Webinar Recap: Using Facebook for Cause Marketing

This post also appears on Volunteering is CSR.

Cause Marketing on FacebookEveryone knows that Facebook — with 800 million active users — is where people spend much of their time on the Web (28% log on before even getting out of bed!).

Many companies and their nonprofit partners are still figuring out the best way to get these users involved, but for some the experimentation has paid off. For our December Best Practice Network webinar, we invited Megan Strand, Director of Communications at Cause Marketing Forum, to share findings from her recent whitepaper, “Facebook and Cause Marketing: Truths, Tips and Trends from Pioneers.”

The Perfect Match

Facebook seems tailor-made for cause marketing. We support causes for the same reason that we use social media in the first place: to connect with other people. Facebook ad revenues are surging, and if users share your content, you gain the broadcasting power of the second most visited website in the world.

The opportunity is there. To find out what works and what doesn’t, Megan interviewed over 25 cause marketers from both corporations and nonprofits, and surveyed over 100 campaigns on Facebook.

Like all social media, Facebook is still new territory, and nonprofits and companies are still figuring out the best cause marketing approach. Megan said that people are most drawn to a cause when it’s shared by someone they trust—even a celebrity endorsement doesn’t have the same pull. The tricky part is creating a compelling and original campaign.

Megan highlighted several different kinds of Facebook cause marketing campaigns so that you can choose a model that both speaks to your audience and caters to your organization’s strengths.

Types of Campaigns

You’ve probably seen several like for donation campaigns on Facebook, where users ‘like’ a company’s group page to prompt a donation. They’re simple—nonprofit partners are usually receptive and wont need much briefing, and companies gain the ear of the consumer.

However, the popularity of these campaigns has led to what Megan calls ‘like fatigue.’ They may come off as unoriginal, and people don’t always want to publicly endorse a brand they’re not familiar with.

Simple action for donation campaigns go a step further, asking people to write a comment, or upload a photo or video to a company’s page. Due to Facebook’s most recent update, this type of engagement is much more likely to appear in the news feed and be shared than a simple ‘like.’ There’s also more room for creativity – you can come up with a way to tie the action in to the cause. A clever or entertaining campaign will grab the user’s attention.

You can add another level to your campaign with third party applications, which can be embedded directly on a company’s group page. These interactive action for donation campaigns require a little planning, but users are more likely to participate since you’re offering a fresh experience.

American Red Cross's interactive action for donation campaign

For example, there are many fundraising platforms, like Causes, that make it easy to launch a matching donation program. An optional incentive is a great way to spice things up. Users can elect to provide a mailing address to receive a plush toy, for instance, which is another valuable link for companies. Megan also discussed branded activities, where users watch a marketing video or take a survey in order to raise money for a cause.

The Next Big Thing

Facebook game applications are the sleeper hit of cause campaigns. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg has called them “the most successful apps on Facebook.” Over half of Facebook’s users play games, and 20 percent have already paid for in-game benefits, like virtual items. It might surprise you, but the average social gamer is a 43-year-old woman (sounds a lot like the average volunteer and donor!).

Social gaming leader Zynga partnered with Direct Relief International, offering gamers a virtual Japanese fan in their game, “Mafia Wars.” All proceeds went to the March tsunami relief effort, and they were able to raise $650,000 in just 48 hours.

Zynga's campaign for tsunami relief

Revenue from these virtual goods is expected to grow a whopping 32 percent in 2012. There is huge potential for cause marketing campaigns, either by partnering with an existing social gaming company or creating an original one-off app that ties in with your current campaign. If your supporters are gamers, this could be a golden opportunity.

Megan gives a more in-depth explanation of the logistics of cause marketing campaigns in her whitepaper, which is available for purchase.

You can learn what went wrong when Timberland’s tree planting campaign attracted nearly six times the number of expected users, and the best measurable objectives to set in the planning phase. You can also watch the full presentation on our YouTube Channel.

Be sure to check back with us in 2012 to register for the next Best Practice Network Webinar.

Pictures taken from “Facebook and Cause Marketing: Truths, Tips and Trends from Pioneers” presentation by Megan Strand.

