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Using Facebook and MySpace for Advocacy and Fundraising: An interview with Carie Lewis, HSUS

Lori Halley 16 August 2007 18 comments


Carie Lewis, Internet Marketing Manager
Humane Society of the United States

We caught up with Carie Lewis for an interview about using social networking sites and Facebook to reach a whole new group of audiences and spread your message.  

As part of her job, Carie leads online advertising and web 2.0 campaigns for the nation’s largest and most powerful animal welfare organization. She plans, implements, and evaluates the organization’s advocacy and donation campaigns for the purpose of list growth. Within the organization, she helps departments market their campaigns, issues, and events online. She has a strong passion for using web 2.0 tools, particularly social networks, for community building and advocacy participation. Carie is a member of the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) and has been interviewed for articles on Techsoup, Care2, and Blogher. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems from Salisbury University

1. How long have you been using Facebook and how have you been using it?

We’ve been using Facebook for about three months now. We have a group on Facebook and we are also participating in the Causes, Change.org, and Care2 applications.

2. Have you been successful at raising awareness and money for your cause on Facebook and if so how?

As it is with joining any new network, it takes plenty of time and effort to build support. We’ve done a bit of outreach to people who have joined other animal-related groups, as well as cross-promoted with our MySpace network. We’ve gotten off to a good start in raising money on Facebook, simply by collaborating with Project Agape, who runs the Facebook Causes application. The application allows people to create causes they are passionate about and in turn allows them to direct any funds raised to our organization. They get social recognition via an applet on their profile for raising funds and recruiting people to the cause. They can also collaborate via comments and message boards with like minded people – many whom otherwise would be strangers to them. That is what I think makes it so successful. We are there to offer advice, answer questions, provide resources, and encourage involvement.

3. Before getting started on Facebook, you had great success on MySpace. Which social networking site did you find to be most effective and in what way?

I think it’s a little too early to tell, but so far, we’ve seen more success with fundraising on Facebook, and advocacy on MySpace. This is mostly because of the third party applications that are available on Facebook, which make it easier to participate in group fundraising. There’s something really “grassroots-y” about MySpace; it’s a little “edgier” than Facebook. Facebook is built on networks and how you’re connected to others into those networks, whether it be location, school, or workplace. It’s very clean and structured. MySpace is more of a free-for-all, and I think people like the fact that they can do whatever they want on their page. So if they want to post banners, videos, or other content, then can do so wherever they like. Our advocacy banners are very popular on MySpace, but people don’t really have any place to put them on Facebook. They can, however, feature us as a nonprofit or one of our causes that they support on their Facebook profile. We’ve also been involved on MySpace for a lot longer and therefore have gotten more exposure and opportunity to do outreach. It’s important to remember that every network is different and has a different crowd.

4. How did you build up your members’ network?

We promoted our Facebook profile to our MySpace crowd of about 29,000 friends, added a link to our website, and each time someone creates a cause using the Facebook Causes application, we thank them and invite them to join our group. Many times people become our friend by simply seeing our group listed in their friends’ groups, so it’s a great viral / word of mouth recruitment tool.

5. What applications are you using to spread your message (such as the Causes app, the Change.org app, and the new Care2 app)?

We’re participating in all 3 and have developed close business relationships with each one of them.

6. Why and how has using these applications been effective?  Can you share some stats?  

So far, we’ve raised about $5,000 on the Facebook Causes application.

7. How much time does it take to incorporate and maintain your Facebook page?

Outreach is the most time consuming. It was easy to get started; we created an account, filled in all the information, put up some photos, and started a conversation on the discussion board. But we need people to participate and keep the group lively. It’s no good to just talk to ourselves. So it takes the most time to recruit new people. Not just any new people – people who care about animals and animal welfare issues. Then, it takes time to keep the group fresh and interesting, as well as communicate with our group. It’s important to us that we respond to every message personally, as well as participate in discussion board and wall posts. That’s what makes social networking what it is.

