Content marketing is no longer a cutting-edge experiment. It’s a well-established, proven component of any smart company’s marketing strategy. Carefully-crafted and well-executed content distributed across multiple online platforms breaks through internet clutter, to build brand awareness, engage potential customers and develop trust.
We at Don’t Panic cut our teeth with purpose driven content for charities including Greenpeace, National Autistic Society and Save The Children. Although we have seemingly cracked the code for successful viral films for charities (our film for Save The Children happens to be the most successful cause-related video ever!) we still like to keep up to date with what everyone else is doing too; mostly for inspiration and only sometimes for a laugh.
Here our 5 examples from charities that we’ve enjoyed:
Charity:Water: is the example most often cited when marketers discuss the use of content marketing by non-profits, and for good reason. The organisation was founded more than ten years ago to provide clean, safe drinking water to residents of developing nations, and it has helped more than seven million people in 24 countries to date.
100% of all public donations are used directly for the transport and supply of clean water. Most of that money is raised through content marketing, primarily with realistic and touching videos which usually go viral. Charity:Water: contrasts the native beauty of developing countries and the human stories of their residents, with harrowing video showing the lives of those who are literally dying due to the lack of safe drinking water.
The power of the organisation’s content marketing network was most clearly seen in 2016, on the group’s fifth anniversary. The “September Campaign” was launched to raise money for a water drilling rig to provide drinking water for residents of Northern Ethiopia; to mark the anniversary, the charity’s staff was asked to create their own content which would resonate with supporters.
The avalanche of compelling videos spurred donors to make their own videos and start their own social media fundraising campaigns. And in just six months, two million dollars was raised – enough to buy two drilling rigs, which now provide 40,000 people in the region with safe drinking water every year.
That’s what unleashing the power of content marketing can do for charities.
Best Friends Animal Society
Non-profit charities aren’t always focused on raising money. The Best Friends Animal Society has been finding homes for unwanted dogs and cats for more than 30 years, and it devised an ingenious content marketing approach to help accomplish the goal of its “Invisible Dogs” campaign: locating a home for every dog that needs one.
The group created an app which can be downloaded to any Android or iPhone device. Once the user takes a picture of himself or herself, the app uses facial recognition to find their “twin” – the homeless dog which most closely resembles them.
The app is fun to play with and has matched many people with new pets. But the real point is for users to share the side-by-side pictures on their social network accounts, which the app allows them to do with a single click. Exposure for the Best Friends Animal Society – and its very important cause – has skyrocketed, thanks to the viral nature of the cute “twin” photos.
There’s one additional benefit to this content marketing campaign. It has generated nearly two thousand online donations from those who’ve seen and shared the content, allowing the Best Friends Society to further its work.
For decades, the United Nations Children’s Fund has been raising money to improve the lives of children in dire circumstances throughout the world. And over the last 20 years UNICEF has worked diligently to increase its presence on social media platforms, in order to spread word of its work and raise money.
Perhaps the best and most successful example was the agency’s 2016 #ForEveryChild campaign. Designed to highlight the plight of young children living in poverty and ignored by society, UNICEF created and uploaded a video showing a six-year old girl wandering alone in New York. When she was dressed nicely, adults regularly approached her to offer help. When she was dressed in old, tattered clothes, the heartbreaking video showed adults either avoiding her completely or telling her to go away. The three-minute clip was raw and powerful, and it was viewed more than 15 million times on YouTube with hundreds of thousands of people sharing it. UNICEF also responded individually to the thousands of comments it received.
That’s just a snapshot of the way UNICEF combines compelling content with its expertise in social media to deliver and spread the charity’s core messages. Another video dramatising a forced child marriage had similar results, and the organisation’s drive to encourage women to breastfeed children within an hour of their birth led to an agreement with Apple to include a breastfeeding emoji in recent versions of iOS.
An approach similar to #ForEveryChild was adopted by the British anti-domestic violence organisation Refuge UK. The group doesn’t have the worldwide social media presence of UNICEF, so it used a different method of getting its message out instead.
Refuge collaborated with a social media influencer for its video campaign that featured popular YouTube makeup artist Lauren Luke, who has half a million followers on the platform. In a video titled “How to Look Your Best the Morning After,” Luke started out with a standard makeup tutorial, until the camera pulled back to show her bruised face and black eye. The video continued with Luke explaining how to hide the signs of physical abuse, a reality for the 65% of domestic violence victims who can’t or won’t confront their plight.
The #dontcoveritup campaign, supported by traditional media, tallied well over a million YouTube views, tens of thousands of Facebook shares and a Twitter exposure of 19 million. The total value of online and media exposure was calculated at nearly six million pounds, and direct and corporate contributions toward Refuge’s work increased dramatically.
More importantly, more than six thousand abused women contacted Refuge UK directly for help after seeing the video.
March of Dimes
Franklin D. Roosevelt founded the March of Dimes in 1938, although it was first known as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. It has switched its focus in more recent years from paralysis to issues like preventing birth defects and infant mortality, but its mission has remained basically the same throughout: giving babies a healthy start in life.
The March of Dimes raises hundreds of millions of dollars each year for research, education and on-the-ground services. For most of its existence, the organisation relied on sponsorships, grants and direct donations, many of which were collected in-store, door-to-door and through fundraising marches. Those outreaches continue today.
However, the 21st century brought a quantum shift in the charity’s fundraising efforts, as the March of Dimes developed a huge online presence and engaged in large-scale content marketing. It began with a massive effort to let the world “meet” the organisation’s national ambassador, a five-year old who was born 12 weeks prematurely with a laundry list of life-threatening medical issues, but who developed into a healthy and happy kindergartner.
Videos on YouTube, regular updates on Twitter, and photos and longer stories on Facebook, combined with user-created content in response to the campaign, brought the youngster’s story to millions worldwide. Through that approach, and similar efforts utilising the organisation’s enormous online following, the number of people visiting the March of Dimes website and donating to the cause has soared, and the charity has reasserted its importance among the thousands of charities competing for donations.
And of course to see our own viral content work for charities check out our Work page!