At Buzz2009, I had the chance to chat with Wick Davis from the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA). As director of online services, Wick has some of the most interesting hands-on stories I’ve heard in the field. He has seen firsthand how effective social media can be for a charitable organization — and as a one-man department, he thinks ROI all day long. At Buzz 2009, Wick told me in passing that LFA’s Facebook strategy increased donations 790%. Come again? Definitely worth a follow-up conversation.
Tell us a little about your background. How did you end up running online and social media strategy for the Lupus Foundation of America?
I’ve been in lots of different working environments. I spent several years in corporate communications for Westinghouse. I spent a handful of years bringing authors into Barnes & Noble stores in the Washington, D.C., area. I’ve spent the past nine years in the nonprofit world — first at the American Diabetes Association and now the Lupus Foundation of America. The LFA job encompassed everything I had done at ADA, but also included social media, which was new to me.
Tell us a little about the differences you’ve noticed in working with Facebook Causes and Facebook Groups.
When I first checked out Facebook, I discovered there were lupus groups already there, some using outdated versions of the LFA logo, and some linking to an earlier incarnation of the Lupus.org Web site. So I introduced myself to the admins for these groups and offered my help. Everyone was receptive, but I also realized that while having these offshoot groups was nice, there needed to be an “official” LFA group in Facebook. I created one, and I began to use it as an information repository. I provide links to key content on our Web sites, such our Walk for Lupus Now events across the country, the online version of Lupus Now magazine and our message boards.
In January 2009, I discovered that someone had already created an official LFA cause in Facebook. It had been sitting dormant, so I contacted Causes and took over the account. I really see LFA’s Facebook cause as an action center. If there are things that I want our Cause members to act on, such as contacting their members of Congress for our advocacy day on Capitol Hill or recruiting interviewees for our magazine or sharing lupus-related news, then I use our Cause to push out the message. As a result of our constant engagement with our members, we’ve increased our Cause membership 584% in 6 months. And we’ve increased our online donations in Facebook by 790% in the same time frame.
What type of growth have you seen in other channels?
We’ve been very fortunate to see growth across all the social media in which LFA is engaged. LFA created a Twitter account in February 2009 as another tool for us to use for our 2009 Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. In five months, we’ve grown to more than 325 followers. LFA’s message boards, which launched in February 2008, now boast more than 4,200 users from around the world. That remains a very vibrant and positive online community.
One thing I’ve noticed is that our constituents like to receive information from us via many vehicles. I see them on our message boards, on Facebook, on Twitter, and our blog. I know they also receive our biweekly e-newsletter. A lot of people living with lupus aren’t as mobile as they’d like to be. They feel isolated because of the disease itself, or because of the side effects of the medications they’re taking. All these social media outlets provide the LFA a way to connect to and engage all people living with lupus — all from the comfort of their homes. It’s an amazing thing.
Have you seen a connection to donations in those spaces?
In Facebook, without question. LFA hasn’t really dipped its toes into donation efforts in other mediums, like Twitter. But that’s certainly on our horizon.
Now, to the readers. Do you have any more questions for Wick on how he’s leveraging social media for LFA?