Over the past year, people across the nation have witnessed several examples of the power of the American Red Cross to seek out those in need, listen attentively and respond with speed in times of crisis. Their relief effort and response to Hurricane Sandy, for example, was inspiring. However, during the holiday season, their new social outlook on non-profit life proved to have huge benefits in the areas of fundraising and support also.

Dell has worked hard on our Social Media Listening and Command Center training program and philanthropic programing in order to fund and guide the development of the Red Cross Digital Operations Center (DigiDOC). As Maribel Sierra explained recently, “The Red Cross needed a way to scale up during disasters, to decipher the actionable data from everything else and to give the public a seat at the table of disaster operations. Together, we’ve taken our best practices and applied them to the Red Cross mission.”

Fundraising is a constant challenge for non-profit organizations, especially during the holidays. People are preoccupied, the need for assistance is great and resources are often tapped. The American Red Cross knew they faced an uphill battle in garnering support and interest in their holiday season donation drive.

Enter Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, who agreed to partner with the ARC in a matching gift fundraising drive over the holidays. Together, the two organizations planned a Twitter campaign around the hashtag #PerfectGift in order to inspire people to give. Newmark agreed that for each Retweet or @reply, he would make a $1 donation, up to $10,000.

Though the American Red Cross and Craigslist each have a substantial following on Twitter, a campaign of this magnitude required that they reach out beyond their existing networks to attract donors. For that reason, they each used a Promoted Tweet asking users to respond with their idea of the perfect gift.

The American Red Cross mobilized their community through Promoted Tweets and a hashtag.

The campaign worked and was in fact so successful that the Red Cross was able to achieve 100% of their fundraising goal. Through this campaign, they also grew their community of “digital volunteers” to about 200 people.

This fundraising strategy was such a success thanks to a few important factors:

  • The American Red Cross partnered with another organization willing to make a donation of their own. In this case a business with a substantial Twitter community behind it.
  • They asked something simple of social media users so people were more than willing to help out.
  • They used a relevant hashtag in all of their promotional tweets, to appear in search and easily track the performance of their campaign.
  • The two parties worked together throughout the campaign by retweeting one another’s promotions and presenting a unified message to fans.
  • They asked for their communities to help them amplify their message by retweeting. According to Twitter, followers are 12 to 23 times more likely to retweet your message if you ask them to do so.

The American Red Cross and Craig Newmark found a way to cut through the social noise and connect with people willing to participate in their fundraising efforts. They effectively mobilized their social community during the holidays, a time when people are understandably distracted and inundated with fundraising requests.

Have you used social media to raise funds for your cause? Share your experience in the comments!