Raising Funds & Building Community With Social Media

Myles Dannhausen
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Today we bring you our latest Lightspan Digital #MarketingHop. This edition features a handful of great writers sharing their thoughts on how social media can be used for social good. You can catch the rest of the posts from our social media for social good participants by clicking on the links at the end of this post, and we’d love for you to join us in a Twitter chat at 1 pm CST today, Tuesday March 19 using the hashtag #MarketingHop. 

Raising Funds Through Twitter Targeting

By Michelle Laing

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that using social media to raise funds for charity has brought mixed results, but perhaps it’s still early in the social game for charity.

People once thought online retail would never take off, but as trust grew so did the market for Amazon and retailers of all sizes. As trust in social media takes off I don’t doubt that we’ll see a similar evolution in online giving.

Team Demand FundraisersLast year I learned that in a world where social influence is coveted, the best results can still come from a motivated evangelist with a small following.

The Gateway for Cancer Research wanted to recruit runners to join our Team Demand running squad for the Chicago Half Marathon. We turned to Twitter to find runners for the team, targeting hashtags like #RunCHI and #RunNerd and following mentions of the Chicago Half Marathon. We struck up conversations with these people and invited them to join Team Demand and raise money for cancer research.

That’s how we found Michael Brooks, who simply tweeted about training for the half marathon. He jumped at our challenge to run for Team Demand, and within 24 hours this runner with fewer than 50 Twitter followers raised over $600 in memory of his late aunt.

We shared the story about his fundraising effort on Gateway’s Facebook page and through Twitter, and within 11 days a seemingly mundane training tweet had turned into $4,300 dollars for cancer research. We also found dozens more runners for Team Demand.

In the end, this effort proved that the same ideas that drive business can work for charity: identify the right targets, create a connection with them, and share compelling stories, and you’ll see results.

Michelle Laing is a community manager for Lightspan Digital and the Gateway for Cancer Research. She traveled to Atlanta this weekend to run for Team Demand. You can follow her on Twitter @M_Laing. 

Bringing A Community Together

By Myles Dannhausen

Facebook, for all the ways it annoys me and on many days leaves me wishing it didn’t exist, is an undeniably powerful community-builder. There are few examples as powerful as the outpouring of support for young Bo Johnson.

Last month Bo’s mother, Annika, presented a check for $75,000 to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee on behalf of the Go Bo Foundation. The money will help fund a chair dedicated to pediatric bone marrow transplant research and treatment.

Go Bo Foundation PageThe foundation is named for Bo, a 13 year-old boy who died last September after a year-long battle with acute myeloid leukemia. Bo’s story is an inspiring one in many ways, none more-so than the way it brought a community together, and not just for a one-time spaghetti dinner or fish fry.

Shortly after Bo was diagnosed a Facebook group was set up so people could follow his progress and share their support for this baseball-loving boy from a town of just 800 people on Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula. What I witnessed on that page in the months to come was remarkable.

Bo’s mother, Annika Johnson, updated the page religiously, posting photos from the hospital and notes about all the ups and downs that come with a battle against cancer. Each day his friends, parents, and people he never met shared their support and their stories.

Before long people were using the page to raise money for Bo and others like him. They announced bake sales, t-shirt sales, and dinners to raise money for him. As Bo’s condition worsened the page mushroomed. Rival schools launched fundraisers of their own and created videos of pep rallies that Bo could never come to. Donations trickled in from people who never set foot in Wisconsin.

I was born not far from Bo and worked for eight years as a reporter in the same small community. It’s not uncommon for entire towns to turn out at a fundraiser for a neighbor stricken with a tumor or recovering from a car accident, but I had never seen anything like the response to Bo’s battle, and social media played a huge roll.

The Facebook page and the family’s willingness to expose their struggle gave the community a new way to reach out, and not just to Bo. They talked to each other – and the community’s children – about feelings and fears too often reserved for hushed voices or for years down the road.

The page became a bulletin board, a forum, and an outpouring of collective heartache and inspiration. Just 15 years earlier, when a classmate of mine in the same small school died of leukemia, there was no such outlet, no place for a community to share its stories and 

Today the Go Bo Foundation counts 8,200 fans – 10 times the population of Bo’s hometown, and it has helped raise more than $100,000 so others won’t have to face the same fight he did.

Myles Dannhausen is a content strategist for Lightspan Digital and a freelance writer who has written extensively on nonprofits. Follow him @mylespulse. 

This post is part of the Lightspan Digital #MarketingHop on social media for social goodCheck out other views about what’s working and not working to make change by checking out posts below from community managers, board members, connectors and leaders in the social good community. To continue the conversation please join us in a Twitter Chat with the hashtag #Marketinghop on Tuesday, March 19 at 1 pm CST.

Christa Beall Diefenbach (@axelsoncenter):  3 Essential Steps to Social Fundraising Sucess

Alexandra Bezdikian (@alebez):  How nonprofits are using Vine to tell their stories

Heidi Massey (@heidiEKmassey):  Connecting nonprofits to resources, and each other, through Facebook groups

Sophia Madana (@smadana):  To Be Seen And Heard:  Cultivating a Social Education

Myles Dannhausen
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Writer and content strategist Myles Dannhausen joined Lightspan in September of 2012. The new West Town resident brings a decade of experience as a writer, reporter and editor and small business owner to Lightspan.
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