Social-Media Experiment Raises Big Money for Small Charity

foursquare social media fundraisingWriting about how the Internet and social media CAN benefit churches and ministries is great and all, but nothing beats a real-world example in which somebody ALREADY HAS made it happen.

Philanthropy.com posted an awesome story about Estrella Rosenberg and how she used location-based social networking site Foursquare to raise $25k and a ton of publicity for Big Love Little Hearts, a nonprofit group that focuses on congenital heart defects.  Here’s how she did it:

On the evening of April 9, a few dozen Big Love Little Hearts volunteers added the following as a “tip” to 600 Foursquare locations: “1 in 100 children are born w/ a heart defect. Pulse-Ox screening saves lives – you can too! Check in with the hashtag #100X100”.

We also embedded a link in the tip to the One Hundred Squared site. We chose what we thought would be the most checked-in locations on a Saturday — airports, Starbucks and Target stores, gyms, etc. — in major cities around the U.S…

I began Foursquaring/Tweeting/Facebooking about #100X100 at 12:01 a.m. on April 10. Big Love Little Hearts supporters followed.

By 7:30 a.m., an angel who was following one of our followers on Twitter (but not us) noticed our hashtag. It turned out that she is an adult with a congenital heart disease who was not diagnosed at birth and who is alive today because she received lifesaving surgery.

Her passion for our work led her to call me and commit to donating $1 for every time someone used the #100X100 hashtag until midnight on April 10.

You can read the full story here.

I’ve got to say straight away, her strategy of promoting her charity on the Foursquare locations of popular places seems a bit spammy to me.  As great as the cause is, I would hardly consider info about it a valid tip for people at airports, post offices, and coffee shops.

Nevertheless, it gives a concrete example of how social media can be used to raise awareness and dollars for a charity.

It also gives some insight into some good social media tactics like:

  • Develop a plan for a campaign (rather than just tweeting/posting links & hoping things will take off)
  • Have definitive start and end dates
  • Get your friends and supporters to help. Get them on board before it starts.
  • Integrate your campaign across multiple platforms (Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, their website)

What do you think about the idea of using Foursquare to raise money and awareness for charity?  What other tactical lessons can be drawn from this campaign?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

6 Responses to “Social-Media Experiment Raises Big Money for Small Charity”

  1. I think it is interesting and creative, especially using foursquare(saying something as you check in somewhere is common but using it to raise awareness is something new). I like the idea of planning a campaign rather than just tweeting or updating something here and there and hoping things take off. I know that's how me and most of the people from my church usually do something but I think it would be interesting to see how much more effective it is if we dedicated specific time and resources to promote through social media.

    The main concern always though is that we don't seem too spammy, I don't like it when an individual covers a page with one thing, so that still has to be worked out.

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