Social Media Strategy: 12for12k Challenge with Danny Brown

We are excited to bring you an interview from one of the main drivers of the 12for12k ChallengeDanny Brown. 12for12k is a unique campaign that is driven primarily by social media. Their goal is to raise funds and awareness for 12 different charities during 2009. So far they are doing an incredible job, so I thought it would be beneficial to have them share a bit about their social media strategy with us.

Before we get into the interview I’d like to point out the work that 12for12k is doing this month…

They are supporting the U.S. Fund for UNICEF through the Believe in Zero Campaign in the month of June. The reason for this partnership is simple – No child should ever die from a preventable cause, but 25,000 do every day. 12for12k is partnering with UNICEF to change this.

Special thanks to Danny Brown for taking the time to share with us. He’s a class act. The info he has to share is sure to help nonprofits – from beginners to experts, there’s something to learn.

Tell us a little bit about the 12for12k project?

At its simplest, the 12for12k project is a social media-led initiative to raise both funds and awareness for 12 different charities throughout 2009. The economy is biting everyone, and charity organizations are among the heaviest sufferers with over 60,000 predicted to fold this year (and that’s just in

Canada). So I wanted to leverage the power and reach of social media to try and build a community that could offer help in whatever way we could.

What role has social media played in the campaign?

(Twitter, Flickr / photos, YouTube / video, Facebook, Blogging, etc…)

Since 12for12k is purely a social media-led call-to-action, it’s played a huge role. We utilize the key social media channels and networks – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogging, podcasts, etc. We have a dedicated 12for12k Twitter account (@12for12k), a Facebook group, a YouTube channel, a Twibes community, a community, and a host of official 12for12k blog partners. Then there’s also the 12for12k blog itself, as well as the social media channels of our charity partners.

What role has traditional media and communication channels played in the campaign?

(Direct mail, email, Static web site, TV ads, Radio, etc…)

To be honest, traditional media plays very little role in our campaign. When I was speaking with charity partners prior to launching 12for12k this year, the biggest stumbling block seemed to be the traditional channels not getting the message out far enough. Also, the cost involved was often prohibitive, for what could be very little return. We send an email newsletter through AWeber, and we’ve had features in traditional media such as TV and newspapers, but apart from that, we’ve been more active in the social media field.

Are you building a ‘house file’ or donor database to further cultivate those people who are supporting the campaign? If so what are your cultivation plans?

We are. One of my personal mantras (and one that I hold high on my personal blog) is that community is everything. Every donation gives us the email address of the donor. We use this for 12for12k information and events, no third-party marketing here! This allows us to gauge how successful we are at 12for12k “brand loyalty” – who’s consistently supporting us each month, their level of donations, etc… It also allows us to have thank you emails sent out, either by us or the chosen charity. There will be a special thank you to all supporters at the end of 2009. As we move more into the year, the information we have will also be used to involve our supporters in more of what we do and act as an active feedback forum, about the chosen charities, our work, awareness, etc…

How are you measuring ROI, Impact, Reach, etc…?

The obvious measure is by donations and awareness to each chosen charity. That’s what it’s all about, after all. One thing we’ve always said is even if you can’t afford to donate, please share the 12for12k message with your friends and family. This has resulted in some charities receiving an increase of 300% in website visitors. Additionally, we use a collection of tracking tools to monitor link clicks to our messages, as well as where these people went next. We monitor the #12for12k hashtag use on Twitter, as well as the activities of our blog partners and who else is writing about what we’re trying to do. An example of this is the recent Marketing Profs “Twitter Success Stories” report that featured 12for12k in the charity section – that resulted in a massive amount of interest in what we’re doing. Plus, when you have the likes of UNICEF approach you to help in their campaigns, that’s a nice statement that you must be doing something right.

What advice/tips can you share with us related to using new media for fundraising?

Pick the strongest tools for the job, as opposed to every one out there. This may seem obvious, but I’ve often had to tell my own clients the same thing when working with them and realizing they’ve been told otherwise. Our strongest impact has been both Twitter and our blog partners – Twitter because of the instant reach and reaction, and our blog partners because they can help put their own human voices on the charities. I’d also say be incredibly transparent at all times. While you may have built up trust in your community, when money becomes involved it’s a different issue. We use ChipIn for donations as it’s a secure payment network that goes direct to the charity’s donation account – 12for12k sees no money (and all our time is given for free). We cut out any room for questions and stick to supporting the chosen charities each month. This allows us to do what we set out to do in the first place – be a call-to-action for the chosen charity.

What advice/tips can you share with us related to using new media for increasing supporter/constituent engagement?

Involve the community as much as you can. One of the great things (I feel) about 12for12k is that we ask our supporters to suggest charities to support; it’s not just us telling you which charity we’ll be supporting. The February, April and May charities were all supporter suggestions, as will be the July charity. Involve everyone with what you’re doing as well, and have fun. In March, we held a 12-hour Tweetathon with prizes and in April we also had a virtual pajama party that was streamed live online. So, try and keep things fun and involve both your supporters and sponsors at every turn possible.

If I were new to this where would you suggest I start, what tools should I look at, where should look for advice?

The main thing to decide is how you want to spread your message, and what your aim is – awareness, funds, both, etc… Then decide how much time you can invest and what will be the best tools to use to help you with this time and your aim. I love Twitter, that’s no secret – its fast, its community, and it’s incredibly sharing with information. A blog is perfect for telling your story as well. Depending on your scale, you may want to look at setting up a Ning community for your supporters. Online media can be great as well – BlogTalk Radio, YouTube, 12 Second TV, etc, are all creative ways to offer a face and voice to your mission.

Make sure you use analytics tools to measure success – I use a mix of Woopra, Quantcast and Google Analytics to measure reach, interest, demographics, etc. For advice, there are some great people online that are usually happy to offer tips – Beth Kanter, John Haydon and Stacey Monk are just three that spring to mind. Of course, just using Google Search will help you find both people and organizations that can help you learn what you need to know.

I won’t beat around the bush – it’s been a steep learning curve and I’ve made mistakes along the way. But I know that 12for12k has a great set of partners and supporters that have helped the project learn from mistakes and become better for it. So the key point is to try and surround yourself with good, strong people and listen to their advice all the time. And at the end of the day, as steep and as tough as it can be, it’s all for a good cause so any perceived hardship is worth it.