4 Takeaways from Our Shark Week Campaign

Zoo Atlanta
The Zoo Atlanta team rocking their shark hats during Shark Week 2016.

For years, VolunteerMatch has supported Discovery Communications by providing employee volunteer management software. This year — and for the first time ever — VolunteerMatch partnered with Discovery to dive into unchartered waters: Shark Week (6/26/16 – 7/2/16). Shark Week is Discovery’s longest-running cable television programming event, and as part of our partnership, we helped inspire volunteerism among Discovery’s passionate viewers and our own followers. Discovery even re-created this awesome PSA to help.

For us, we teamed up with 12 other organizations in our network — from nonprofits focused on marine causes to environmental organization and aquariums across the country — to help spread the word. These organizations responded and proved to their communities that #VolunteeringisFin.

In the weeks leading up to Shark Week, VolunteerMatch pondered questions like, “What do volunteers and sharks have in common?” and found some pretty surprising answers. We even quizzed San Franciscans on their knowledge of shark facts, raising awareness right from the hotspots of our hometown.

We also launched our very first Instagram Sweepstakes, garnering 40 entries, as well as fun conversations and engagement with our online community. What did we learn from this campaign? Here are four key takeaways from Shark Week:

  1. A Strong Partnership can be Creative and Fun

Earlier this year, Discovery Communications and VolunteerMatch renewed our multi-year partnership. Since then, we’ve continued to support one another’s goals and causes by building on impactful initiatives — like National Volunteer Week and Shark Week. By supporting one another, even in unexpected ways, we can play into each of our strengths and continue to work toward making our world a better place.

  1. Organizations Are Eager to Partner with Your Cause
Reef Check Foundation
Reef Check Foundation swims while wearing shark hats during Shark Week 2016.

We reached out to over a dozen organizations to help spread the word. Twelve responded with their excitement and willingness to help even before learning they’d get some pretty cool sharkfin hats to wear. These organizations showcased their volunteers across the U.S. — cleaning beaches, supporting animal causes, and teaching youth campers the importance of giving back (all while having a good time in the process).

Transparency and communication are key here. If you communicate openly and honestly, many organizations will partner with you to help amplify your message. Special thanks to: Aquarium of the Bay, Aquarium of the Pacific, California State Parks Foundation, City of Newport Beach Recreation & Senior Services Department, Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, Georgia Aquarium, Piedmont Park Conservancy, Reef Check, Shark Stewards, Zoo Atlanta, and Zoo Miami.

  1. Hashtags Are Essential in Telling Your Story

On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we encouraged followers and visitors alike to showcase their volunteer impact during Shark Week by using the hashtag “#VolunteeringisFin.” The hashtag was mentioned 27 times on Facebook, 15 on Twitter, and 14 on Instagram, allowing people to follow the story across channels — through whatever medium they prefer.

  1. Lower Barriers for Social Media Promotions

Hosting a social media contest or sweepstakes can be challenging, especially when you consider ROI — inclusive of the total cost of prizes, shipping, and legal counsel — all on a nonprofit’s shoestring budget. But it doesn’t have to be…

Our first Instagram Sweepstakes was successful, in part, due to its low barrier of entry. All our followers needed to do in order to enter was like, comment, or tag a friend on a VolunteerMatch Instagram post that mentioned the Sweepstakes.

If you’re looking to plan a campaign or promotion of your own, be on the lookout for tomorrow’s tips on creating an effective nonprofit campaign on social media.

Did you enjoy our Shark Week campaign? Let us know in the comments section below!

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