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Social Media & Cause Marketing Broaden Appeal, Reach of Philanthropists (from Arts Watch)

Adriane Fink

Social Media. We know we need it. But are we really getting the most out of our Facebook accounts and Twitter feeds?

Corporations across the country are paying close attention to the online craze and have discovered that using social media to partner with nonprofits allows them to reach the broadest possible audience in a cost-effective way. The results show a stunning use of creativity benefiting the nonprofit world. Let me share a few statistics with you.

With over 500 million active users, one in every 13 people on earth now uses Facebook. Over 50 percent log in every day. 48 percent of 18-34 year olds check Facebook when they wake up, and 28 percent do so before getting out of bed. Not to be left behind, Twitter has also rapidly expanded, with over 200 million registered accounts and 155 million tweets per day.

But what really grabs a corporation’s interest: Over 700 billion minutes a month are spent on Facebook. 250 million people interact with Facebook from outside the official website on a monthly basis, across 2.5 million websites. There are over 900 million pages, groups, events, and community pages and the average user is connected to 80 of them.

Corporate giving programs are sitting up and taking notice. There’s a new cause marketing model around every corner and, at this stage of the game, it’s easy to see why these models are so popular – the combination of social networking and cause marketing works.

Pepsi knows how closely related a good partnership can be to growth in sales. In 2010, the Pepsi Refresh Project contributed millions of dollars funding over 1,000 ideas across the country. With three main categories (Education, Communities, Arts & Music), Pepsi engaged users who voted for their favorite ideas and the top finalists received funding. The campaign was such a success that Pepsi decided to fund twice as many ideas in 2011 and is currently giving more than a million dollars in grants each month.

A great campaign will also evolve over time. A perfect example is Crate and Barrel’s partnership with Donors Choose. Since 2006, Crate and Barrel has donated 1.1 million dollars in gift cards to Donors Choose, supporting 347,000 students. This year, a $100,000 month-long campaign centered on a meaningful concept “You vote. We Donate. Kids Win.” Crate and Barrel donated $25,000 each week over four weeks. In the end, Crate and Barrel brought funding to 400 classroom projects and walked away with some serious brand loyalty.

Forward-thinking nonprofits aren’t just sitting around waiting for corporations to come knocking. In March, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra launched a five dollar broad-based giving campaign: “When I Play Music.” The 11-week campaign, which hoped to raise $300,000 through small contributions, focused on supporting education outreach programs of the Atlanta Symphony and was driven almost entirely by social media. Supporters were encouraged to give just five dollars to make a difference in a child’s musical experience through mobile and online giving.

Today’s donors are not always satisfied with just sending in a check. Today’s philanthropists want to be a part of the process and feel they have had a direct hand in making a difference. With so many creative corporate and nonprofit initiatives, it’s clear that corporations (and savvy nonprofits) are listening to their constituents. They’ve determined that well-placed and well-executed partnerships hoping to make a difference will provide 1) growth in sales; 2) deeper customer engagement; 3) and strong brand loyalty. A winning combination.

*Arts Watch is the bi-weekly cultural policy publication of Americans for the Arts, covering news in a variety of categories. Subscribe to Arts Watch or follow @artswatch on Twitter to receive up-to-the-minute news.

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