Corporate social investment kept quiet wouldn’t achieve so much – By David Gibbons

Social media is word of mouth on steroids, and the internet makes it very easy to donate money and raise awareness, both of which are the lifeblood of charitable institutions according to David Gibbons.

July 5, 2011

Indeed, Causes, a Facebook application that allows anyone to drive awareness and raise money for a cause, has 140 million users, has raised $30 million for 25,000 non-profit organisations and supports 500,000 user-created causes. Likewise, Chase Community Giving turns to its 2-million plus Facebook fans to crowdsource where to make donations. is another platform that extends the reach of non-profits using social media to raise funds and awareness.

A natural fit

It is unsurprising that social media and support for charities and causes make such a good fit with each other. Consider Seth Godin’s concept of online tribes, a group bound to each other and sharing a common passion and a common leader. Being seen to support a cause binds an individual to other members of the tribe. Then, people with an affinity to and trusted relationship with that individual go on to also support the cause if it resonates with them, so showing their alignment with that tribe. And of course, at the end of the day, we all want to be seen to be good people doing good things.

In addition, online involvement with causes has been shown to drive offline activities and support. A recent study by the University of California showed that high school students who spent time in online communities were more likely to get involved with volunteering and charity work. It seems that online awareness about a cause acts as a catalyst to engagement “in real life”.

Consider the Property24 Clicks for Bricks Challenge that aims to raise R91,000 for Habitat for Humanity South Africa to build a house for one of its beneficiaries. will do this by donating R5 for every “like” on its Facebook page, As well as the donation, though, Habitat for Humanity SA will receive exposure to’s internal, supplier and customer networks, and, thanks to the viral nature of social media, to these networks’ networks as well. In return for their Facebook “like”, participants get to contribute to a good cause, see the impact of their support as the house gets built and even participate in real life with the building of the house.

Getting it right

So what do companies need to do to get social media support for their CSI initiatives right, creating maximum benefit for all concerned?

  • The first rule of social media is to be authentic. Be personable not plastic. If your brand isn’t quirky, don’t hire an outsider to make it what it isn’t. Rather be yourself and the best way to do this is to look inside your own organisation for social media spokespeople.
  • Make it easy and attractive for your community to spread updates about your initiatives, rather than continually blowing your own trumpet. The key to this is useful, entertaining, good content that people want to share.
  • Drive donations by spreading the word about the initiative you are supporting, rather than your brand. Even consider asking your community to choose a cause that they would like you to support.
  • Interact with your community by asking for feedback and importantly, providing updates on the initiative, so that those involved can see their actions make a difference. There are some great online equivalents of the traditional church roof fund barometer that will show your supporters what they have achieved.
  • Driving CSI initiatives using social media can be beneficial for your company’s brand but always remember that the primary focus should be to help the beneficiary increase the size of their support network.

By David Gibbons, General Manager, Business Development at

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