The Top 4 Nonprofit Social Media Campaigns of 2013 (And What You Can Learn)

NPOs never stood a chance on social media. People aren’t there for us, they’re there to interact with their friends.

Don’t act like those thoughts never crossed your mind. Sometimes social media can be discouraging. “How do we get more interaction?” “How do we make them care?”

It’s easy to think that way. But it’s easy to dismiss those concerns after seeing these social media campaigns that, quite frankly, kicked butt in 2013. These examples are going to get those thought wheels turning and hopefully spark your next idea.

Oh, the possibilities! There are so many people on social media to reach with your message (if you take the initiative, that is). Behold—the top nonprofit social media campaigns that caught our eye in 2013.

1. The Organization: Water is Life

The Campaign: They say you can’t predict when something will go viral. It’s true… you can’t. But a great idea like this was bound to get the attention it deserved. Water is Life took something that they thought was disturbing and turned it into something good. They hijacked the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems. Check out the incredibly powerful video that went viral:

So what did they have to say about the power of social media?

“We were able to change the conversation through social media. Instead of complaining about #FirstWorldProblems, people began using the hashtag as a vehicle to spread Water is Life’s message and to encourage donations,” a Water is Life spokesperson said.

The outcome was providing over a million days worth of clean water to those in need as a result of the video.

People had their own names for the strategy that Water is Life used. But in the end, Water is Life gave it their own name—a name that other nonprofits can learn from.

“We call it hashtag killer. Not just an attempt to end a hashtag, but to use social media to affect a real change in our world.”

The Takeaway: They say to accept the things you can’t change. But this campaign suggests the opposite. Instead of sitting around being angry at the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems, Water is Life actually did something about it. If there’s something bad that you’d like to change for the better, do it. Start a movement.

2. The Organization: UNICEF

The Campaign: The photo speaks for itself.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.52.39 PM

The Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to be bold. In a world full of people begging for ‘Likes,’ UNICEF dared to be different. It’s bold. It catches your attention. They directly called out their followers. “Hey, a ‘like’ does nothing. So donate.” I don’t know about you, but the campaign certainly made me want to act.

3. The Organization: charity: water

The Campaign: 10k on 10:1 Social Mediathon

We know, another clean water organization. What can we say? They rocked it this year. And charity: water allows individual donors to get involved in different ways to raise money. From running a proposed number of miles to matching every dollar, charity: water participants have come up with some cool ideas. And one of those ideas came from somebody who used their connections for a 24-hour social media campaign.

In one day, they hosted Google Hangouts with different thought leaders. People could purchase a seat in the hangout (a very limited number) to ask whatever questions they wanted.

And guess what? They reached their goal. $10,000 on 10/1.

The Takeaway: Social media campaigns don’t have to be long. They just have to be carefully planned and executed. So don’t stray from campaigns thinking that they need to be a month-long endeavor. But also note, this campaign took time to plan and create the amazing campaign website.

4. The Organization: Red Cross

The Campaign: They took part in National Preparedness Month, jumping in on the hashtag #NPM13. Because of the nature of the Red Cross’s work, it made sense. They help with disaster relief and emergencies. NPM is designed to help prepare people for emergencies. By jumping in on that hashtag, they’re exposing more people to the cause. Especially people who are passionate about NPM and might not be passionate about the Red Cross… yet.

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The Takeaway: Jump in on trends that make sense. If there’s a month that relates directly to your organization, take advantage. Even if it’s only a day, you can help increase awareness through education.

Will you make our list for 2014, or do you feel like your campaign stands out for 2013? We want to hear about it. Share it with us in the comments below.

27 responses to “The Top 4 Nonprofit Social Media Campaigns of 2013 (And What You Can Learn)”

  1. Mike Ambassador Bruny says:

    Thank you for featuring our “$10k on 10/1” project on your list. It was a crazy ride. We’re working on the case study right now with the hopes that others can learn from what we did well and not so well.

    • Lyndsey Hrabik says:

      Really enjoyed the campaign, Mike! It’s such a great example because it shows that you don’t have to do a year-long campaign (although that’s not to downplay the tons of hard work that went into planning something like this). But your day-long campaign was a success. I think tons of nonprofits are held back because they’re scared by the amount of work. It’s totally possible for any org. Thanks again!

