I recently had the honour of attending the annual Three Wishes Gala hosted by Make-A-Wish Eastern Ontario. For this blog assignment, I was drawn by the tireless efforts of the countless volunteers who make this important mission a success. I found myself curious about what similar organizations, which depend equally on fundraising and volunteer efforts to change the lives of sick children, were doing to engage the community online. Some are leveraging social media to their great advantage, and others are missing the mark a little.
Strong Organizations: Make-A-Wish Eastern Ontario & CHEO
Make-A-Wish Eastern Ontario is consistently applying their social media strategy to their website, Facebook page, and Twitter Page (@MakeAWishEO). While their online presence is relatively new, having joined Facebook in January 2012, they have increased their efforts in 2013 to attract and engage new audiences.
Make-A-Wish Eastern Ontario is a regular contributor to its parent organization’s YouTube channel, boasting videos of fundraisers, wish reveals, and benefit concerts. The Eastern Ontario branding is consistently applied throughout their online activities, so the online community is always aware who it is they’re engaging with. They have direct links to all their social media platforms clearly visible on their homepage, as well as a Twitter feed. They also use a consistent tone throughout their messaging, clearly demonstrating a direct application of a larger strategy.
The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) is another organization that is making exceptional use of a social media strategy. Given the subject matter, CHEO is very good at making meaningful connections with their audience, highlighting the importance to the organization of helping these children get well, and providing emotional support to their families. Like Make-A-Wish, they have applied consistent branding across all platforms, have made direct links to each available on their homepage, but are even more active and engaging in their approach.CHEO posts a number of new videos each month to their YouTube channel, on a variety of topics, ranging from health talks, to parent experience interviews, to celebrity fundraisers.
On Twitter and Facebook, they are responding regularly to questions about hospital wait times and flu clinic dates, they are posting images from their family New Year’s party, responding in gratitude to parents who comment on their exceptional services, and are even able to help you find a lost cell phone on Boxing Day.
There is no question that these two organizations are implementing what appear to be successful social media strategies. They are clearly motivated to maintain lasting relationships within the community, following up on children’s progress, and showing a genuine concern for both the business and personal side of their operations.
Weak Organization: Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada
At first glance, Children’s Wish appears to be fully engaged in online activities. They have a website, produce videos, and they have a Facebook page and Twitter presence, as well as a YouTube channel. However, upon closer inspection, none of these activities appear to be coordinated at all. The organization does not appear to have any formal social media strategy in place, and their online efforts are completely disjointed. It would appear that provincial, local, and national offices are operating in silos with little coordination.
The national website is divided into provincial chapters, and upon exploration of the Ontario site, there is no evidence of a social media presence at all. The three videos embedded on their homepage (some over three years old) do not link to the organization’s single national YouTube channel. Furthermore, the organization has only produced 17 videos in the last six years, and has a poor showing of only 70 subscribers; which isn’t surprising since the only way to find the channel is to manually search for it. The organization would benefit from posting not just scripted videos, but also candid videos of wish reveals.
The organization has a Facebook page governed by the National Capital chapter, which is again counterintuitive given that the website is divided into provincial chapters. Although there are others, such as Newfoundland and Labrador, that also host their own pages. While the national Children’s Wish has a strong Twitter following of over 7,500 followers, there are other Twitter presences for some, but not all, provinces. It is unclear which accounts interested parties should follow, and where to direct attention.
This organization, like the others, depends on fundraising and donations to proceed. Their subject matter is gripping and lends itself to engagement with the community. An organization such as Children’s Wish could build long-term, lasting relationships through social media engagement. First and foremost, the organization would benefit from a national strategic social media strategy, with clear direction on implementation at the provincial, and if needed, at the local levels. Measures need to be put in place to ensure consistent messaging for the organization across platforms and throughout the country.