All Articles Marketing Brands & Campaigns Social media powers immediate, grass-roots giving

Social media powers immediate, grass-roots giving

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Brands & Campaigns

This post was written by Troy Janisch, with art from Mark Anderson. Both contributors have two decades of digital-marketing experience and lead social media activities at American Family Insurance, a Fortune 300 company. Janisch blogs at, and Anderson shares his art at

When an 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan in March, 250 miles northeast of Tokyo, it triggered a tsunami that caused major destruction in northern Japan. It also triggered assistance a groundswell of concern, conversation and financial support on social networks.

Twitter aided Japanese users by providing a Tsunami support page to help them gain firsthand information, locate loved ones and share status updates abroad.  Global Voices, translated Japanese tweets and blogs, and charitable organizations went into action organizing relief efforts and connecting donations. Katya Andresen, COO of Network for Good, said her organization helped dozens of responding organizations accept relief donations within hours of the tragedy. The organization has raised more than $6.7 million in relief so far — and the effort is still growing.

“As soon as we hear about something that looks like a large-scale humanitarian disaster — within hours, we put together Japan Quake and Tsunami Relief page so that people know where they can donate and what trusted organizations are rushing aid,” Andresen said. “Then, we have some great partnerships that drive a lot of donations to that page.” She said AOL and Yahoo! featured tsunami-relief charities on their home pages and business sponsors such as Capital One notified members how they could support the Japan relief effort.

Network for Good was founded as a response to the Sept. 11 attacks to improve relief efforts and has been supporting catastrophe response and charitable donations ever since. The organization provides the charitable giving back end for Causes on Facebook, Crowdrise, and many other social networks for social good.  They also make it easy for companies to integrate charitable giving into their marketing and social media efforts. They power Capital One’s No Hassle Giving site, where Capital One card members can give to any charity without fees. They also aid the Pepsi Refresh campaign, by providing Good Cards allowing participants to support their favorite causes, and other corporate efforts.  Andresen said it’s been fantastic for nonprofit organizations to see companies embrace social media and incorporate cause marketing into it.

Social media makes charitable giving easier, more visible and more attractive than ever.

“There’s a really interesting intersection right now between the increased interest in companies in allowing consumers to do social good and to feel like the product they’re purchasing has some redeeming value for the world,” Andresen said. “They’re interested in understanding the landscape we’re all trying to understand which is how the Internet’s evolved and the rise of social media — where everyone has a platform for personal expression. People expect a more participatory role with their brands.”

In the online world, “the things you care about” define who you are. They say as much about your personality as the clothes you wear and Facebook updates you share. Social networks have changed the way that people support charities, promote causes and view their own ability to change the world.  And, it’s more possible than ever  for individuals, groups and charities to change the world by leveraging social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Create The Good, a social-media-powered cause from AARP, debunks the myth that AARP is an organization only representing the aged and disenfranchised.  It’s about service, giving back and making a difference — a cause that has no age limits.  Jen Martin, the social media voice for Create The Good, said the initiative helps individuals identify more than 260,000 local volunteer opportunities.

“The purpose of ‘Create The Good’ is to make it easy for people to make a difference in the way they want, in the time they have, on issues they care about,” said Martin. “The opportunities we have are flexible and may not fit a traditional definition of volunteering.  For example, many people don’t consider ‘checking in on a sick neighbor’ volunteering. …  ‘Create The Good’ does.” She said AARP utilizes Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Foursquare. They blog. They also attend conferences like NCVS, NTEN and SXSW, networking and engaging with crowds younger than the organization’s age 50+ members .

“Social media has been a tremendous tool in expanding Create The Good’s reach,” said Martin.” Our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube audiences are a little different than the folks we reach by e-mail and on the Web.  And, the ability to put out service-related content — about disasters, new volunteer opportunities, etc. — in real time, and start conversations about the service issues people care about, has been invaluable.”