Trends, like horses, are easier to ride in the direction they are going. – John Naisbitt, author and futurist.

Boy, did we have a great ride in 2016!   It was THE year for Influencer and Content Marketing. From Forbes to CBS, the Content Marketing Institute to even us at Catalist – 2016 predictions around these super trends were abundant, vast and turned out to be a tangible reality for companies and causes alike. Below are a few stand out examples that not only illustrate how these staple marketing tactics are infiltrating the nonprofit world – but more importantly, how nonprofits have leveraged these trends to increase fundraising dollars from individuals and corporations.


Did You Know? 

The average nonprofit has a network reach of 40 million when social influencers are accounted for.1

M&M’s Red Nose Day Campaign

M&M’s decided to apply their existing Influencer Marketing campaigns to charity. They partnered with Comic Relief, a major UK foundation that raises money to lift people out of poverty, to help bring the charity’s Red Nose Day campaign to the US. Red Nose Day specifically focuses on fundraising for kids who suffer from poverty by pulling in celebrity and social influencers to raise money through sketches, songs and other performances. To date, Red Nose Day has raised more than $1 billion globally for Comic Relief.

M&Ms paired with comedians such as Wayne Brady and Jay Pharoah and social influencers, bloggers and YouTube stars like Jack Baran (@thatsojack) and Ricky Dillon to create and share entertaining videos to their own audiences.

The results were huge: The hashtag #MakeMLaugh was used more than 78,000 times with 2.9 million engagements. And the money matched that: through their influencers’ social reach, M&M’s raised more than $1.2 million in donations to the Red Nose Day fund.

UC – Berkeley’s Big Give

The University of California, Berkeley leveraged several social media platforms and other social listening tools to identify groups of constituents they could nurture through content over time. Because of the relationship they built with their influencer base, the University hosted a 24-hour fundraising campaign, Big Give, that through social media yielded over $11 million in donations. A large key to the success was their Social Media Ambassador Program:


Did You Know?

76% of nonprofit organizations use content marketing to engage target audiences.2

Best Friends Animal Society

The Best Friends Animal Society is an organization that helps to place dogs and cats that people consider “unadoptable” into loving homes. Their newest endeavor, the Invisible Dogs Campaign, has a goal of finding every pet a home. Best Friends Animal Society employed the power of user-generated content, easily created through and iPhone and Android mobile app, to do this. My Dog ID allows you to take pictures of yourself, and then uses facial recognition to find your dog match for you. The app encourages users to share their photo matches on Twitter, Facebook, and also on Best Friend’s user-generated Dog Wall.

Best Friends Animal Society truly mobilized those who were passionate about their cause by giving them engaging and entertaining opportunities. They made their organization easily searchable by using the same hashtag, provided a location for people to write their own personal testimonials about their experiences with the Best Friend Society, and by providing people with the option to donate online, received 1,758 online donations.

The Awkward Conversations Project

The UK Department of Health co-created content with ten talented YouTube video bloggers in a campaign called The Awkward Conversations Project that engaged millions of young teens on important but awkward health issues. By giving them the confidence to talk about these issues, they:

  • Produced 10 videos watched nearly 4M times and were featured on YouTube Top 50 most liked
  • Achieved 135,707 YouTube likes
  • Received a 7.4% click-through rate

At Catalist, we’ve dubbed Influencer Identification and Content Marketing as “Super Trends”, because they are even more necessary and prevalent for profit/purpose partnerships in 2017.  So, how can you maintain the momentum and bring these Super Trends from “like-to-haves” to “must-haves” in your own organization?

For Influencer Identification…

  1. Simply…Invest in Influencer Identification.

There are very affordable solutions for nonprofits to identify a variety of influencers – from social to celebrity, bloggers to YouTube stars. Allocating a small investment toward finding your influencers will pay off in spades for your marketing and development teams.

  1. Think of Influencers as a High Commodity.

Influencers should be considered an extension of your constituency base. They are as valuable as your major donors, and potentially even more influential in the long-run. Cultivate them, steward them and recognize their support.

  1. Activate Influencers When Appropriate.

Given how valuable influencers can be, you only want to activate them when appropriately balanced against revenue. Consider varying levels of influencer activation that could be available to many of your partners, based on their level of giving.

For Content Marketing…

  1. Talk With Your Marketing Department.

Your marketing department may have a content marketing strategy – or at least informal content they are publishing every day. Open a dialogue with your marketing counterparts to see what content resources you already have at your disposal, and what is planned for the future.

  1. Discuss What Is Important To Your Partners.

Most corporations are looking for authentic content from their nonprofit partners that they can help distribute and amplify. Feel empowered to proactively ask them what type of content works best for their channels, customer base and social constituents.

  1. Define Parameters For Leveraging Your Content.

With the varying forms of content available, think through how and when you will leverage your content portfolio for corporate partner activation. Take audit of what’s your least and most valuable content, and proactively define parameters for its use.

As I wrote last year on this topic:  If content is your golden ticket, people are your main attraction.  Cheers to 2017…the year for more content and influential people that can make it come to life!

Sources:, “How to Identify and Engage Your Influencers”; 2015
2.2016 Nonprofit Content Marketing, Content Marketing Institute/Blackbaud