Michelle McCudden is a Manager of Client Strategy & Innovation at Social Media Group. Follow@mmccudden1

Actor Joshua Malina made a request on Monday via Facebook Causes for a birthday donation on his behalf to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. His goal was for his followers and friends to donate $10, or whatever they could afford. As of writing, he has over $2,000, far exceeding the $250 he set as an initial target. Seeing this act of kindness made me think about other well-known online personalities who are using social media to spread a little social good.

Jenny Lawson, known to her readers as The Bloggess has spearheaded several fundraising efforts via social media. She raised $42,000 for needy families last Christmas, and this year spurred her readers to donate 750 care packages with security blankets, books and stuffed animals for homeless children (some Bloggess posts include NSFW language). Right now, she’s connecting people around a movement she calls the Traveling Red Dress (details here) in which readers are sending one another items, including red dresses, that symbolize something that they really want, but wouldn’t allow themselves to have. According to Forbes, offers to share dresses had surpassed the hundreds by Monday.

Sarah D. Bunting, best known as the co-founder of TelevisionWithoutPity, runs the blog Tomato Nation and has been hosting a contest to raise money through DonorsChoose.org since 2004.  To date, her readers have raised almost $700,000, benefiting teacher-submitted projects at public schools across the U.S.

If you’re thinking about running a campaign for social good, for yourself or for a client, what can we take away from these successes?

Choose causes that resonate with your audiences. Sarah Bunting at Tomato Nation started working with DonorsChoose, a group that works to fund projects for public schools, after readers expressed that they “felt discouraged by Bush’s re-election and what that would mean for progressive causes.”

Offer an incentive. It doesn’t have to be a monetary prize or particularly large, but an incentive shows that you’re invested and appreciative. For example, Malina is rewarding donors with a personal “thank you” and a Follow on Twitter. Each year, Sarah Bunting chooses a task that she’ll accomplish if the community reaches certain goals, including shaving her head in 2006.

Use the tools at your disposal. In all three of these examples, the organizer used multiple platforms to reach out to their communities: Twitter, Facebook, their blogs, Flickr. Remember that while some will follow you across platforms, some readers are only checking you out on Twitter or via your blog.

Make participation easy. Lower the barriers. To donate to Joshua Malina’s charity, users can login through Facebook Causes, an easy-to-use one-pager that lets users make a one-time donation or set up a monthly recurring payment. Readers interested in donating or receiving a Traveling Red Dress need look no further than the hashtag, #travelingreddress.

Don’t underestimate the social element. Donors Choose allows Tomato Nation readers to form groups around Giving Pages, where they can target particular types of projects or price points to tackle together. Facebook Causes lets donors leave messages, in the form of birthday cards or videos, to Joshua and the rest of the other donors. It feels great to donate to a worthy cause – for many it feels even better to do so as part of a like-minded community.

What’s your favorite example of an act of fundraising done via social media?

 

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