By Simone Collins, Rotary Club of Freshwater Bay, Western Australia, and Charter Chair of the Rotarians on Social Networks Fellowship
Social media is no longer a new technology – the first social media sites launched in 2000, and a number of those original sites are still around. Facebook was launched in 2004, LinkedIn in 2003, and Twitter has been around since 2006. Social media is now as vital a communication tool as a cell phone.
The power of social media is in the sheer number of users who contribute and consume information daily through these networks. Facebook currently boasts 1.3 billion active users, most of which log in daily. *Half of 18 to 34-year-olds check Facebook first thing in the morning, and 28% of those do so before even getting out of bed!
In January 2011, we had terrible flooding which affected most of the state of Queensland in Australia. Rotaractors tweeted and used their Facebook statuses to spread news that any donations made through Rotary District 9830, in the state of Tasmania, would be matched dollar for dollar through the local state government, up to a maximum of $250,000. I saw the buzz on Facebook and helped spread the news through my own accounts, including my business Twitter accounts and through the Rotary Facebook pages that I administer. I shared this announcement at my Wednesday club meeting that week, along with news that ShelterBox already had personnel on the ground assessing impacted communities, information I had learned by following ShelterBox Australia’s Facebook page. While at a district function that Friday evening, I heard a fellow club member repeat the same information to a Rotarian in another club, who asked how I had heard the news so quickly.
With the help of the Rotary family and beyond, District 9830 raised AUS$911,000, double the combined total raised by three other service clubs in Tasmania. That speaks volumes about the benefit of using social media to rapidly spread information about how to help at a time when people are eager to lend a hand. Raised funds were used to build a replacement community centre at Murphys Creek in the Lockyer Valley.
The Rotary Global Swimarathon, coordinated by the Rotary Club of Grantham, UK, is another online fundraising success story. On 23 February 2012, as a result of reaching out to clubs via Facebook and Twitter, along with regular promotion, we saw 5,244 swimmers from 104 clubs in 23 countries set a new world record for the most number of simultaneous swimmers, raising over US$100,000 for polio eradication in the process.
Again, the organizers used multiple channels to engage the community: Rotarian Paul Wilson from the sponsoring club made heavy use of his personal Facebook account to reach out to Rotarians and clubs. He also used his club’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, along with a website and blog, dedicated to the Swimarathon to provide regular updates and communications with stakeholders. It has now become an annual event, with more and more clubs coming on board every year. In 2013, participation rose to 6103 swimmers from 186 clubs in 36 countries, with a total of US$111,081 raised funds. This year a total of $116,700 were raised with the support of 210 clubs.
As easy as it is to reach out via social media, it is important to strike a balance between getting your message out to as many people as possible and spamming them with too many updates . People will tune you out if you are too aggressive with your promotions. Instead, take time to build engaging relationships within your channels first.
If you would like assistance using social media to boost your fundraising activities, please don’t hesitate to contact the Rotarians on Social Networks Fellowship. With over 2,000 members across the globe, there are plenty of volunteers happy to assist with ideas and practical support on how to make use of the various channels available to you.