At Buzz2009, I had the chance to chat with Wick Davis from the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA). As director of online services, Wick has some of the most interesting hands-on stories I’ve heard in the field. He has seen firsthand how effective social media can be for a charitable organization — and as a one-man department, he thinks ROI all day long. At Buzz 2009, Wick told me in passing that LFA’s Facebook strategy increased donations 790%. Come again? Definitely worth a follow-up conversation.

Tell us a little about your background. How did you end up running online and social media strategy for the Lupus Foundation of America?

I’ve been in lots of different working environments. I spent several years in corporate communications for Westinghouse. I spent a handful of years bringing authors into Barnes & Noble stores in the Washington, D.C., area. I’ve spent the past nine years in the nonprofit world — first at the American Diabetes Association and now the Lupus Foundation of America. The LFA job encompassed everything I had done at ADA, but also included social media, which was new to me.

Tell us a little about the differences you’ve noticed in working with Facebook Causes and Facebook Groups.

When I first checked out Facebook, I discovered there were lupus groups already there, some using outdated versions of the LFA logo, and some linking to an earlier incarnation of the Lupus.org Web site. So I introduced myself to the admins for these groups and offered my help. Everyone was receptive, but I also realized that while having these offshoot groups was nice, there needed to be an “official” LFA group in Facebook. I created one, and I began to use it as an information repository. I provide links to key content on our Web sites, such our Walk for Lupus Now events across the country, the online version of Lupus Now magazine and our message boards.

In January 2009, I discovered that someone had already created an official LFA cause in Facebook. It had been sitting dormant, so I contacted Causes and took over the account. I really see LFA’s Facebook cause as an action center. If there are things that I want our Cause members to act on, such as contacting their members of Congress for our advocacy day on Capitol Hill or recruiting interviewees for our magazine or sharing lupus-related news, then I use our Cause to push out the message. As a result of our constant engagement with our members, we’ve increased our Cause membership 584% in 6 months. And we’ve increased our online donations in Facebook by 790% in the same time frame.

What type of growth have you seen in other channels?

We’ve been very fortunate to see growth across all the social media in which LFA is engaged. LFA created a Twitter account in February 2009 as another tool for us to use for our 2009 Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. In five months, we’ve grown to more than 325 followers. LFA’s message boards, which launched in February 2008, now boast more than 4,200 users from around the world. That remains a very vibrant and positive online community.

One thing I’ve noticed is that our constituents like to receive information from us via many vehicles. I see them on our message boards, on Facebook, on Twitter, and our blog. I know they also receive our biweekly e-newsletter. A lot of people living with lupus aren’t as mobile as they’d like to be. They feel isolated because of the disease itself, or because of the side effects of the medications they’re taking. All these social media outlets provide the LFA a way to connect to and engage all people living with lupus — all from the comfort of their homes. It’s an amazing thing.

Have you seen a connection to donations in those spaces?

In Facebook, without question. LFA hasn’t really dipped its toes into donation efforts in other mediums, like Twitter. But that’s certainly on our horizon.

Now, to the readers. Do you have any more questions for Wick on how he’s leveraging social media for LFA?

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27 Responses to “A Facebook success story from the Lupus Foundation of America”

  1. Marty Moore says:

    I know Wick Davis well. We worked together at American Diabetes Association. Wick is a smart cookie and he is a guy that thinks in terms of evolution. What Wick is doing with LFA is what every organization — nonprofit or for profit — should be doing. Kudos to LFA for having an online leader that is taking social media seriously.

  2. Marc says:

    Can you share some of the actual $$ amounts? The %s are certainly impressive. But my experience is that impressive %s can sometimes hide unimpressive real $$s.

  3. [...] A Facebook success story from the Lupus Foundation of America…   Smart Blog on Social Media [...]

  4. [...] This post was Twitted by PaulDunay [...]

  5. Nice piece – a good example of "taking the reins" and consolidating fragmented support into a coherent social identity. I would suggest that for an event-driven cause like the Lupus Foundation, the growth in members is more telling than the "direct" revenues. By connecting through FB, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter, LFA can make its supporters the stars, heightening engagement and setting the stage for sustained contributions. I met the other day with a leader at another national nonprofit about how to get into social media and she was startled to see several existing entities. The revolution is starting without you – but play it the right way, as LFA did, and you can leverage these early arrivals to strengthen the organizational brand.

  6. Shitij Nigam says:

    Interesting article. I think a lot of Non-Profits could benefit from this. Great article!

    Cheers!
    Shitij
    @shitijnigam

  7. Wick Davis says:

    I have been asked to share some figures regarding our success with Causes in Facebook. I’m more than happy to do so.

    When I took over as the admin for the Lupus Foundation of America’s cause in Facebook in mid-January 2009, our cause had less than 3,000 members, and had raised $630. Since I had no idea when our Cause was created, I had no idea how long those figures had been at that level.

    I’m pleased to share that as of today (6 months later), LFA’s cause now has more than 21,200 members. And during that same 6-month timeframe, we’ve raised a total of more than $5,700. And those figures only represent LFA’s “official” cause in Facebook. That does not include the other Causes which have been established to benefit the LFA.

    While I realize we cannot compare ourselves to an American Cancer Society or an American Heart Association in terms of size and reach, I think for a small nonprofit – that is just now hitting its stride in terms of raising the public’s awareness of lupus – we’re certainly doing well.

    Most weeks, we average about 500-700 new members to our Cause. There were a few weeks where we recruited more than 1,200 members … each week! That was pretty amazing!

    As a result of our success in Facebook, we are currently working on a comprehensive social media strategy for the Lupus Foundation of America.