Jesse Fineman is an intern at VolunteerMatch. You can reach him at jfineman@volunteermatch.org

Inside Out: Engaging Volunteers in a Social Media World

Greg Baldwin at Social Media for NonprofitsWe were very proud when our President, Greg Baldwin, spoke at the Social Media for Nonprofits Conference earlier this month. Nonprofit managers already know how important volunteers are to an organization. This conference was an intriguing look at the way social media—if you’re not using it already—can help you do just about everything – including (or especially) volunteer engagement.

The Buzzword: Volunteers

This was the second time the Conference stopped in San Francisco. While volunteering wasn’t a focus in June, this time it was on everyone’s radar. Chelsa Bocci from Kiva told us they have 10 volunteers or pro-bono professionals for every one paid-employee. Meg Garlinghouse offered tips for using Linkedin’s new service for nonprofits, Linkedin for Good, which makes it easier for nonprofits to tap into the leading professional social network to find the perfect volunteer for the job.

Greg’s presentation, “Inside Out: Engaging Volunteers in a Social Media World” showed us that the volunteer community has grown to include a new set of people. Volunteers don’t just stuff envelopes anymore. They can be board members, graphic designers, and social media strategists. The best way to reach this socially-active, plugged-in group is by meeting them on the networks they’re already using.

However, in order to capture attention in a medium that is constantly pushing old, two-dimensional content to the bottom of the feed, volunteer managers should keep in mind exactly who they’re trying to reach. Social media will allow you to create content that caters specifically to your targets, making them more likely to engage and give feedback, and from here you can form a close-knit community of supporters.

People Are Willing to Give

As Greg pointed out, we underestimate by as much as 50 percent how much others are willing to help. As a VolunteerMatch volunteer intern, I can personally back up this claim. I get the chance to read many volunteer testimonials, and am always amazed by the passion people have for their cause.

I started volunteering to get a feel for what it’s like working at a web-based nonprofit, and to build up some real-world experience. The more time I spent here, the more I understood what the people around me are working towards.

Whether it’s learning about tools for social media outreach, sitting in on meetings with the Communications Department, or getting the rare opportunity to attend the SM4NP Conference, my volunteer experience has been truly fulfilling. The most rewarding part, though, is knowing that I’m helping the people I’ve come to meet along the way with their daily goal — helping connect good people and good causes.

Volunteer Engagement is Donor Engagement

Greg showed us that volunteers are influential not only in terms of human resources, but fundraising as well. Two-thirds of volunteers donate to the organizations they serve, and they’re likely to give 10 times more than regular donors.

Social media allows you to drastically increase the number of people you deliver your message to. Imagine if this message were compelling enough to inspire people to get involved offline and experience first-hand the work you do. This is what makes volunteers want to donate money as well as time.

Greg introduced the audience to the &you widget from Johnson & Johnson, a tool for streamlining the way that people interact with nonprofits. It’s an all-in-one interface for listing volunteer and job opportunities, news and events, and a simple way to donate. The widget can then go directly on your website, blog or Facebook page.

The point is, don’t make the mistake of thinking that people don’t have the time or energy to help. Your support base is right at your fingertips thanks to social media tools like these.

The Three R’s

Social networks should be a fundamental part of the entire volunteer-cycle. Remember the three R’s of volunteer engagement: Recruitment, Retention and Recognition. Enticing photos can captivate potential volunteers. YouTube training videos can speed up the introduction process, and mentions on a Facebook post can give thanks.

Remember that these social media networks are all ways to supplement genuine relationships. It’s a new medium for your message, but the content of your message is still what matters most.

Once you start to get the hang of it, you will begin to witness the way social media enhances your organization’s ability to engage volunteers, which at the end of day positively impacts pretty much everyone.

Photo from the Social Media for Nonprofits Facebook page.

Jesse Fineman is an intern at VolunteerMatch. You can reach him at jfineman@volunteermatch.org

Social Media for Nonprofits: Making the Tools Work for You

On Nov. 4th, the Social Media for Nonprofits Conference stopped in San Francisco during its seven-city sweep across the country. Co-producers Darian Rodriguez Heyman and Ritu Sharma brought a dynamic cast of speakers together to shed light on the current state of social media. They showed 300 eager, tweeting audience members that social media is a powerful tool that allows us to set more ambitious goals for our organizations than ever before.

