The Best Nonprofit Social Media Campaigns of 2017

It’s happening again. All of the year’s art, events and goings-on are being sorted into “best of” lists on various blogs. And guess what? You’re looking at another. This one, though, can actually help you while you’re considering a rebrand or amping up your social media presence in 2018. Here are our picks for the best nonprofit social media campaigns of 2017 and a little bit about what made each one stand out.

1. #MeToo 

Back in 2007, Tarana Burke of the nonprofit Just Be Inc. launched the #MeToo campaign. #MeToo was meant to be a movement that provides “empowerment through empathy” to survivors of sexual abuse, assault, exploitation and harassment, especially those in underprivileged communities. Ten years later, when actress Alyssa Milano caught wind of the hashtag and encouraged others to share it in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the movement took off on social media. As of October 2017, over 1.7 million tweets included the hashtag “#MeToo,” in at least 85 countries. Burke’s original intent of bringing a sense of solidarity with the hashtag was achieved. Despite the fact that the hashtag was ten years old, when a chance to use it appropriately came along, the nonprofit behind it became more successful than it ever had been before.

What can you learn from #MeToo’s hashtag campaign? Seize opportunities. Stay aware of current events. Don’t be afraid to join a trending hashtag on social media if it applies to your cause.

2. Project Life Jacket

Civil unrest at home led millions of Syrians to seek refuge in recent years, forcing them to cross oceans and make dangerous journeys to find safety. When three Swiss organizations, The Voice of Thousands, Borderfree and Schwizerchruz, wanted to come together to raise awareness and support for these refugees, they created Project Life Jacket, one of this year’s most creative campaigns. Volunteers interviewed nine Syrian refugees who crossed the Mediterranean to Greece about their lives before they left Syria. Each of their stories was then illustrated on used life jackets, taken from the beaches of Greece where refugees arrive. Project Life Jacket’s website showcased each illustrated life jacket and paired it with a refugee’s image and bio, along with a clip from their interview. Donations to one of several humanitarian organizations could be initiated from the same page. This campaign brought the stories of Syrian refugees to the forefront of international dialogue and raised awareness through storytelling, which we’ve learned was a valuable marketing tool this year for nonprofits.

What can you learn from Project Life Jacket’s campaign? Ask people to tell their stories. Make things personal by putting a face to a cause. Think outside of the box and come up with a concept that no one else in your field has thought of yet.

3. Love Has No Labels

This Emmy-award winning ad campaign by Love Has No Labels, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating bias, came from a partnership with the National Football League. The “Fans of Love” campaign put a spin on the classic sports event “kiss cam” by placing the spotlight on different forms of love like friendships, families and romantic relationships that spanned many races, religions, genders, sexualities, abilities and ages. The campaign not only helped the nonprofit spread a message of unbiased love to people of all cultures, but it honed in on a specific part of the sports culture and reframed it in a way that helped further their mission.
What can you learn from Love Has No Labels’s campaign? Partnerships matter! Find someone with a powerful voice in their community and work with them to spread your message. Put a new twist on an old tradition and shape it in a way that aligns with your mission.

4. truth

truth, the nonprofit public health organization that works to eradicate tobacco use, launched the #BigTobaccoBeLike campaign to shake up misconceptions about social smoking. The campaign showcased how every time a “social smoker” rationalizes that they’re not a “smoker-smoker,” tobacco companies, who they call “Big Tobacco,” still reap the benefits. The ads expanded upon the #BeLike hashtag, where social media users posted gifs to describe their feelings when something out of the ordinary happened. The nonprofit partnered with Vine and Instagram influencers to create a series of 15 second video clips showing social smokers’ perceptions vs. Big Tobacco’s reality. The videos garnered nearly 1 million views each in 24 hours. The nonprofit also saw success when they polled young people months after the videos were released and saw a 55 percent increase in those who agreed that, even if you smoke occasionally, you’re still supporting Big Tobacco.

What can you learn from truth’s campaign? Research your audience. Understand who your target demographic is and change your campaigns to fit their needs. Use social media influencers to advocate for your nonprofit’s mission.


Hana Muslic

Hana is a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, putting her journalism degree to use by writing articles for the Hub’s national publications and overseeing the national social media accounts. Hana is dedicated to the nonprofit sector and giving back to the community that has given so much to her. If you need some last minute plans, she will most likely join you in impulsively buying concert tickets right before the show.

January 2, 2018

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