As the first of our series in profiling the best engaged not-for-profits, I recently had a chance to sit down with Karen Snider, national manager for the Canadian Red Cross, and talk about the successes they’re having in digital engagement. This is the third of three posts.

1) As we have chatted, the delivery of services Red Cross is involved with is deep and wide, given such a breadth, what is Canadian Red Cross’s main focus/objective in building communities of users around their cause?

The main focus is to empower Canadians to give help and get help. That means we are building communities so that Canadians will be more aware of the services we provide when they need help, such as disaster relief, CPR and first aid, water safety instruction and various community health services.

We’re also building communities to let Canadians know how they can help through donations or volunteer work.

2) I’ve been impressed with how many different platforms that Red Cross is able to populate with great content and the level of engagement some leading web personalities have with Red Cross, what is the special sauce for building and keeping these areas thriving?

We try to focus on the blog as our hub for social media activities. From there, if it is relevant, we share the content on Twitter and Facebook. This helps us to ensure content is being generated across multiple platforms.

The Canadian Red Cross has some key media and celebrities who are engaged with our organization. They come to us in very natural ways.

For example, former bachelorette Jillian Harris is from Alberta. When the Slave Lake fires happened, she saw @redcrosscanada tweeting messages about the Red Cross response. She contacted us and said she wanted to be involved. From there we took it offline and arranged for Jillian to visit Slave Lake with the Red Cross to witness the devastation and see our programs in action. She tweeted about it while she was there.

We’re also fortunate to have Bif Naked’s support. She loves the Canadian Red Cross and first connected with us during the appeal to raise funds for the Japan earthquake/tsunami. She remains engaged, tweeting about us every single day, often re-sharing our messages about domestic programs such as water safety or disaster preparedness. She told us she didn’t have an emergency kit, so we sent her a Red Cross one during Emergency Preparedness Week.

Amber Mac has also been a great supporter to the Canadian Red Cross and our online efforts. It’s a natural fit because she is interested in humanitarian aid, as well as our domestic programs, especially ones that focus on families. We’ve held a CPR class for her family and friends, and during National Water Safety Week, Amber, along with her husband and son came out with the Canadian Red Cross and Toronto Police to shoot a water safety video.

The bottom line is that we work hard to maintain our relationships, not just with celebrities, but with all of our supporters. We look for those personal connections between our supporters and what the Red Cross does, and build our relationships based on that common ground.

3) Is the culture at Red Cross an ingredient of its success? How do the internal workings of Red Cross support a thriving engaged, digital entity? Has it changed over the years (in response to tech, the economy, donor needs)?

Our internal structure is geographically based and decentralized and our social media team is reflective of this structure. This means we have representation on the ground in every region of Canada, working closely with volunteers, staff, donors, and those who benefit from our programs. It allows us to tell the stories organically, rather than from a corporate point of view.

4) What are the most popular ways of getting people to become aware, become involved and give to Red Cross? Do you know who your top 100/1000 true fans/influencers are? and is there a system in place to track who they are and what they do on your behalf?

One of the challenges for the Canadian Red Cross is that people often come to us during disasters, and it is up to us to keep them connected long after that disaster. We update our networks frequently so that our supporters get to learn more about the breadth of our programming. We also try to have as much fun as possible so that Canadians know ours is an approachable organization.

5) At its most basic level, why do your most rabid fans connect and want to contribute to Red Cross’ success?

The Red Cross is an international leader in emergency response. When major disasters happen, such as those in Haiti or Japan, people feel compelled to do something and they often seek us out to learn more about how they can make a difference by supporting the Red Cross. We work hard to let supporters know what the needs are, how much funding has been raised and how their generous donations are being used.

Read more:

2nd post in the series
3rd post in the series

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