Topics ranged from the technical (Beth Kanter, blogger and author of The Networked Nonprofit, crunched the numbers of social media measurement tools) to the conceptual (Victor d’Allant’s entertaining presentation, “Seven Tips to Improve Your Social (Media) Life“), but they boiled down to the same conclusion — social media is a means to an end.

It’s a Tool

Nonprofits planning their social media strategy should not simply aim to start a Facebook page or get 1,000 followers on Twitter. They should think about why they want to connect with people and why the support of those people matters.

Social media is still carving out its place, though it’s safe to say that it is much more immediate and intimate than traditional forms of outreach. Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and craigconnects, warned us to steer clear of the language of press releases and stick to “whatever passes for real-life interactions.”

Networks like LinkedIn Groups allow you to have a one-on-one conversation with each of your followers. You wouldn’t recite language from your website when explaining what your organization is about to someone you met waiting for the bus. Use these tools as a way to capture their attention, but also listen to their response.

It’s an Opportunity

Darian offered a great takeaway: social media lets you treat a $20-donor like a $20,000-donor. Give $20 at DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit offering support to public schools, and you will see the concrete impact of your generosity through hand-written thank-you notes and pictures of students using the microscopes or musical instruments you helped buy.

Social media is an opportunity to extend the experience of giving past the credit card receipt in an email inbox. Nonprofits are not just asking for donations, they are providing a connection to something bigger — to a cause that matters.

Every organization will need to tap in to different networks to reach their niche, and use different approaches to fit their cause. If you want hard, fast rules about social media practices, strip away the technology and try taking another look.

Christina Samala, Director of Online Strategy and Media for The Story of Stuff Project, said the same etiquette applies to online and face-to-face interactions. If someone complimented you on the street, you wouldn’t ignore them just because you were too busy. The same goes for responding to comments or tweets at your nonprofit. Making the time to maintain relationships online is more likely to attract a long-term supporter, which is more valuable than any number of casual online fans.

It’s a Learning Process

Another thread throughout the conference was that a large part of social media is ‘failing forward.’ Everyone is still learning. We’re all going to make mistakes along the way, but it’s crucial to learn from them and adjust your strategy as you go.

Chelsa Bocci of Kiva.org offered an inside look into her organization’s social media strategy. Kiva.org is a microfinancing platform, seeking to alleviate poverty around the world through $25 loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs in developing nations. They won a $1 million grant from Sam’s Club with a daily vote competition on Twitter. After listening to follower feedback, they learned that there is a delicate balance between promotion and over-saturation. So they kept their twitter stream compelling by including educational and inspiring content mixed-in with tweets about the voting competition.

There were also representatives from organizations offering nonprofits a crowd-sourced approach to fundraising — including Matt Mahan and Anne Diaz of Causes, and David Boyce of Fundly. Both are great tools for nonprofits looking to increase exposure and reach new supporters, but the most successful campaigns focus on the story of the cause and the impact of donations. Content is still king, and no matter how many people see your cause mentioned, only a truly compelling package will prompt a donation (or a volunteer commitment, as our President Greg Baldwin explained in his talk).

Social media allows every nonprofit the opportunity to reach an audience and affect positive change on a level that was hard to imagine just five years ago. As Marnie Webb of TechSoup put it so well, it lets us build a vision based on abundance instead of a scarcity of resources, a philosophy which has traditionally limited nonprofits.

These online communities can combine not only money but time, data, and ideas. It’s a great start, but it’s important to remember that real change happens when people take these relationships offline, and put this abundance to work.

You can view slides from all the presentations here, and there’s still time to register for upcoming events in Atlanta and New York.

All photos are from the Social Media for Nonprofits Facebook page.

Webinar Recap: We Learn the Secrets to Successful Cause Marketing

Cause Marketing for DummiesFor the October edition of our Best Practice Network Webinar Series, VolunteerMatch invited Joe Waters to share his expertise on cause marketing. Geared towards nonprofits and businesses of all sizes, he offered a concise overview of the best fundraising strategies as well as advice on finding the perfect partner. With Joe’s advice, it became clear that any nonprofit – no matter your size, capacity or mission, can benefit from cause marketing.

