Social Media: If Not Now, When?

Infographic of Nonprofit Usage of Social Media
Infographic from CraigConnects

I recently had the pleasure of presenting as part of a panel on social media at the Council on Foundations’ Family Foundation Conference in Miami. The session, “Tools of Engagement: Family Dynamics and Social Networking,” covered social networking as a critical piece of a foundation’s communications strategy.  

Joining me on the panel were speaker and consultant Rosetta Thurman and Mark Carpenter, public relations manager of COF. Of the various facts and figures that were presented during the session, what struck me most was this: Only 39 percent of foundations use Facebook and only 31 percent use Twitter. Conversely, 89 percent of nonprofits use Facebook and 57 percent use Twitter.

Put another way, very few grant makers are participating in the conversations their nonprofit counterparts are talking about. Worse yet, they’re not even listening.

The participation level of the session underscored the fact that this topic is on the minds of many. The atmosphere was palpable as the attending family foundations wrestled with the reality that they aren’t yet in the game. When asked about the barriers to their social media participation, those in attendance answered with concerns familiar to many of us:

There’s no time. 

What’s my ROI? 

How do we control the message?

As the strategic communications partner of The Patterson Foundation, I’ve dealt with these questions before. We’ve done our best to tackle and solve many of these issues.

The Patterson Foundation believes that foundations must invest resources beyond the check, including investing in communications. The Patterson Foundation backs this up with action. TPF’s investment in communications dramatically increases the capacity of many of its nonprofit partners.

We’re in an exciting yet disruptive time in the communications space. The emergence of technology has drastically altered the way people communicate. Social media allows us to listen and engage. Emerging philanthropic leaders understand what those who are fearful of the unknown have yet to discover: The power of communications has been transferred to the individual.

If we want to engage a younger generation of philanthropists, the question to embrace social media becomes when, not if. I believe the answer is NOW.

Macy’s Uplifts Go Red For Women Campaign

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: When nonprofits find the right corporate partners, awareness and visibility sky rocket.

This is true for Macy’s and the American Heart Association as they partner for the ninth year on the Go Red for Women Campaign and National Wear Red Day (Feb. 3), a movement to spread awareness and raise money to prevent heart disease in women.

In partnership with national sponsors like Macy’s, the American Heart Association campaign has raised more than $28 million.

Anatomy of a Campaign

So, what makes this partnership and campaign so special? National visibility and integration.

  • Star Power - Celebrity endorsements and participation always raise the profile of a campaign. This year’s Go Red for Women features Star Jones, formerly of “The View”, who is a heart attack survivor. In addition, actress Elizabeth Banks stars in a short film about a super mom who pays the price when she neglects her health.
  • Online and Offline Integration – From protests to flash mobs, we’ve all seen how the combination of online and offline promotion and engagement makes a huge difference. Go Red boasts many online and offline events to engage women, including a Wear Red Day Challenge on Facebook and Go Red galas, luncheons and meetups nationwide.
  • Retail TherapyShop for Go Red combines the power of many retailers who have agreed to donate a portion of select merchandise to the campaign. Macy’s annual Wear Red Sale customers wearing anything red enjoy a 10 percent or 20 percent discount on merchandise. Starting Feb. 1, consumers can also visit the Macy’s Facebook page to give a virtual conversation heart, or tweet using #heart@Macys which will both generate a $2 donation to AHA (up to $250,000).

3 Holiday Social Media Campaigns To Make You Smile

Gimbel’s Manager: Why are you smiling like that?

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Buddy: I just like to smile, smiling’s my favorite.

- Elf

Well, I know why I’m smiling. I love this time of the year and what I love even more are the creative holiday campaigns that inspire us to give back. Here are three social media campaigns worth checking out.

1. #GoodSpotting – The Case Foundation

Since social media is a strategic focal point for this philanthropic foundation, it’s no surprise they’ve taken a simple concept – document people and businesses doing good – and are integrating every facet of social media to encourage and share participation. They payoff? Besides feeling good about yourself and helping others, the foundation has arranged a sweepstakes with $500 in holiday spending cash and a $5,000 donation to your nonprofit of choice.

Check out their kitschy promo video below:

2. December to Remember – Lexus

Lexus is taking December to Remember – the company’s annual sale and promotion – to the next level by integrating social media with holiday philanthropy. This year, through Jan. 3, Lexus will donate $5 to Toys for Tots each time someone shares one of its “big red bows” on Facebook and Twitter. The donation is capped at $100,000.

3. 12 Days of Giving – Walmart

This year, the mega-retailer is using Facebook to solicit nominations of nonprofits who people think should receive part of $1.5 million the company is distributing in grants this season. The campaign, called 12 Days of Giving, benefits people in need of basics like clothing, food, shelter and baby supplies.

Strategic social responsibility puts unicorn and rainbow ideals to work

I’m a sucker for a feel-good story.

Have you seen Liberty Mutual’s “Doing the Right Thing” campaign? Makes me want to do crazy things like hold doors open for complete strangers.

That’s what ideas for good do. They move you – and increasingly, entire corporations – to action. Forget corporate social responsibility. It’s human responsibility.

It’s beyond unicorns and rainbows. It’s about aligning business and brand strategies with a greater mission – one that catalyzes team members for good and one that resonates with consumers.

Along those lines, I’m sharing some cues from a recent PR Week CSR Round Table, featuring real-deal leaders in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement who talk building consensus, reaching consumers and engaging online.

Rally the Team – Bob Langert (VP, CSR, McDonald’s): When you can educate and raise awareness of all the different leaders and functional leaders of the company, in general, this is not an issue where you need to push, pull, and prod. All you need to do is unleash the power.

Brand-centric Story Telling – Pam Alabaster (SVP, corporate communications, sustainable development, and public affairs, L’Oreal): Consumers are not really interested in what L’Oreal the enterprise is doing, as much as they are [L’Oreal brands] Lancôme or Garnier, so being able to adapt the storytelling to be meaningful and relevant for the audience is important.

Social Engagement – Dave Stangis (VP, CSR/sustainability, Campbell Soup Co.):  A lot of experimentation is going on with how to get the consumers involved and engaged in our strategy in a way that’s good for them and us. I haven’t seen a company that’s got it right.

Moral of the story? Standing for something will never go out of style.

Millennials: Cause Marketing for a New Generation


When the oldest members of this generation were born, Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” was the computer.

Their childhood coincided with the Internet-fueled transformation of traditional media and, as a result, they are coming of age more connected and tech savvy than any generation before.

 They’re Millennials 75 million strong and harnessing a collective of more than $200 billion.


While this group has been raised in a “youth-centric” environment (leading to a sense of entitlement, some say), they’re showing they care – and in big numbers.

Characterized as the children of Baby Boomers born during the early-to-mid 1980s and later, Millennials are connecting to youth and young-adult-oriented causes and cause marketing campaigns.

Here’s a snapshot of the 20-something donor/volunteer/social activist via the Chronicle of Philanthropy:

-       57 percent have volunteered in the last year

-       37 percent have joined a charity’s social network in the past month

-       93 percent say they prefer to receive updates from charities via email

-       20 median number of text messages sent in past 24 hours

What does this shared passion for causes mean for businesses and charitable organizations?

- Build loyalty through cause-aligned marketing efforts

- Allow mechanisms for customization and address desires for ‘instant gratification’

- Gen Y’s affinity for all things digital makes online, social and mobile platforms attractive for receiving communications messages