What online activity means for nonprofit organizations


Tweets, likes, shares. As social media reaches maturity, it becomes more and more clear that these platforms for online engagement are not only a source of fun. Social media can do good, and, over the last couple of years, has developed into an important tool for development and nonprofit organizations.

As we (at the Synergist) aspire to bring more key players and initiatives together, we’ve been inspired to do more good by those who have used online activity to contribute to offline action.

Here are a few examples.

Ice buckets

Take, for example, the ice bucket challenge. The challenge was simple: either throw a bucket of ice water over your head, or donate a hundred dollars for the cure of ALS. All of this had to be recorded on video and posted online, and if you had taken the challenge, you got to challenge three others too. Soon, the videos went viral and various celebrities, such as Bill Gates and George W. Bush, accepted the challenge.

Critics of the ice bucket challenge were fast to point out that throwing a bucket of ice water over one’s head and filming it doesn’t save lives, while donating money does. But all across the globe, the campaign created enormous awareness for ALS and raised over $100 million.

Reaching the audience

One of the great advantages of social media is that it is particularly suited to reach a large audience, much larger than was possible before. This, coupled with visual, shareable content, makes it easier to spread the message and interact with like-minded individuals.

The refugee project, for example, designed an interactive map with refugee migrations since 1975, which made their content more visually appealing and their message all the more powerful. News agencies have adapted themselves to the growth of social media as well – Thomson Reuters, as one among many, provides visual images for its news stories, making it easy for their audience to share and spread the word.

Having interesting content is the first step, but enabling people to share that content is even more important for a successful social media campaign. Oxfam Novib is a great example as they capture their message in a short and snappy video.

From awareness to action

At the risk of stating the obvious, a click doesn’t save a life. It isn’t about the number of followers you have on Twitter or the number of likes you have on Facebook. It’s all about building an online community that shares your values, a community who will then share these values with others and even take action when asked to do so.

Successful social media campaigns by nonprofit organizations are those that both generate awareness and actually inspire people to take action for their cause, as did the ice bucket challenge.

Some organizations try to make use of the notion that awareness – retweeting, liking, and so on – is not enough: take this brilliant message from UNICEF as an example: “Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio.” It is clear and simple: unless you donate, no change will come.

Designing a campaign

There’s a clear benefit to setting concrete and achievable objectives, as people are more likely to contribute to campaigns that are concise, when it is clear what success means.

The “Save the Arctic” campaign by Greenpeace is a good illustration, setting the goal at 10 million petition signatures to stop the exploitation of the Arctic. This lets the audience expect what the campaign wishes to attain and it also keeps them informed on the progress that is made.


The two-way street

Many organizations reduce the use of social media to a billboard about their own activities. However, it has so much more potential. By asking people questions, inquiring into their opinions, interacting with them, and seeing what matters to them, the impact of causes can be enhanced.

In the end, social media is just a tool. And how you use that tool is what can or can’t make a difference.

Do you have some other examples of great use of social media by nonprofits? Share them with us!

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Welcome to the #SafeMotherhood Programme

The week of 16-19 May 2016 was an important week for girls and women throughout the world with the hosting Women Deliver's 4th Global Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was also a milestone for our Motherhood Projects which incorporate the Alliance for Maternal Health Equality (AMHE), Safe Motherhood Week (SMW) and the Pregnancy and Medicine Initiative (PMI).

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