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Nonprofits and Social Media, Part II

If you've had a friend suggest lately that you become a fan of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida, you're not alone -- it's part of a new strategy by the local nonprofit to get involved in social media.

In six months, the group has created thousands of fans and even seen individual giving increase since it established a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Richard Kelly, 42, the vice president and chief operating officer, dabbled in Facebook for a few months to get an idea of what he calls the ``nuance and power'' behind the site before the foundation created its page.

Kelly said initially the idea was to delve into social media just to create awareness about the organization, which fulfills wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.

``We understand the demographics and the way that people get their news has changed,'' Kelly said. ``People get their news in many ways and we're going to deliver it that way.''

In the past year, the local arm fulfilled 479 wishes for the children and families it serves in 13 counties in the southern half of the state.

The staff of the nonprofit, based in Fort Lauderdale, modeled its page after the national Make-A-Wish page, which has more than 86,000 fans.

Once the local page was created, Make-A-Wish reached out to a core group of staff, board members and volunteers and asked them to suggest to 10 friends that they become fans of the Facebook page they created. In the past six months, the page has gained 4,250 fans.

``We're looking to share our stories and our mission -- and if fundraising comes with it, that's great,'' said Kelly, who said they have seen a small increase in individual giving to the local foundation in the six months since they've created a social media presence.

The Facebook and Twitter accounts are updated at least once a day by Kelly or other staff, who also monitor the comments and interact with other people.

The local Make-A-Wish Foundation is just one of many nonprofits that have started to establish a presence on social media sites. Recently, an Atlanta-based social media company called EVERYWHERE came up with a fundraising idea: for every mention of the phrase ``beat cancer'' on Twitter, in Facebook status updates and on blogs, they would have sponsors donate a penny.

Over a 24-hour period that started on Oct. 17, the group was able to get more than 200,000 mentions. The #beatcancer hashtag, a keyword that Twitter users use to keep track of similar topics, quickly became one of the most used terms of the day.

EVERYWHERE's Tamara Knechtel said the goal now is to use social media to generate large mass donations: ``If we were able to generate $70,000 in 24 hours, what do you think we could do in 365 days?''

Do you work at a nonprofit? How are you using social media to spread your message?

Oh, and if you made it this far: Kelly was also a guest on my Business Show that I host each week on MiamiHerald.com:


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