8. What advice would you give others who want to use Facebook to advance their cause?

  • Spend time on outreach and building your friend list to people who care about your issues.
  • Participate in third party applications and even consider creating your own.
  • Respond to all incoming messages, discussion threads, and wall posts. Participate regularly in your group! If no one is saying anything, start a topic!
  • Post your latest news and campaign info in the discussion board and save the individual messaging for breaking news and take action requests.
  • Ask people to repost your events and links as notes or posted items on their profiles.
  • Upload videos, photos, and events to your profile and ask people to post their related content.
  • Build relationships with the application developers and companies behind the applications.
  • Take advantage of the “officers” section of your group. We haven’t done this yet, but I’ve seen it used as a great way to keep members engaged and encourage them to recruit to your group.
  • Recruit people from similar groups by inviting them to join your group.

9. If you were to share some lessons learned about running a campaign on Facebook, what are the five most important things to consider?

  1. Participate in the causes application by creating campaign-specific causes instead of a cause for your organization. People relate better to specific issues or campaigns that they are passionate about.
  2. Take the time to keep your content fresh and updated; don’t just create a group and walk away.
  3. Monitor what people are talking about and use the group as a forum to express your organization’s stance on certain issues. They will usually respect and appreciate your authority.
  4. Respond to everyone, no matter what the question or issue. People love having an actual person to connect to from an organization, and two-way communication is what makes social networks so successful.
  5. Scour Facebook for people that are interested in your cause or issue, and then personally message them. The viral aspect of getting one person involved who has hundreds of friends can be a huge payoff.

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 9:00 AM


  • Carie Lewis said:

    Friday, 17 August 2007 at 6:33 AM

    Thank you for posting my interview, Soha! I'd love to answer any questions or network with others on this topic. I can be reached at clewis@humanesociety.org.

  • Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

    Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] said:

    Friday, 17 August 2007 at 6:56 AM

    Carie, thanks for sharing your insights!

  • Michael Stein said:

    Friday, 17 August 2007 at 9:42 AM

    Soha, Carrie - this is a great interview!

    And Soha, your earlier post on Facebook for Beginners was great as well - it was so much more informative than the similar piece I did which did not include any of the how-to material, so it was a useful blogging pointer for me as well!

  • Le Blog de Netpolitique said:

    Saturday, 18 August 2007 at 6:22 AM

    Si vous ne connaissez pas encore Facebook, vous allez vite en entendre parler : attendez un peu le d�marrage de l'ann�e scolaire et la France, comme le reste de l'Am�rique du Nord (85% des �tudiants inscrits !) devrait vite y succomber. Le...

  • Charity Ryerson said:

    Wednesday, 22 August 2007 at 11:34 AM

    Carrie and Soha,

    As I'm researching this for our organization, the comment I continually run across is that one has to invest a good deal of time to make this pay off.  We are a very small organization (3 people) and I'm trying to determine if an NGO of our size would benefit from social networking if we don't have the staff resources to put more than a couple of hours per week into the project.  Any advice on this?

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 22 August 2007 at 11:46 AM

    I think it is worth it, even with only a couple of hours per week. You could also assign a volunteer or an intern to help you out and keep your content updated. If you do decide to do this, let me know how it works out!

  • Carie Lewis said:

    Thursday, 23 August 2007 at 5:22 AM

    Charity - I agree with Soha, if you can invest even a few hours a week to get started, the most important thing is to keep at it. And round up some volunteers! Kids (well, not just kids anymore) are doing this kind of thing in their free time, so if they are passionate about a cause, I'm sure they'd be willing to help you!

  • Erin said:

    Thursday, 23 August 2007 at 10:52 AM

    Fantastic interview--thanks Carie and Soha!  Here's a sentence that drew my attention:

    "It’s important to remember that every network is different and has a different crowd."

    That makes a lot of sense.  Can you talk a bit more about the differences between MySpace and Facebook that would change your approach?  How do you quantify the different "crowds" in social networks--user surveys, other research by social media practitioners...?

    What have you found to be the best strategies to convert folks from just passive members of your group on MySpace or Facebook to active advocates or givers?

  • Carie Lewis said:

    Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 9:25 AM

    Erin - good question. When something big hits, like the Michael Vick case for instance, I'll go immediately to MySpace and blog about it, because that's where our biggest network is. I use a very casual tone, because I've seen that our MySpace friends are very passionate, very driven, and very VOCAL. There's a huge age span but one thing's for sure... they love their animals. There's a lot of profanity and harsh statements, some that I can't even post. So I'll start the blog off by saying something to get people riled up, maybe throw a bit of sarcasm in there, and then go into what they can do to help.

