The Prem Rawat Foundation’s successful social media campaigns
Posted Dec 16, 2010 by Jen Burton
Guest blogger Steve Kowarsky is the volunteer who coordinates The Prem Rawat Foundation’s social media presence. A long time admirer of TPRF’s founder, Steve shares his passion and welcomes the opportunity to help. Steve’s aptitude for his social media work with TPRF is rooted in his long professional experience in software and telecommunications, including both technical and marketing roles.
The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF) supports the vision of its founder, Prem Rawat, to help people everywhere live with dignity, peace, and prosperity. Travelling ceaselessly to every part of the world, meeting and talking with people of every ethnic, cultural, social, and economic background, Prem Rawat encounters many who need help with basic necessities – clean water and nutritious food. As he said, “Our objective is to help people through the rough times without interfering with the beautiful things that exist in their culture, their beliefs, or their religion. When we offer a hand of help, it is on equal ground, with respect for each person as a human being.”
Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent evaluator of charities, has recognized TPRF with its highest four-star rating.
Food for People is one expression of his vision and his wish to help, a program that provides nutritious hot meals to school children in a bright, comfortable environment.
The facilities are planned in close cooperation with local leaders to offer menus consistent with local dietary practices and preferences, respect the structure of community institutions, employ local people, and contribute to the local economy. Two such facilities are in operation now, one in India and one Nepal, and a third will open in Ghana next year.
The success of this model program is something to celebrate: adults are working more productively, families are beginning to support themselves, and children are better able to receive an education that will help the entire community in the future.
The Social Media History
TPRF was founded in 2001, and has been focusing on a social media presence for about a year. The catalyst was the America’s Giving Challenge of 2009, which came to TPRF’s attention right around the time it was launched. TPRF needed a little reaction time to consider its social media position. When the Cause TPRF: Food for People was started, there were only 14 days left in the 30-day Challenge. Nevertheless, the Cause finished second overall, and first in the total amount raised, about $215,000 before the Challenge winnings. 4,844 individual donors made 11,981 individual donations to reach this goal.
TPRF was able to accomplish this because of its “social capital” – a substantial and reasonably well-wired global constituency of enthusiastic supporters, and a variety of formal and informal ways of reaching out to them. As they learned about the Challenge, TPRF supporters were stimulated by its competitive excitement, and they rallied around the adventure. It was great fun—really great fun—for all who participated, and a great boost to the Food for People program.
TPRF has raised about $100,000 more in this Cause in the past year, through a combination of general fundraising and focused campaigns for disaster relief in Haiti, Chile, and Pakistan (rapid response to emergency situations via carefully selected local entities is another focus of the foundation). To complement Causes bulletins, TPRF promotes these efforts through its Facebook page, about 5,000 members, and its internal mailing list of about 18,000. These probably comprise TPRF’s most enthusiastic and committed supporters. But for sheer numbers, the viral nature of the Cause’s growth has been stunning. At the end of the Challenge last year, the Cause had about 4,200 members. Today it has almost 350,000 members, and it grows by 1,000 or more new members every day.
The Social Media Challenge
TPRF’s challenge now is to increase the level of engagement of its many Cause members. A recently launched blog about Food for People and about the developments in Ghana aims to enhance its supporters’ sense of participation with a real window into the process of setting up a Food for People program and with down-to-earth insight about the community it will serve.
The next logical step is broader practical participation. With 350,000 members, it’s natural for TPRF to think about how much could be accomplished “if every member gave just $10.” TPRF would like to make that fantasy a reality. To emphasize the power of global teamwork, TPRF’s December Campaign allows ONLY $10 contributions. Since most fundraising campaigns rely heavily on a few large donors, this sounds a bit crazy, and it might be crazy, but the vision and passion behind it are sincere. The hope is that Cause members will find it intriguing. The spirit is one of experiment: “Let’s find out what we can do together.”
In its welcome message to new members, TPRF asks people to opt in to receiving email from Causes. It seems to work, because about 2/3 of the members do opt in. An email bulletin to the Cause goes to about 220,000 people. About two bulletins per week have been sent in the Campaign since the December 2 launch.
The number of clicks generated is roughly 500 per bulletin. As this is being written, we are closing in on 1,000 donations of $10 each. Hopefully, by the time you read this, we will be past that milestone.
That is a start. TPRF is sticking to its “impossible dream” of tens of thousands of $10 contributions from among its 350,000 Cause members. The frequency of bulletins will increase. Bulletin style will vary. A light touch and an emphasis on inspiration are essential. The bulletin most effective so far in generating contributions was a personal one with the poetic theme of “Light Your Candle.”
The outcome of this experiment in social media engagement is to be seen, but one thing is certain: however large or small the proceeds of the campaign may be, they will be used with great care and for a great purpose – to bring practical help and positive hope into the lives of children and their communities.