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3 Ways Charities Are Using Social Media

SocialB Digital Marketing Blog Last modified: 31 May 2019 by SocialB
Social Media

Almost ten years ago I attended a conference session where an international charity was co-presenting a report on their fledgeling social media campaign with their creative agency.  I can’t remember who the charity or agency was, but remember being disappointed and asking an awkward question at the end of the session.

Quite rightly the charity had set some firm objectives, linked to its core business for the social campaign, namely fundraising. After a slideshow of eye-catching social content, the results of the campaign were announced and hailed a success as many new volunteers had been added to the charity.

And my awkward question? “Your objectives was based around fundraising, how much did the campaign raise?”

The campaign had failed to raise any funds, but don’t forget the volunteers.

Thankfully ten years on, charities are savvier in setting objectives with their social media and have seen success. So what can we learn from charities doing well on social media?

Riding the Wave

One of the great tactics the charities can adopt in social media is to tie their campaigns to wider the conversations people are having in their timelines. Get this right and it can be very powerful to bring a whole new audience to your campaign.  Do this clumsily or in a forced manner, people will ignore you or even worse be negative towards your campaign.

Keeping one eye on what’s trending on social media platforms is key to be able to grab the opportunity should it arise.

Just over a year ago in 2015, a phenomenon that started life as a post on Tumblr captured discussion and debate in people’s social media timelines.  “The Dress”, or “Dressgate” divided opinion on whether people were seeing a black and blue dress or a white and gold one.  Many brands including LEGO and Dunkin Doughnuts got involved in the conversation using promotional posts tagged with #thedress about their products.

The most effective posts that we discovered at the time saw the South African Salvation Army link their campaign against domestic violence to #thedress.  Their posts, which featured a badly beaten up woman lounging in a white and gold version of the dress, carried the hard-hitting message:  “Why is it so hard to see black and blue? One in six women are victims of abuse and that’s no illusion”

The Salvation Army’s approach teaches us the importance of being aware of social media trends and being able to move quickly to benefit from them.


Many charities are often challenged on their impact and the facts and figures behind their work.  While statistics might motivate some people to give, build your reputation and increase support many are left cold by numbers.

Storytelling has a powerful role to play within charity social media campaigning.

Long before the ice bucket challenge, the ALS’ equivalent in the UK, the MNDA, was pioneering in this area. Rather than talk about the effects of motor neurone disease or how the MNDA can help, the charity decided to talk about the disease from the viewpoint of one of its sufferers.

“Patrick the Incurable Optimist” featured Patrick Joyce, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2008, telling his story via blog and video. Patrick had set himself the target of painting 100 portraits before the disease prevented him from doing so.

Patrick achieved his goal and his portraits were revealed at the Houses of Parliament reception in late 2011.  Patrick’s storytelling resulted in a significant increase in fundraising for the MNDA.

Empowering your Supporters

Charities face the same challenges as companies selling products in today’s marketing environments. People are cynical to the corporate line and the advertising coming from organisations.  TripAdvisor, Amazon reviews and other sites such as Yelp, mean that we base purchasing decisions on the advice of complete strangers, rather than official brochures and website information.

The power of third-party endorsement is not lost on many charities. If you can get your supporter base to share content with their connections, it’s suddenly seen as something coming from a friend rather than from an official channel. There have been many great examples of charities mobilising their supporters through social media and encouraging user-generated content in the form of videos, photos, posts, and blogs.

Often the simplest ideas are the best, simple to understand and simple to do. We really liked Women for Refugee Women’s #SetHerFree campaign which encouraged supporters to take a selfie with the hashtag to demonstrate their support against the detention of women asylum seeker in the UK.

The charity engaged with 99 inspiring women to write their own #SetHerFree messages within a selfie and anyone supporting the campaign to do the same.

Social media activity was run alongside lobbying and generated significant press and media coverage and awareness.

So three great examples of how charities are using social media to raise their profiles, increase their support and funds. Is your charity using social media, if so what’s worked for you?

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