  8. [...] appeared in smartblog on social media this week about the lupus foundation of america and its success in using social media as a fundraising platform. seems the new head of online and social media at lfa took a look around out in the social [...]

  9. This is so informative, thanks for the interview and the honesty about your strategy, Wick. I have a follow-up question: What do you think it is that you are doing on facebook that is making a difference in terms of increasing causes supporters and donations to causes? I'm impressed with the % increase that you've seen and am wondering what we can learn about HOW you are using FB and Causes that is making such an impact on donation. Thanks, Debra

  10. [...] This post was Twitted by askdebra [...]

  11. Wick Davis says:

    Thanks for the question, Debra. I will try to answer it as best as I can. You had asked “What do you think it is that you are doing on Facebook that is making a difference in terms of increasing causes supporters and donations to causes?”

    I don’t think it’s any one thing. For LFA, I think it’s a few things.

    1. Regularly communicate with our Cause members. (For example, push messages out to them).

    2. Keep the members of our Cause engaged. (For example, regularly add items to the Media Board, like your organization’s PSAs or VNRs, or create a topic in the Message Board to encourage discussion).

    3. Respond to all inquiries in our Cause. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean. Anytime people donate to your cause, thank them personally (don’t use the standard auto-reply). Not only say “thank you,” but also use this opportunity to ask where this person is located, so you can perhaps better direct him / her to local resources. Create the opportunity for further engagement. Also in your “thank you” note, share links to other resources which they might find beneficial, like to message boards, or to sign up to receive your organization’s enewsletter.

    Along those lines, I’d suggest responding to threads in the message boards in the Causes section. And I'd say reach out to the people who post comments in the Comments section. Do what you can to engage people.

    I’ve found that if people see that someone is actively responding to their inquiries, they are more willing to do what they can to help you raise awareness, which in turn leads to their willingness to make a donation.

    Of course, this is a learning process for the LFA. I continue to try new things, and fine-tune what works and what doesn’t. If you’d like to know specifics about what LFA is doing, I’m more than happy to talk with you offline. I can be reached at davis@lupus.org.

    Appreciate the question.

    Wick

  12. [...] saw this post and wanted to alert our readers to a Success story on using Facebook. SmartBlog has done an interview with , director of online services, Wick Davis for the Lupus Foundation of [...]

  13. [...] Lupus Foundation of America, for example, was recently featured on Smart Blog for Social Media for its success generating donations via the Internet. Using Facebook, the LFA increased its [...]

  14. Rob Birgfeld says:

    It's important to remember that a key piece of what Wick does is TRACK what works. This is not anecdotal data that he is referencing. Make sure you are properly set up to track your tests and activities. Cut your losses and build on your successes.

  15. [...] Twitter has become a popular vehicle as of late for non-profits (like here and here), but we can’t forget Facebook. The Lupus Foundation of America recently revamped and coalesced their social media strategy on Facebook and found that their online donations on Facebook increased by 790% in just six months. (You can read more about LFA’s Facebook strategy here.) [...]

  16. [...] SmartBlog On Social Media » A Facebook success story from the Lupus Foundation of America smartblogs.com/socialmedia/2009/07/28/a-facebook-success-story-from-the-lupus-foundation-of-america – view page – cached At Buzz2009, I had the chance to chat with Wick Davis from the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA). As director of online services, Wick has some of the most interesting hands-on stories I’ve heard in the field. He has seen firsthand how effective social media can be for a charitable organization — and as a one-man department, he thinks ROI all day long. At Buzz 2009, Wick told me in passing that LFA’s Facebook strategy increased donations 790%. Come again? Definitely worth a follow-up conversation. — From the page [...]

  17. [...] SmartBlog On Social Media » A Facebook success story from the Lupus Foundation of America smartblogs.com/socialmedia/2009/07/28/a-facebook-success-story-from-the-lupus-foundation-of-america – view page – cached At Buzz2009, I had the chance to chat with Wick Davis from the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA). As director of online services, Wick has some of the most interesting hands-on stories I’ve heard in the field. He has seen firsthand how effective social media can be for a charitable organization — and as a one-man department, he thinks ROI all day long. At Buzz 2009, Wick told me in passing that LFA’s Facebook strategy increased donations 790%. Come again? Definitely worth a follow-up conversation. — From the page [...]

  18. [...] Foundation increases donations via Facebook. [SmartBlog] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Link Love: 140 Characters of [...]

  19. [...] and donations. Up next for the organization: figuring out how to get the most out of Twitter. Read more SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Social Media Leave a Comment No Comments Yet so far Leave a comment [...]

  20. [...] been equally effective for apolitical non-profits. According to a recent post by Rob Bergfeld’s  SmartBlog on Social Media, the online director of the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), Wick Davis, said that LFA’s [...]

  21. [...] SmartBlog on Social Media: A Facebook Success Story from the Lupus Foundation of America. [...]

  22. [...] SmartBlog on Social Media: A Facebook Success Story from the Lupus Foundation of America. [...]

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  24. [...] Shared A Facebook success story from the Lupus Foundation of America | SmartBlog On Social Media. [...]

  25. [...] Birgfeld, R. (2009, July 28). A Facebook success story from the Lupus Foundation of America. Retrieved on April 28, 2010, from the Smart Blog on Social Media Website: http://smartblogs.com/socialmedia/2009/07/28/a-facebook-success-story-from-the-lupus-foundation-of-a… [...]

  26. [...] Birgfeld, R. (2009, July 28). A Facebook success story from the Lupus Foundation of America. Retrieved on April 28, 2010, from the Smart Blog on Social Media Website: http://smartblogs.com/socialmedia/2009/07/28/a-facebook-success-story-from-the-lupus-foundation-of-a… [...]

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