Joe has extensive knowledge on the subject: he was the Director of Cause and Event Marketing at the Boston Medical Center, and he recently co-authored Cause Marketing for Dummies, a great primer for nonprofits, businesses and organizations looking to start a successful cause marketing partnership. You can also follow his blog “Selfish Giving,” where since 2004 he’s been sharing his success stories and views on emerging trends.

Best Cause Marketing Tactics

Before you can have a successful campaign, first you need to pin down a good definition. Cause marketing has come to mean many things, but at its core, it’s a relationship where nonprofits reach out through a business to its consumers in order to promote their cause, or what Joe calls “a partnership between a nonprofit and a for-profit for mutual profit.”

Both parties should expect to put in equal amounts of work so that everyone’s happy at the end of the day. Nonprofits raise money and awareness for their cause, and businesses increase favorability with customers, leading to increased sales.

Facebook Likes

This is a great way to build your digital footprint. Money gets donated through Facebook likes or other social media activity on a partner’s page.

  • Do you have an online presence? Both the nonprofit and the business should have an existing social media profile with lots of fans to really leverage the power of online interaction. Facebook has recently diminished the visibility of Facebook ‘likes’ on the news feed, so deeper, more active forms of online engagement (comments, followers on Twitter, retweets, photos) are becoming the new benchmark.
  • New opportunity for partners: Businesses have already been approached countless times with coin canister and pinup campaigns. They might be more interested in fresh ideas centered around social media initiatives.
  • Builds credibility: A Facebook campaign shows your partner that you understand the potential impact of social media and builds your reputation as a progressive organization. This could lead to deeper partnerships in the future.


Without a doubt, volunteering is the most personal way for companies to get involved with your organization. Employee volunteer programs show true investment in the cause and build the best credibility with consumers. They’re also a chance to engage front-line employees, who benefit as well. These programs have even been shown to increase employee retention.

Volunteer events also extend to customers. The opportunity of bringing customers and employees together for a volunteer event is extremely attractive to businesses. No advertising campaign can create this kind of powerful interaction, and this kind of increased awareness about the real impact of your organization.

For increased visibility, package these events with other opportunities. Tie them in with other campaigns—your Facebook like campaign can promote a volunteer opportunity, and vice versa.

Finding a Partner

But how can nonprofits find a business that will want to run a cause marketing campaign with them? Start with direct supporters—individuals you’re connected with who support your cause, perhaps only on a personal level at first. Through them, you can get a foot in the door and reach out to their business contacts.

Once you have built a network of supporters and gotten a few campaigns under your belt, you can use your experiences and successes to connect with other prospects. Cold calls can be tough, but when you have a good track record and an established network, you have a lot to bring to the table.

Your Program Should Be Free

The real goal is connecting to your partner’s customers, employees and clients. Demanding money up front only puts up a ‘pay wall,’ and offering your program for free gives you competitive edge over the rest of the cause marketing crowd.

Getting to Yes

  • Increase the Number of Touch Points: Nonprofits should bring supporters and prospective business partners into the offices and show them first-hand the work you do in the community. These are the things that make people want to invest their time and money.
  • Be Flexible and Helpful: Be sure to keep partners updated on future opportunities, provide metrics about how much money your campaign has raised and how many people have learned about your cause through their business. You want to be their go-to expert on cause marketing.

It’s not hard to start a great cause marketing campaign, but it’s easy to overlook details that can quickly turn into pitfalls. With Joe’s advice, even small–medium-sized nonprofits can form lasting partnerships with businesses and implement campaigns that grow into a valuable source of funding and impact.

To learn more about traditional cause marketing strategies like coin canisters, pinups, purchase-triggered donations, and shopping days, you can watch the full presentation on the VolunteerMatch Youtube Channel. Sign up for Joe’s Selfish Giving bi-weekly newsletter by submitting your email address in the top right-hand corner of the page, and if you buy CauseMarketing for Dummies, you can send a copy of your receipt to Books@Selfishgiving.com to receive free bonus material.

Has your organization formed a successful cause marketing partnership with a business? Tell us about it in the comments!