  2. […] clean water solutions to schools and villages in developing countries, was named the number one non-profit social media campaign of 2013 according to NonProfitHub.org. “Hashtag Killer” was recognized as the most effective campaign […]

  3. […] media astonished us yet again with its sheer power and unbelievable reach. While there are many nonprofits that achieved tremendous success on social media this year, there are several others who are still […]

  4. […] in the Arab Spring. And yet more recent than that, one can take a look through this list of the Top 4 Nonprofit Social Media Campaigns of 2013 to realize how social channels have truly radicalized and brought to light issues of global […]

  5. […] The Top 4 Nonprofit Social Media Campaigns of 2013 (And What You Can Learn)   […]

  6. IOI Galapagos says:

    We finished our new website in 2013:

    http://www.ioi.ec

    and are currently planing our Nonprofit Social Media Campaign for 2014.

    Our vision at the IOI is to help establish an ecologically sustainable and stable social economy for the Galapagos archipelago by providing support in the education, conservation and development sectors and by extension help make possible a Galápagos of tomorrow.

    Please follow us on our mission:
    https://www.facebook.com/ioigalapagos

  7. […] Which charity raised money on Social Media very successful? Five years ago, easier, this question would have been to answer. Now, many are doing great fundraising campaigns integrated with social media. Yoda believes successful campaigns are less focused on raising money, but more on raising awareness, then giving people opportunity to give. This list is most impressive. […]

  8. […] Lyndsey Hrabik is quite frank about the whole issue and argues that non-profit organizations have never stood a chance on social media. She says that social media is mainly used for making friends, not to make the world a better place. […]

  9. […] Lyndsey Hrabik wrote a very interesting article about the whole issue and argues that non-profit organizations were always thought of as something that have never stood a chance on social media. However, this is not true and she gives great examples of campaigns from non profit organizations such as Water is Life and UNICEF. Those campaigns worked because they were bold, straight to the point and well planned. […]

  10. […] The Nonprofit Hub created a list about the Top 4 Nonprofit Social Media Campaigns of 2013 (And What You Can Learn). […]

  11. […] are jumping on the band wagon and using social media as a vehicle to raise funds and awareness. This article by The Nonprofit Hub highlights some  excellent use of social media by organizations like […]

  12. […] recent post on Nonprofit Hub featured stories about the four best nonprofit social media campaigns that were […]

  13. […] recent post on Nonprofit Hub featured stories about the four best nonprofit social media campaigns that were […]

  14. Blogactive says:

    You didn’t include the Human Rights Campaign’s logo campaign on facebook? Millions of profile pictures changed and awarded honors all over the place. I am guessing you must have forgotten?

  15. […] The Top 4 Nonprofit Social Media Campaigns of 2013 (Nonprofit Hub) […]

  16. […] media astonished us yet again with its sheer power and unbelievable reach. While there are many nonprofits that achieved tremendous success on social media this year, there are several others who are still […]

  17. […] look at two of the two of the most noted nonprofit social media campaigns of 2013. Water is Life chose to use a common hashtag #FirstWorldProblems, to grab the attention of social […]

  18. […] The Top 4 Nonprofit Social Media Campaigns of 2013 (And What You Can Learn)   […]

  19. […] inspired generosity it has caused, I think it is safe to say that the future of fundraising lies in enterprising social media campaigns. Perhaps soon are gone the days of dodging those garish rain-jacket-clad street fundraisers. Guys! […]

  20. […] blog written by Lyndsey Hrabik, called The Top 4 Nonprofit Social Media Campaigns of 2013, goes into further details about the best four ways a nonprofit can have a successful campaign. […]

  21. Meg Rulli says:

    All great examples in here – Love the advice from UNICEF’s campaign “Don’t be afraid to be bold”

  22. Shelby says:

    I believe the WATERisLIFE campaign is extremely clever. It took something that was so self-centered and turned it into a campaign that helped people all over the world. I think the key to good social media campaigns for nonprofits is finding a concept that encourages people to interact and share. This hashtag killer made people want to become a part of this new trend and in turn they were spreading awareness about the cause (whether they knew it or not). WATERisLIFE became the topic of many conversations and the global problem of unsanitary drinking water become prevalent in people’s lives.

  23. MV says:

    Intelligent use of social media and creativity. Impressive campaigns.
    I am working on a social initiative- http://www.savethelife.info and hope to launch it soon. http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/86a7c8eeea249d11873ceb8ebc50fee53f97eb56f8c2906d9002b6df50d9696e.png

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