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How engaged are your ‘likes’?

In the August of 2009 I applied for, and subsequently interviewed for, a position at a reputable charity – one very near and dear to my heart. Guttedly, I wasn’t offered the role – in hindsight, rightly so, I wasn’t nearly qualified for the role – but my biggest motivator for applying was passion!

Having spent my entire career in professional services, I feel the need, and am drawn to, giving back.

Those who know me, know I’m moved to a tear (or two) when I watch the human spirit in its most beautiful, compassionate form. Needless to say, there have been a few highlights of late:

  • The Apprentice’s final challenge to re-vamp Father Chris Rileys’ Don Bosco House, which provides accommodation and support service for adolescents aged 15 to 18 years who have alcohol and drug issues – and after seeing teenage children huffing paint a couple of weekends ago, my heart sank seeing how prevalent this issue is;

  • Shane Crawford fervently raising $1.32 million for Breast Cancer Network Australia after riding 3,600 kilometers from Melbourne to Perth in 22 days on his marathon Tour de Crawf; and

  • Samuel Johnson’s super human, emotional driven unicycle ride around Australia with the aim of raising $1 million dollars for his charity, Love Your Sister, which was fuelled by his sister’s battle with breast cancer.

In a recent episode of The Project, they secretly flew Samuel’s sister to Perth to inspire and motivate him – what a moment…yes, my eyes welled! That night (actually the early hours of the morning), I sat up, bolt right, energised, to help this cause. At the time the episode went to air, Love Your Sister had as few as 5,000 likes, today it has a whopping 51,124 likes (and rising)!

So I ask, how engaged are your ‘likes’?

Let’s say, hypothetically, that none of the 51,124 ‘likers’ have donated to the charity, so if each person who ‘likes’ this page were to donate $1 (or $2 for tax deductible benefits), that would be an incredible $51,124 (or $102,248) towards his cause!

I know I’m sitting here with my ‘breast-cancer-pink’ tinted glasses on, but isn’t humanity & life with a cure worth it?

Yes, economic times are tough, but if the USA, who arguably had/has been more severely affected by the GFC, donated $298.42 billion in 2011, up 4% from 2010! Can’t we?!

“Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio. We have nothing against likes, but vaccines costs money.”  UNICEF

Or have we become immune to charity messages?

And is ‘liking’ the same as supporting?

With the rise in social media, research suggests that by ‘liking’ a charitable organisation it raises awareness, educates and promotes the issue.

True. However, it is also argued that the rise in social media has rejuvenated the 1995 term ‘Slacktivism.’ A term coined by Dwight Ozard and Fred Clark who state slacktivism is, “doing something in support of an issue or cause that requires minimal personal effort.”

The good news according to Sortable, suggests “slacktivists are twice as likely to volunteer, twice as likely to ask for donations, twice as likely to take part in an event and four times as likely to encourage others to sign a petition or contact a politician.”

Charities need to embrace engaging people through social media beyond ‘static’ social media sites and integrating finance platforms and apps that drive engagement and fundraising.

In a 2012 social media study, Pro Bono Australia revealed that of the 71% of charities in Australia using social media, only 34% are using it to fundraise.

Doctors Without Borders, is an example of an organisation that uses social media to fundraise and are vocal that “good intentions do not save lives.” This has now become their tag line in their latest campaign. Doctors Without Borders have developed an integrated social media campaign based on ‘like hunting’ where people ask their Facebook friends to ‘like’ their (charity) post and in return the poster will donate a certain amount for each friend’s ‘like.’ The result, Doctors without Borders, based on Facebook ‘likes’, turned virtual ‘likes’ into real medicine, care and treatment! For a detailed overview of this, watch one of their campaign videos, now watch to see how they integrated a financial platform and social media How Facebook “likes” become more than good intentions (MWG readers, please note, these videos contain images that you may find disturbing).

Similarly, UNICEF has taken a bold approach, displaying a poster that states:

“Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio

We have nothing against likes, but vaccines costs money. Please buy polio vaccine at unicef.se. It will only cost you 4€ but will save 12 children.”

Olga Khazan’s article, UNICEF Tells Slacktivists: Give Money, Not Facebook Likes supports this campaign, stating “UNICEF’s might be an extreme perspective, but it does raise interesting questions about how charity organizations should spread their messages online without allowing their potential donors to get stuck in slacktivist land, retweeting links and changing profile pictures without ever opening their wallets.”

Whilst I’m not naive to the struggles of those in the Not For Profit industry, there are real opportunities to shake up the status quo and drive tangible change and outcomes. This view is echoed by Norman Morris, who conducted the 2011 Roy Morgan Large Charity Profile study, “charities can no longer rest on the goodwill of the public – especially given the current economic uncertainty – so developing strategies to reach donors is of the up-most importance.”

Below is a couple of examples of where I think breast cancer organisations could gain traction from ‘likers’ to further add funds through social media*…
*further research needs to be conducted!

  • Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) works to ensure that women diagnosed with breast cancer, and their families, receive the very best information, treatment, care and support possible. They already have amazing donation campaigns, eg $30 gives 25 breast cancer survivors a copy of The Beacon magazine, so simply integrating this through their social media platforms.

  • McGrath Foundation who raise money to place breast cancer nurses in communities all around Australia – so how about, “shout a nurse a coffee” campaign utilising ‘like hunting.’

  • Love Your Sister, whose simple, but effective message is ‘Don’t fall into the booby-trap, be breast aware!’ Perhaps following their risque theme, “how do you like these hooters? support them by buying a bra” For every bra sold $x will come back to Love Your Sister as a donation.

I know I’ve focused on breast cancer charities, that’s my passion, but I implore you, next time you ‘like’, stop and think ‘what can I do to become more engaged.’