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Social Media for Charities – Third Tuesday Calgary Recap

Third Tuesday Calgary Many thanks to Duncan Kinney for the excellent ThirdTuesday recap!

Oprah, Ashton Kutcher and CNN have nothing to do with this post.

Third Tuesday Calgary was home to two charities who explained how they use Twitter and other social media platforms to promote their causes.

Calgary Reads is an early literacy initiative that targets grade two readers and their families in the Calgary area. Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids provides nutritious lunches to 1300 plus kids in Calgary schools and programs every day.

Doug Lacombe and Andrew McIntyre volunteered to run the social media campaign for Calgary Reads. Their biggest objective was to push people to their annual book sale. The sale is how Calgary Reads raises most of its money.

The book sale runs May 1-3 and they started their campaign in mid-March. They sat down beforehand and created objectives:

  • Push people to the book sale
  • Leave Calgary Reads with a social media publishing platform.

They’re using Flickr, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, a WordPress blog and Pitchengine. From their own estimate it took them 2-3 hours to set up each platform.

Then they established success metrics like;

  • Number of Facebook fans
  • Unique visitors to blog
  • Media mentions
  • Book sale revenue
  • Retweets
  • Adoption of social media by Calgary Reads staff

They then created a very structured plan; sign up Twitter account on this day, push out so many blog posts by this day and so on. A lot of the time and effort involved liberating content from dusty shelves, digitizing it and getting it online. The time commitment put in by was about 20-30 hours, with roughly 2.5 hours put in for each platform.

After the booksale there will be a handoff and a debriefing/training session with the staff.

They've struggled with merely broadcasting their message as opposed to engaging the audience in conversation. This may have to do with the short turnaround time on this campaign.

Engaging the audience in conversation is something that Bob McInnis at Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids has largely figured out. He's been blogging for three years  and also uses Twitter and Facebook.

McInnis started out, much like the Calgary Reads crew, broadcasting his message and laying it on thick but after participating in the social media space he began to figure out how to push his message but still engage his audience. Bob takes care in crafting provocative blog posts and tweets in order to get traffic.

But let's get down to the nitty-gritty – what are the results?

McInnis has found hundreds of volunteers through Twitter. He has received dozens of offers of help from people who tracked him down through the blog. He has received offers to write op-eds and and go to conferences.

He found two new donors through Twitter. He leveraged $60 000 into $120 000 through a matching campaign by a donor where he used Facebook, the blog and Twitter to drive awareness. He sees much higher clickthroughs on surveys pushed through social media than through email blasts.

These two case studies offer two very different ways of using social media in a charity context. Calgary Reads is a short term effort done by volunteers with a concrete objective who are eventually going to hand off the platform to staff. Brown Bagging is done by a committed long-term member of the staff who was interested in using social media to increase awareness.

Calgary Reads would be an example of how to bring in a consultant to help a charity get up to speed, set up the platforms and do the training. The key in this instance is the handoff; you have to find a staff member who is web savvy, wants to learn and will participate in the social media space.

Brown Bagging shows what a committed staff member can do if they're willing to invest the time and effort in the cause. The results that McInnis have obtained are nothing to sneeze at.

If you’re not sure what social media can do for you, put out your message and your content, make an effort to engage in conversation and connect with your readers instead of just push, push, pushing your brand and the opportunities will find you.