive charity.  This was all accomplished both through their Twitter pages, as well as a mixture of YouTube videos and distributed images on their personal websites.

Courtesy: The Huffington Post


As expected, they reached their goal of $1 million in funds raised, and provided us with a memorable fundraising campaign.


Integrating the Quirk-factor

You may not know it, but March 13th is “World Poopin’ Day!” It sounds ridiculous, but you’re kind of intrigued aren’t you? That’s the point. World Poopin’ Day was set up by the organizations and Give Love, both dedicated to providing safe drinking water and improving public santitation in developing countries, as a way to raise money by appealing to the “quirk-factor”.  The website,, allows users to integrate their personal Facebook or Twitter pages so that on March 13th they will automatically post or tweet about poopin’, with a link directing viewers back to the website where they can learn about the situation and make a donation.

Creating a new “holiday” such as World Poopin’ Day is a clever way to spread the world about your cause. And World Poopin’ Day isn’t even the most ridiculous “holiday” out there – as evidenced by the fact that today is apparently “National Crown Roast of Pork Day.”

So you know that it’s possible to create an interesting and memorable interactive marketing campaign to raise money for your cause, but what are the steps you need to take to actually get it implemented? We’ve put together a list below of key things you must think about before jumping into the ring.

  • Be clear about your message, but don’t give it ALL away
    As we mentioned before, there are so many charities out there – some which may not be completely legitimate – that for an individual or corporation to want to give their dollars to it they need to know what the cause is and that it’s a well-respected organization. To that end, if you’re developing a twitter or youtube campaign, make sure to always link back to your official website. 

    However, our busy schedules have trained us to simply glance at information we are monitoring via our computer, because there’s so much of it. Producing something eye-catching, intriguing, or strange is how you can get people to stop and give more of their attention. Ask questions, give people a reason to learn more, keep it updated and frequent. You need to be interacting on a personal level – this is very important when it comes to social and interactive media.

  • Explain why we should care
    Seems pretty simple, but if you had mastered this already then you probably wouldn’t be seeking fundraising advice. It’s really important to make a connection between your prospective donor and your cause – evoking an emotional response is key, but it can come in many different forms. For instance, the World Poopin’ Day folks have relied on the strangeness of talking about poop, something that everyone does but no one talks about. AIDS awareness often will give staggering statistics, Autism is frequently referred to as an epidemic, Literacy invokes the sentimentality of providing for a future generation. Depending on your cause, there is a way to create an emotional tie so that when your campaign is launched you will have people interested in your message.
  • Tell us what you want
    As a charity, it’s likely that your biggest push when launching a campaign will be for donor dollars. It’s what you survive on – so that’s completely understandable. But companies and individuals alike are bombarded on a daily basis with requests for donations – why not lure them in a little differently at first? Both the Facebook bra color and World Poopin’ Day campaigns had to do with posting a status update on your Facebook or sending a tweet out to your followers – a pretty simple task. Organizing a competition where people submit videos, writings or some other form of media regarding your cause to win a prize has been used by organizations with great results. These are the types of things that spread around via word of mouth because they’re unique and interactive. 

    Keeping your message consistent within your campaign, and having it directly relate back to your website where all your information is housed and where people can find out how to make donations is key.

  • Why is THIS going to help?
    You’ve got to include something that lets people know why them posting a status on Facebook, submitting a video, filling out a survey, or doing something else creative for you is going to HELP. One of the simplest ways to get this accomplished is to be clear that this is to help in raising awareness. Making it easy for people to share this information with the friends, family and colleagues (ie. links to share on social media sites, through email, etc.). Start a hash tag on twitter. Hash tags are the “#” followed by a word or phrase. These tags are searchable via twitter and can be helpful in tracking trends. 

    A heavily trafficked website and well-utlized social media sites look good to potential corporate donors, because it shows that through their donation, they will be getting exposed to a targeted group of people interested in a specific cause. Promoting awareness through these networks is your first step towards garnering donor dollars.

  • Be Specific – What do we do next?
    If you’re not clear what you want from your followers, you’re just going to lose them. Make sure that you are specific in your wording. “Click here to post on your Facebook page” or “Text XX to 99999 to donate $1” is your call to action. You’ve given them your message, made a connection to them, let them know how exactly they’re helping, and now is where you get them engaged! Like we mentioned before, the simpler the better, but it all depends on the audience you are attracting. 

    Make sure that you keep track of your results and inform your audiences of your accomplishments. We don’t suggest the “charity thermometer,” because, and let’s be honest, what if your campaign isn’t going as successfully as you had hoped. However, words of encouragement to your followers and milestones that you hit during you campaign will keep people engaged, excited and more willing to either donate or pass along to their friends.

The beauty of most of these different types of interactive and viral media campaigns is the relatively low overhead that goes into maintaining it. We have found that there is a dramatic difference in monies spent when looking at an online interactive media campaign as compared to placed advertisements, radio or tv spots. After all, why would you spend all that money when you could be giving it back to the community!

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