How charities can use social media to get the biggest bang for their buck.

02/09/2017 01:39 pm ET Updated Mar 06, 2017

As the Trump administration dabbles with immigration policies, threatening to make intercontinental cooperation uncertain, the rise of social media as an influencer for charitable organizations is a timely and effective platform. And that is precisely what appealed to Feed a Billion founder Dr. Ambuj Jain.

“Every four seconds a human being dies from hunger,” said Dr. Jain. “And most of the ones dying are children.” Based on the belief that the world has enough resources available right now to end hunger, Jain joined forces with motivational mogul Tony Robbins and local corporations to end world hunger.

I sat down with Dr. Jain to talk about his decision to use social media and gamification to expand the effectiveness of corporate giving through social influencers, who can participate in ways outside of monetary contributions. When partnered with the basic principles of business, Dr. Jain discovered that social media could accelerate global efforts to tackle world hunger in an effective, scalable, and measurable way. And the early figures are proof of its success.

If you are fielding strategies to promote your organization, here are three reasons why a social media-based campaign may be a pivotal move.

1. Drive awareness.

Unlike more traditional campaigns that pay third parties to promote a campaign, social media gives you total control of your message, infrastructure, contacts, and duration—all in real time and at a fraction of the cost. “Within minutes, charities can create a status, page, Tweet, or post elsewhere to inform their followers of a situation requiring urgent help and donations, which can be shared and spread in seconds,” says media expert Laura Phillips.

Since its January launch, the Feed A Billion Challenge is 1.3 million meals closer to achieving their goal of providing one billion meals to the world’s hungry by November 2020. The campaign’s success rests primarily on FAB’s model that leverages existing resources, partnerships, and the power of matching sponsors. This innovative design has lowered the cost of contributed meals to ten cents a piece. That’s right. A dime is feeding the hungry.

2. Develop donor relationships.

What’s in it for the donors? For businesses, the rewards are plentiful, but it’s up to you to demonstrate how. “Charitable giving, so long as the intent is authentic and companies follow best practices in their giving-back activities, is good for business as well,” said Jason Sisneros, CEO of Feed a Billion.

There are currently 785 million people in the world with insufficient food to support a healthy life. “Forty-two million are within the U.S. We want to make a significant impact on this problem,” said Jain. “And by doing so, to pioneer newer and more effective ways for all of us to maximize our ability to achieve philanthropic goals.” For Feed a Billion, organizations are already in place in countries currently in need, who have the infrastructure to provide meals and helps keep costs low. And corporate partners are ready and waiting to match donations in a donor’s name. This design not only secures funding for its original intent, it also enhances the corporate brand of participants and ignites positive promotion for the business. For example, in FAB’s first implementation at the end of 2016, the startup company LiveBearded initiated a FAB campaign to promote Movember (No Shave November). With just a 28 percent increase in promotion, the company achieved a 121 percent increase in sales. LiveBearded contributed 55,000 meals for FAB with just a $5,000 portion of the additional revenue the campaign had created.

Thanks to Tony Robbins’s commitment to match funds, the 30-day campaign produced 110,000 meals, as well as a notable lift in customer engagement for LiveBearded. Founders Spencer Bryce and Anthony Mink were also pleased to note that the uplift in revenue from their FAB initiative carried through December and January.

3. Expand reach at a bargain price.

Building corporate partnerships has always been a mainstay of charitable organizations. But a social media-based campaign capitalizes on the new kid in town: the Influencer. “Online influencers are individuals who have a large Twitter following, lots of Facebook friends, a blog, and/or another active social account like Instagram or Snapchat. In addition to their large network, these influencers also have a trusting audience,” said Marcella Vitulli. “By tapping into their power, an organization can be efficient and effective in reaching a wide audience of potential supporters.” Through his research, Vitulli found that organizations could reach an average of 40 million people via a supporter’s social media networks.

Whether you’ve dumped a bucket of ice over your head, purchased beard oil, or shared the message that ten cents can extend a life in your own neighborhood, the power of social media as a marketing tool for nonprofit campaigns is unprecedented. Much like Dr. Jain’s experience with the Feed a Billion Challenge, social media’s ability to drive awareness, build powerful corporate relationships, and connect with an influential global audience can help create global change one follower at a time.

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