Christmas Caring via Social Media

Christmas time has long been the time of year when people come together to help others. From Christmas Hampers to people facing adversity in their lives, communities around the world can be found supporting their neighbours in need. We see these stories, almost every day, via our Social Media channels. Someone sets up a Facebook Page and the support starts pouring in.

So, why aren’t the organizations that have been supporting those in needs doing more to reach out, through their Social Media channels?

It’s About the Story

When you see the story about someone in need, showing up in your newsfeed or stream, it is almost always connected to a heart wrenching or heart warming, story. It is the story that drives people to give, often generously, to show their support. It is the story that grabs the attention of media and other Social Media users. It is the story that leaves people cheering forNAAGCharity a positive outcome.

Organizations that support those in need, throughout the year or just over the holidays, have hundreds of stories like these and the successes that they have achieved in making a difference. Many of the newer organizations, or efforts, often make good use of Social Media, but some of the older, more established, ones are lagging behind and suffering as a result. These organizations have even more to offer in the story. They have a history to share.

It’s Not a Competition

In my own community, Christmas Hamper Funds and Food Bank Drives  abound, during the holiday season. Almost like clock work, within a couple of weeks of Christmas Day, the news paper features a story about one of our local organizations saying that they may not have enough donations to support their hamper demands and, sadly, they point to other local efforts as “taking away” from theirs. The thing that stands out is that those other local fund and food raisers are using Social Media to draw attention to their work, while this older, more established, organization relies heavily on their “we have been doing this for decades” presence in the community. Communities grow and change and the days of “but we have always been here, so people will come” concept has to change with it.

Reach Beyond Your Community

My favourite example of Social Media making a difference in giving, happened in 2011. Dave Reynolds (@TheDaveReynolds), a local radio personality, held his annual food bank drive to fill the depleted shelves of the organization. Using his ever growing Social Media reach, he engaged his Social Media community, as well as his local one. The telling of the stories of need and success, both on air and online, had a profound impact on his effort. So much so that a goal of filling a 40′ trailer with food, turned into a filling of THREE trailers with food and money donation in the thousands of dollars. People from as far away as Europe and the Caribbean were donating funds to help support those in need in a small Vancouver Island community. So much food was gathered, that the local shelves were so full, there was enough left over to fill the need of another, even smaller community, with empty food bank shelves. Thousands of people gave, engaged in the story presented to them.

Reach a New Generation

If you go into most community support organizations or fund raising events, there is a distinctly “older” group doing a lions share of the work. Beyond the time they may have available to lend a hand, they also have a more personal connection to where they live and drawn to lend support, by friends, family and colleagues through real life communication (Service Clubs, etc). Millennials, however, are more often that not, engaged in similar conversations and groups, only online. Traditional methods of engaging new volunteers are missed, because those volunteers are, quite literally, not where they used to be.

An organization, like a Food Bank, can make great head way by building a Social Media presence and filling that presence with news, information and, most important, the stories of those in need and how they are able to make a difference in those lives. While many will tell you that “organic reach is dead”, during the holiday season it is alive and well, through people sharing the heart warming stories of making a difference in the lives of complete strangers.

In the 21st Century of giving, Social Media has the ability to turn the Global Village into your local support.

Sean Smith

Sean is Managing Partner in ThatSocialMediaGuy.com, a Social Media consulting company based in Campbell River, BC. Sean has almost 20 years of experience in the IT industry, from a HelpDesk Manager to business owner. Sean has been active on Social Media platforms, since joining LinkedIn in 2005. Since then he has consulted on the development of Social Media strategies for a wide variety of businesses, from retail to tourism, instructed at workshops, been a guest and keynote speaker at various conferences, has been working as the tech/start-up author for Steamfeed.com and has recently become the Editor of the Social Media Camp Blog.

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