How Video, Social Media, and Brand Advocacy are Shifting Disaster Relief & Non-Profit Marketing Efforts


image source JChong on Flickr

Donating to non-profit organizations is an extremely personal affair; typically there is a tugging at an individual’s heart strings that helps prompt a donation. With the digital landscape so rapidly changing, it’s interesting to see our strong connections to our online donating behaviors in regard to video, social media, and sponsorships from big brands. Given how our behaviors are impacted by changes in the digital landscape, non-profit marketers would benefit greatly from a helping hand in newer forms of digital media and brand sponsorship.

When we look at the referral analytics for the entire volunteer and non-profit category, significant growth was spurred by the natural disaster and subsequent relief efforts in Japan. Some of the most notable top growing sites to the non-profit and volunteer industry category include,, and

referral traffic for volunteer and non profit category march 2011

Video Sites drove 357,873 visits to non-profit sites which was just shy of 650% more visits than the month prior. Just following the natural disasters in Japan, they played numerous video ads supporting American Red Cross relief efforts in Japan. The strong video correlation is interesting in that visitors are much more likely to be multi-tasking. Therefore we can easily take the logical leap that they are more able to act on donation efforts, because they’re not simply sitting in front of the TV, they’re connected to the web with a call to action they can easily respond to.
Some of this attention was likely attributed from their own generous donation to the American Red Cross.

Digital News and Social Networking drove 292,003 visits in March with a 492% increase in visits from the month prior. Articles like this one can give non-profits a huge boost. It’s  fairly common knowledge in the non-profit sector that giving is contagious, those that have charitable friends are much more likely to give, so take note of the strong social re-syndication numbers in the social header and footer as well as the Red Cross donation widget.

the newsroom screenshot

Brand Awareness and Cause-related Marketing

Big Brands can also help affect change and raise awareness for disaster relief. Forever21 did an amazing job by raising over $2 million for Japan relief efforts by offering to donate 100% of all sales on March 18th to the Red Cross. While we don’t see as a strong referrer to non-profits in general,, which promoted the effort, saw an 898% increase in visits from the month prior, sending 172,241 visitors to non-profit sites last month. We also noted a huge bump in daily attention and reach on the date of the event, below.

daily reach and attention forever21

With such an incredible increase in awareness around Japan’s relief efforts, we can see how the digital landscape is changing. Smaller non-profit marketers could benefit in modeling some of their own efforts in a similar fashion. Suggestions include creating videos to engage their community members and look for syndication on local TV channels and social media pages. Proliferate their messages through social media campaigns and consider creating donation (bragging) widgets for blogs. Finally, marketers can look for opportunities to partner with local businesses, which can be a win-win situation in that the cause has additional awareness and the brand benefits from the connection to the community and cause.

About Lindsey Mark:
Lindsey Mark works in Client Relations at Compete and is responsible for the strategic development of client retention and support policies for, with a focus on education and training efforts. She graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY so she's a certified technology junkie and open source advocate. When she's not thinking about marketing or training digital 007's at compete, she's doing yoga & blogging about gluten-free diet and lifestyle. Find Lindsey on Twitter as @linji, Google Plus as Lindsey Mark or connect with her via LinkedIn.