Jesse Fineman is an intern at VolunteerMatch. You can reach him at jfineman@volunteermatch.org

What the American Jobs Act Means for Nonprofits

Is your voice being heard?As protesters turn out in growing numbers across the nation, it’s clear that the political world is full of agitation. And as the debate surrounding Obama’s American Jobs Act continues to develop, decisions being made right now could mean big changes for nonprofits.

We thought we’d provide a quick rundown of the recent events along with a few online tools to help you keep your volunteers, employees and donors informed and active without draining resources from your nonprofit’s mission.

The Jobs Act in Detail

President Obama has been on the road since the end of summer promoting his $447 billion American Jobs Act at universities, press events, and fundraisers, urging Congress with his new catchphrase: “Pass this bill right now.”

The bill would invest in our schools to prevent 280,000 teacher layoffs and create jobs for construction workers by funding renovation projects to modernize our schools and infrastructure. It would also make it easier for small businesses to grow and hire new workers by reducing the payroll tax for 98 percent of companies and providing incentives for those that hire veterans, people who’ve been out of work for over six months and recent grads.

In response to the nation’s brush with debt default, Obama has insured that the bill would be fully paid-for by closing loopholes that benefit large corporations and limiting tax deductions for America’s wealthiest.

This includes deductions for charitable donations – for the highest tax bracket, the deduction would go down from 35–28 percent – which raised flags for many nonprofits. Independent Sector, a resource for leaders of nonprofits and charitable foundations, started a petition asking the President and members of Congress to prevent legislation that could result in an estimated $7 billion decrease in contributions each year. Charitable donations have already suffered since the start of the recession in 2008, and Independent Sector believes that this would only hinder giving further, in turn diminishing nonprofits’ ability to provide services at a time when people need them most.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded to concerns about the bill’s funding, instead proposing a 5.6 percent surtax on people with an income over $1 million in place of the 28 percent cap on tax deductions. The White House has said that it is open to these changes as long as the provisions to spur job growth are left intact. The Senate voted down this version of the bill just last night, but does intend to vote on each individual proposal within the bill separately at some point in the future.

The tax incentives designed to address the steady nine percent unemployment rate come in the form of tax credits for businesses that hire veterans and the long-term unemployed. And while nonprofits account for 10 percent of our nation’s jobs and a sizeable chunk of the GDP, the credits for nonprofits are only worth two-thirds as much as those awarded to businesses.

The White House released a document explaining why nonprofits receive reduced tax credits, that the benefits are similar when you factor in the special tax status of nonprofits. You can watch President Obama respond to this issue directly during a recent speech on Youtube.

Keeping your Network Informed

Smaller nonprofits may not have the time or resources to lobby in Washington, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make their voices heard. Here are some simple yet effective ways you can encourage activism and awareness at your nonprofit:

  • Before releasing the specifics of the Job Act’s tax incentives, many worried that nonprofits would be ignored completely. Diana Aviv from Independent Sector sprang into action, using act.ly, a website where you can create petitions that users sign via Twitter. A recent online survey found that almost 90 percent of Americans believe that the Web is the best way to start a social movement campaign. Anyone with an internet connection can leverage the power of social media to draw attention to their cause.
  • Nonprofit VOTE is another great resource to engage your staff and volunteers, offering toolkits and webinars for nonprofit managers that want to register voters. Nonprofits by nature are a passionate, tight-knit community, and nonprofit managers are in a unique position to encourage people to support their cause with surprising success.
  • State Watch, on the blogroll of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, is a good way to keep your finger on the pulse of news and legislation that affects your nonprofit at the state level. As states look for ways to resolve their own budget crises, many nonprofits are in danger of losing benefits and funding. But by exercising the same innovation that has guided them through the economic downturn, nonprofits can take their cause to the web and show politicians that they provide creative solutions to the community’s needs and fulfill a role that complements federal and state programs.

These online resources are good options for nonprofits looking to take part in political discussions without diverting time and money. By encouraging your volunteers, staff and supporters to participate – it can be as simple as sending out an email linking them to a petition, a status update from your organization’s Facebook page, or providing voter registration paperwork so people can support your cause in the next election – you can ensure that your voice and that of your community are heard.

Jesse Fineman is an intern at VolunteerMatch. You can reach him at jfineman@volunteermatch.org