    Then, I go to Facebook. I can't just copy and paste my MySpace blog into Facebook - as much as I would like to in the interest of time. My Facebook readers are different. They are more calm and cool, most in the 20 something crowd, most went to college. Now this is not to say that they are any smarter or even more sophisticated. But many Facebookers use the site to stay in contact with college friends or coworkers. Before the addition of Facebook Causes, I didn't see much activism on the site. Most of the groups I visited were dormant or just for fun. And since orgs can't have individual profiles, there was a roadblock. Getting started on Facebook was a challenge. You have to fit in somewhere amongst all the connections between friends. So, I speak to my Facebookers very simply. Here's what you can do and here's why. Very organized and straight to the point, like Facebook! And now, with Facebook causes, there’s a sense of social recognition when your achievements are displayed on your profile. Brilliant!

    So THEN I head over to Care2, which is a network for activists. They are hardcore, highly engaged, and there for a reason: to create change and make the world a better place. They want to know what they can do to make a difference. So I usually post a quick intro with a direct link to the advocacy campaign. No sugar coating, no back stories – these people already know what’s going on for the most part. They are on it!

    And finally, I go onto Gather. Gather is a community geared towards a more “grown up” crowd. I don’t even post all of our news or issues in this community. Most of the posts I put on there are related to issues in the media or pets. The harder issues just don’t appeal to them. I use a more sophisticated, less casual tone. I provide a background and have to be very careful in incorporating the advocacy aspect into it, to make sure it flows well. Gatherers are there to discuss their opinions and share their thoughts with others… not so much to take action on the latest issue.

    At first, it was a trial and error for all of these networks. I posted the same thing on every one of the networks. I monitored what kind of responses I got, as well as the tone of communication. Then I modified my messaging based on the responses I received. This is how I became familiar with the different crowds and learned how to speak to them separately. I had a lot of individual conversations back and forth with friends and group members. I came to understand what they were there for.

    Just keep in mind that there are some things to keep consistent across ALL networks… it’s all about two way communication, having a conversational tone, and keeping things short and sweet. Use bulleted lists, provide direct links to advos (reduce the number of clicks as much as possible!) and embed items whenever possible (videos, widgets, slideshows, etc.)

    Grab people’s attention by speaking to them in the right way and keeping your content fresh…. and you’ll keep them engaged!

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Tuesday, 04 September 2007 at 11:13 AM

    Here are the August 2007 most visited posts. These posts have gotten the most traffic, comments and feedback.

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Wednesday, 05 September 2007 at 9:45 AM

    Carie Lewis from the Humane Society of the U.S. left a very valuable comment on our interview post .

  • Halee said:

    Tuesday, 18 September 2007 at 12:53 PM

    Very insightful interview. Interesting what was said about cross promotion.

  • Beth Kanter said:

    Tuesday, 02 October 2007 at 8:42 AM

    Nice update to the interview I did with Carie back in June


    We should do interviews with Carie every two or three months!  Whose next?

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Wednesday, 03 October 2007 at 12:29 PM

    These were the posts of most interest to our readers in Sep 2007 according to Google Analytics.... Top

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Monday, 10 December 2007 at 10:21 AM

    It looks like there's been a lot of interest in using Facebook. As of November, our Facebook posts (new

  • Stephan Brües said:

    Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 5:28 AM

    Hello, I am from Germany and helping writing a book on communities and how to raise money from them... . There is also one chapter on ngo and social movements and I am kind of responsible for this because I am a long time political activist (for peace and human rights).

    My question is for Wild Apricot and Carie-> your interview fits so wonderful in our book, could I translate it and use it for this purpose?

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Monday, 17 March 2008 at 2:00 PM

    For an example of how simple web tools and social networking sites can be used to raise awareness of a nonprofit's cause, LOLseals is worth a close look. It's a new photo caption contest from the Humane Society of the United States, blending pop culture

  • jr said:

    Tuesday, 30 September 2008 at 5:55 PM

    There is a free ebook in facebook that can give fund raisers tips on how to use facebook fundraising


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