I sat down to write this post intending to focus on the benefit that social media can provide for charities in brand awareness, and fundraising. It had been my intent to include a couple of charts, or graphs to show statistical growth in both areas from leverage of 2.0 tools.
The following chart shows the growth of charitable donations in America and was sources from the National Philanthropic Trust.
The growth of online donations, while a relatively small percentage of overall giving has shown a marked increase. The following figures are exclusive to online contributions.
This is not surprising. People like people, and given the chance will help when needed. This trait crosses all social, economic, and ethnic barriers. These figures provide a broad stroke look at the charity sector. For a look at how a given charity utilizes social media I chose the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The hard figures in the charts preceding suggest that for the MDA to utilize social media for fundraising will increase it’s revenue by about 2%. This figure is to be taken advisedly as the economic constraints people may have felt during the period covered by this report. The potential savings for the charity in staffing, and advertising costs are likewise not factored in to these numbers.
The MDA has a broad awareness and fundraising base with coverage of in conventional media such as newspapers, radio, and television. The association promotes individuals engaging in challenging feats to garner coverage and public awareness, all with an eye to increasing that brand awareness. As the challenge of living from day today for sufferers of this disease is in itself a challenge of no small measure, they have no shortage of positive role models, and indeed have some spectacular examples of will over hardship.
The MDA utilizes facebook, twitter, youtube, and google+ as well as having their own website. These tools are used for fundraising, community news, support, and more. The benefits for both the association and those intimately involved in dealing with the disease defy the scope of this post to cover. Suffice I think to say that a 2% increase in the revenue income of the association is the least of benefits gained.
To quote Aristotle: “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more then human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”
The use of social media can and does increase the size of the community in which we as humans live. I worked with a young woman last year which required contact through facebook, she as a throwaway comment remarked that she had some 800 friends on her list. It is inconceivable that she would know each of them personally, but to feel a common connection with them?
A more intimate example comes from my home town, a small town in rural Victoria called Cobram. When I say small, I do mean small, the population of the town itself was less than 2,000, so about the same as one suburb in this city, a small suburb 🙂 I knew a young man there named Ashley, he was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at age 16. Ashley was average, not athletic, not a natural leader, just below average height, average. The most remarkable thing about Ashley would be that he was unremarkable. Yet he taught me a lesson I have carried with me ever since.
Two years after his initial diagnosis Ashley was confined to a wheelchair. His ability to speak was severely reduced, he could mumble and slur his way through a sentence, but it was a challenge. The outlook for Ashley was bleak at best, the doctors gave him less than a year of life, a prediction that proved only too accurate as he never saw his nineteenth birthday. Yet Ashley was the inspiration of an act of charity by a group of guys who nobody would have suspected of having the least charity in them. This group of six guys could be described as troubled teenagers, all of them guilty of assault, public vandalism, theft, and an assortment of anti social offenses. Later life would see one of them spend most of his adult life behind bars, another shot in a drive by (he not only survived, he drove some 30 k’s to chase down the shooter and driver, assaulted them both, then went to the hospital), two others died young in car accidents, and another overdosed. But for Ashley’s eighteenth birthday these guys demonstrated something else. Ashley was, like many teenagers, a bit of a car nut. His personal favorite was the Holden FJ, at the time it was the ambition of many youngsters to own, and either restore, or modify one of these Australian classics. He would never have the physical ability, let alone the time to undertake such a project. The group of six I mentioned had both, the will, and the skill to act on the impulse to do a favor for someone they barely knew. I was at the party when they arrived and presented Ashley with the car keys. Ashley was not the only person with tears on their cheeks.
This is a way of introducing the other lever applied by the MDA through social media. Public awareness, community engagement, or if your prefer, value added services. Most specifically in the area of e learning, to hear and read the stories of those who live with Muscular Dystrophy, and their families of course, is to feel sympathy. That can and does lead to offers of time, and money being made to the charity from often surprising quarters.
Conventional marketing, awareness programs can miss the mark by being mistaken for advertising, or panhandling. As an example; I had to go to JB HiFi for a network cable, as I walked down the street, a distance of two city blocks, I was stopped three times by three different charities. My initial response on seeing a smiling face over a logo encrusted t shirt was annoyance at this intrusion on my time, that was at the first stop, by the third I was getting flippant. Confronted by a determined clipboard wielding young woman pressing for support for some environmental charity, I ran out of patience. So as her sales pitch ran down I pressed her for details, on how the charity planned to combat the economy vs ecology challenge, how they planned to secure long term political commitment, you get the idea, questions without good answers. No, that is not right, without acceptable answers would be closer to the truth. Conventional marketing can be, and often is intrusive, this does not engage peoples empathy, it often is counter productive. Social media suffers less from this backlash, the majority of people exposed to the charities message over this medium either sought it out themselves, or encouraged such contact through their own social network.