In this uncertain economy, while the financial and auto industries are headlining the news with their struggles, it’s easy to forget the entities that are feeling the last ripples of the recession. Non-profit fundraising is down, but the demand for their efforts are at their highest levels ever. I recently had the opportunity to learn about how groups like the Mid-Ohio Foodbank are innovating to find new ways to promote and increase donations to their cause.
Christina Christian, the Foodbank’s first Digital Marketing Manager, has been tasked with bringing the 30-year-old non-profit up to speed on new social networking and marketing tools. A young and energetic woman, Christina knows that these methods of interacting with the community and donors are a big part of building relationships and campaigns in the future. Her job description includes “leading the Foodbank’s on-line marketing strategy, with special emphasis on engaging ‘digital millennials’ (the 18-26 year old demographic)”. This recognition by the Mid-Ohio Foodbank that young people learn and explore their interests through social media is part of a growing trend in the non-profit sector.
The Central Ohio Down Syndrome Society, The United Way of Central Ohio, The Salvation Army and The American Red Cross all have begun using social media as an extension of their marketing and communication strategies aimed at young people. Currently, Christina is utilizing several social media tools in her efforts to keep news, events and happenings at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank up to date and relevant:
• USx8, a mobile donation program
• The organization’s website
Each of these methods has the potential to reach people that would not otherwise take notice of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank’s traditional marketing. As with many non-profits, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank does not have a large marketing budget, so creativity and efficiency are always a priority when devising a new initiative.
Christina says that she looks to the Austin Capital Foodbank as a model of what can be done in Columbus with social media. While the Austin Foodbank is larger then Columbus’, one of the features of social media is that it allows smaller entities, no matter the industry, to compete with the big boys without breaking the bank. With a move to a new, larger facility slated for October, Christina is hoping that the digital marketing efforts and its effects will grow proportionately. Since setting a group on Facebook, using Twitter and keeping an up-to-date blog the Foodbank’s homepage has seen a substantial increase in visits.
Christina also told me about the USx8 program that the Mid-Ohio Foodbank has initiated. The program has been aimed at young people to donate $5 to the Foodbank using their mobile phones. Texting is an easy way for people to make a contribution that they may not otherwise have time to do. Based on the way the Mid-Ohio Foodbank receives donations, cash is up to eight times as valuable to them, thus the USx8 effort. They say that donation the $5 is really worth $40 to them, which they can use to feed a family of five for an entire day. This program has real potential, and started to gain momentum in the spring.
Christina has a very unique job. She must keep up with all of the new technologies coming out and take advantage of what each has to offer. At the same time, she is still working for a non-profit that, like most, is stretched thin in terms of staff and resources. She feels lucky to be a part of an organization that sees the value of social media and has taken steps to utilize these great tools that are revolutionizing how all businesses operate. Here’s to Christina, part of the new age of advocacy!