The Road Less Traveled: LBS for Nonprofit Impact vs. Money

The Road Less Traveled

I’m working on my session for the NTEN’s 2011 Non-Profit Technology Conference, a panel on location-based services. As I’m preparing slides for my part of the panel, where I’ll talk about Big Love Little Hearts’ #100X100 campaign, I know that the reason this campaign received so much attention was because we raised $25,000 in 24 hours.

There’s no doubt that I’m proud of that – we were an 8 month old organization at the time. We had only entered social media a few months before, and only seriously weeks before. In fact, the entire idea was born during a late night work session 9 days before it was implemented. To raise $25,000 in 24 hours against that backdrop is plenty to be proud of.

But that’s not what I’m most proud of. I’m most proud that 1,000 people took a political action because of the campaign. That political action in April led to the desired outcome happening in September. We wanted people to express their support of pulse-oximetry as a method of screening newborns for heart defects. Their public support in adjunct with some amazing advocacy work being done by key people in the community led to Secretary Sebelius adding that screening to the National Newborn Screening Panel. This panel is the recommendation that states use to guide their own decisions regarding what tests are mandated.

The $25,000 we raised saved 12 lives. That’s fantastic. States integrating screening for heart defects as part of their mandated panel will save thousands of lives. I am so proud that our campaign played any small part in this that my eyes well up every time I think about it.

My point isn’t to brag about how super duper awesome and smart the campaign was or how we’re the bees knees because it was effective. My point is that the best use of location-based services for non-profits might not be fundraising or the engagement we hope will lead to more effective fundraising. The best use of LBS for some organizations might be to improve or increase their impact.

Yes, fundraising is what makes our programs possible so I’m not suggesting you stop focusing on how LBS or social media can help you do that better. But I am suggesting you start thinking about how it can help you do your mission better. When I look at what’s being written about location-based services in relation to non-profits and what people are asking about LBS in relation to them I don’t see this come up often. I’m definitely not the only person thinking about it but I wish there were more.

One of the panelists in my session is from Feeding America, who used location-based social driving application waze to alert waze users to food donation drop-off locations over Thanksgiving.

The American Red Cross used Foursquare to encourage people to donate blood.

Big Love Little Hearts could use Foursquare to leave tips at OB/GYN offices, maternity clothing stores or baby boutiques about congenital heart defects. Locations like that weren’t part of our #100X100 campaign because we wanted to use locations we thought would have heavy check-in traffic on a Saturday (Target, Starbucks, grocery stores, gyms, airports, etc). But if we wanted to be targeted about raising awareness and encouraging moms to talk to their doctors about what can be done to detect heart defects…well, that would be a better use of Foursquare in the long run for us.

Can you guess what I’m doing right after I finish this post?

What about you? How can your non-profit leverage LBS or other social media applications to raise impact, not just money?


10 thoughts on “The Road Less Traveled: LBS for Nonprofit Impact vs. Money

  1. Raul Colon says:

    Here in Puerto RIco we have a huge problem with disregard for animal rights. We have many animal rights groups telling people not to travel to Puerto Rico given the current stray dog problem we have.

    Our island is 100 by 35 miles and just driving and hour will get you to see at least a domestic animal or two as road kill. Many people abandon there dogs and they end up roaming the streets and reproducing.

    Our local government acts as if the problem did not exist. Based on this article it helped me structure my idea of using Location based services to create awareness of where the problem is.

    I think that by checking on foursquare or gowalla and having a twitter Hashtag we might be able to create awareness that might be useful to have the local government and other private industries take care of the matter.

    Thank you for helping me form my ideas.

  2. Kelly says:

    Congratulations! I was at the SACHDNC meeting where CHD screening was approved. Please contact me. Would you be willing to give me some advice on social media?

  3. charityestrella says:

    Hey Kelly! First of all, thank you and congratulations to YOU for being involved in this amazing effort. I know there’s another press release coming out after last weeks’ meeting…this will be so impactful for the CHD community here. I was actually just talking to (Dr.) Rob Koppel today about Big Love’s program to use wireless pulse-ox to diagnose kids in developing countries out in the field!

    You can email me at charityestrella at gmail dot com – I’d love to talk more!

  4. charityestrella says:

    Oh, wow Kelly – sorry, didn’t realize who you were. Just clicked on your name and through to the CLAN website. I will be happy to help you with social media and would actually love to talk about possibly collaborating on the program I was talking about above – it would be a really good fit with your mission.

    Basically, it’s a program to address the fact that only 1/3 of children in developing countries are ever dx with CHD because they never or rarely see a doctor. Using wireless pulse-oximetry and partnering with organizations delivering other services on the ground, we hope to dx more children and get them to the care they need. It’s only ethical to run the program in countries where help is at least a possibility so we plan to pilot this June in the Dominican Republic and expand the program based on the results.

    Look forward to hearing from you 🙂

  5. Joe Waters says:

    It will be interesting at the conference to really explore why they’re aren’t more location-based cause marketing partnerships. What’s really holding causes back? It could be the small adoption rate of LBS right now or it could be the technology barrier. Not sure. But when you only have one major charity, ARC, with a badge on 4sq–after the service has been around a while–it makes you wonder.


    • charityestrella says:

      I think (hope) we’ll see a lot more going LBS wise for cause marketing partnerships this year. I’m interested to see how larger corporations might use it for CSR instead of cause-marketing. I know the line between CSR and CM blurs by the day, but I think there’s still a line.

      Can’t wait for our panel – so much to explore!

  6. John Haydon says:

    Joe – I’ve been wondering this as well, mainly because the cause marketing model is pretty easy to set up. Also, to add to Estrella’s ideas, for-profit partners can expand an org’s efforts in getting the word out about blood drives, health tips and so forth.

    Estrella – awesomeness here!

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