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Laura Phillips

How Social Media Has Changed Charities Forever

23rd Oct 2014 Social Media 7 minutes to read

Charity Social Media The entire notion of campaigning has been to engage and increase your audience, so it makes sense that Social Media was a natural platform for charities to utilise. But what effect has it had? How are charities making the most from Social Media, and is there anything else they could be doing to use budgets more effectively and grow their reach?

Here’s what charities can expect from leveraging Social Media.

Reaching People

From the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to Movember, the No Make Up Selfie to Refuge, very few people remain untouched by charities through the power of Social Media. The advent of such accessible and low cost platforms as Facebook and Twitter has allowed a portal of mammoth proportions to open for charities, allowing them a level of reach, engagement, and just as importantly, viable data, never seen before.

A Shiny New Lower Cost Channel

Previously stuck in the confines of television and print, charities would, and for the large part still do, spend a fortune each year building offline campaigns. These campaigns, often, cannot be monitored and mined for data to the granular level achieved with Social Media; which helps to better plan budgets, cut costs, and ultimately make more money available to the actual cause itself.

Ultimately, Social Media is not free. It requires staff to run it, content, imagery, news, and lots of time to run properly. However, without excessive overheads, as many third parties, or the same numbers of staff required as a cold calling team, costs can be reduced or reallocated.


Ease of accessibility is a key element in the success of social media charity campaigning, with unprecedented numbers of people being reached in real time.

In the wake of devastation, charities no longer need to rely on getting hundreds of people to the phones, cold calling and hoping for the best. No more do they depend so heavily on television commercials hurriedly thrown together and pushed out at random hours, having not been able to book many slots in advance. And far fewer printers will be booking extra hours at short notice to cram in an urgent run of flyers.

Within minutes, charities can create a status, page, Tweet, or post elsewhere to inform their followers of a situation requiring urgent help and donations, which can be shared and spread in seconds.

Interaction & Engagement

Earlier this year, Mashable carried out an interesting, but albeit limited, survey on the link between charity donations and Social Media.

The vast majority of their survey audience – 1,000 U.S. adults, age 18 or older, who identify themselves as regular Social Media users – said that they found out about new charity initiatives through Social Media:

Charity Social Media

They also found that the most important thing for users was to ‘believe’ in the cause in order to donate to it. A no brainer on the face of it, but this goes to show how trust and reputation effect donations.

Social Media not only allows charities a new way to increase their audience and improve donations, but also a way to share their work and achievements, instilling trust and knowledge in their followers. Prior to Social Media this may have been a more time consuming and a costly affair, posting letters, posters, infomercials and more to get the message across.

The Mashable survey also touches on this, with 68.8% of respondents saying they felt Social Media was ‘extremely effective’ or ‘very effective’ for spreading information about social initiatives, with that number decreasing to 53.3% when asked how effective Social Media was for raising money.

Platform Split

Almost 57% of respondents said they followed a charity or non-profit group on Facebook, over half of these following 1-3 organisations at a time. Interestingly, fewer than 14% followed these kinds of institutions on Twitter, so there is still work to do.

Only 8% had been incentivised to give to charity via LinkedIn, though LinkedIn users claim to be the most charitable of all the platforms. With the average user being generally older and wealthier this is not exactly a surprise, but it does show there is room for charities to grow using this platform.

Ease of Donating

Not specifically bound to Social Media, but certainly related, is the creation of sites such as Just Giving and Easy Giving

Just Giving

Just Giving

The Just Giving charity platform was launched in 2001 and has so far enabled over 21 million to raise £1.5 billion for over 13,000 different charities. Providing a number of ways to donate online and via text, Just Giving makes donating quick and easy, encouraging more users to do so.

Easy Giving

Easy Giving

Easy Giving allows users to have companies they buy from donate every time they spend over £10 online, by going through this third party site. Spending over £10 at ASDA, Puma, SuperDry, DELL and hundreds of other companies via Easy Giving means that a donation is generated when you checkout, you don’t need to do anything else. You can choose which of Easy Giving’s charity partners you wish to donate to when you set up your account.

What Charity Leaders Think

Zoe Amar wrote a piece in The Guardian back in April about Social Media and charities, asking a number of top charity bods a few questions about their Social Media work. Thea Stein from the Carers Trust gave some insightful answers…

How and why did you get started with Social Media?

“As a new chief executive in the charity sector launching a new organisation and not having a large advertising and promotional budget to get the new name, Carers Trust, recognised and out there – it seemed to be worth a try.”

How have you used it to communicate with people?

“We don’t go to a lot of conferences unless we are speaking at them – we just don’t have the budget to do it! Twitter, however, gives me the ability to be in the room and part of national and international conversations that we can contribute to and need to be part of from the comfort of my desk or (frequently) train seat.”

What do you like most about using Social Media?

“The immediacy, the speed and the lack of hierarchy – all of which makes it wonderful and scary at the same time. It’s a high-wire act without a safety net but it makes the most wonderful connections.”

You can read the whole article here

Successful Campaigns

The Campaigns & The UNICEF Thing

In a single poster UNICEF shared what a lot of us think …

Likes Don't Vaccinate Children

…they made a hard hitting, 40 second advert too…

We need to reality check on the constant call for Likes and Follows. They are good; don’t get me wrong, they are great! Spreading the word, brand awareness, sharing successes and showing followers what you could do if they donated, or donated more.

But Likes and Follows do not equate to money for charities, we have written about this on the Koozai blog before. The focus should always be to increase reach and engagement, but never taking your eye off of raising money and distributing it wisely. There is still a huge misconception about the power of the Like and charities will need to work hard to make the most of those who simply Like their page, thinking they are in some way helping simply by doing so.

On the upside, here’s a couple of campaigns that have raised huge amounts of money while educating Joe Public about the plight of these charities, maximising their opportunity in this space and helping countless people along the way:

Lauren Luke – Don’t Cover It Up Campaign

Thousands of women experience domestic violence in this country every day. Yet many women are too frightened to speak out – instead they try to cover up the abuse.

Refuge – Don’t Cover It Up

It Gets Better Project

The ‘It Gets Better Project’ was launched in 2010 to highlight the alarming number of LGBT teenagers committing suicide. This video generated 50,000 more like it, and has over 50 million views in all.

Here’s one great example:

Random Acts

Random Acts is a charity dedicated to promoting random acts of kindness to strangers.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Social Media has had a huge impact on the third sector. It’s cheaper than above-the-line marketing methods, it gives your charity the opportunity to interact and engage with its audience, and gives your cause or message the exposure it deserves.

Whilst it doesn’t always equate into money for a charity – there are many other benefits to this marketing method.

Free platforms with huge audiences must be leveraged to broadcast your message – and if your idea resonates, it’s huge exposure for your cause. But that’s the key, getting the right idea in front of the right audience. That’s where Koozai Social Media Management can help your charity.  For more information, contact the team today.

Image Credits by BigStock Images.

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