Worldwide Fistula Fund - Saving lives with social media

Social Media Can Save Lives

Written By:
Matt Hubbard

Next time someone complains to you about how “useless” social media is, tell them this story about the Worldwide Fistula Fund (WFF). They’ll quickly change their tune.

When you look past the pointless tweets by vapid celebrities, there are intelligent people using the speed, reach, and personalization of social media to do tremendous good. In today’s blog, we wanted to share WFF’s story. WFF used a simple contact data-based approach to help raise over $400,000 in additional funding and nearly double their database of donors and supporters . . . in six weeks.

WFF, a Denver and St. Louis-based nonprofit, has a core mission: provide a relatively inexpensive but life-saving medical procedure for women in the African country of Niger. The condition it remedies is about as awful as you can imagine, but the procedure to fix it is not widely available in rural Africa. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote about WFF in one of the more uplifting columns you’ll ever read. My writing skills can’t do WFF’s mission justice, so read Kristof’s piece on the WFF website.

WFF’s Executive Director, Mark Shaker, knew the New York Times article was coming. He didn’t want to just ride the wave of good PR; he wanted to use it to grow his organization and further its cause.

Shaker started with WFF’s contact list. In preparation for the article, Shaker decided to begin enriching WFF’s email contacts with social media links. With this data, WFF could then effectively share the positive press with supporters and donors.

In the past two years, five percent of WFF’s annual mailings had been kicked back due to a change in physical address. For years, WFF had been using a constituent management system to ensure they had good contact data. However, when WFF ran their email contact list through FullContact’s Person API, they found they no longer had accurate information on more than 90 percent of their donors. Big problem, especially for a non-profit relying on donations from many individuals.

Shaker intuitively understood something we talk about often in this blog: if you rely solely on email or traditional mail communication, you are missing wide swaths of your potential support base. In Shaker’s words:

Our database was fairly stagnant, and e-newsletters was our common method of communicating. We needed to utilize other communication platforms to engage with our constituents and share what our organization was doing more effectively.

Using this updated contact information, including social media URLs, WFF engaged with supporters and donors on Facebook and Twitter several weeks before Kristof’s article, nurtured relationships, and significantly expanded their contact base. This had a compounding effect because WFF’s supporters could then easily share WFF’s story with other potential supporters.

WFF also was smart enough to segment their email list influence. WFF targeted some of their higher asset supporters with a specific outreach campaign, and made sure that when they wanted to share important information, they had an established dialogue from which to build.

As a result of WFF’s strategy, in just six weeks after WFF was highlighted in the New York Times, they raised over $400,000 and nearly doubled their database.

So what can we all learn from WFF’s story?

1.)  Your contact lists probably have a lot of bad data, which means decreased revenue and missed opportunities.

2.)  Traditional mailings and email are not enough. If you aren’t using social media channels, you’re only speaking to a fraction of your audience.

3.)  If you aren’t segmenting your customers between ordinary people and “high influencers”–by spending and communicating power–you are missing a huge opportunity.

We’re privileged to have WFF using our API and excited to see a non-tech company employing contact enrichment and segmentation so effectively.

Some people just get it.

Donate to WFF here. You won’t find a better way to spend your money.

Also, if you find yourself in WFF’s old shoes, we can help. Check out our API (for developers and software companies) or our upcoming Address Book app (for individuals and businesses) to implement their winning strategy for your organization.

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