How do you get a community to take immediate social action when you have just a handful of minutes onstage?
This question doesn’t get asked often — or sound plausible — because most organizations have created an imaginary line between things that happen in ‘real life’ and things that happen in ‘digital life.’ At conferences, keynote speakers make their pitch for social action and hope, against the odds, that attendees will remember to donate to causes or email their lawmakers later.
Box — a cloud-based content management platform — offers a compelling example of how brand activism can create immediate social impact that closes the real-digital divide. At its annual BoxWorks user conference in August, a Box executive drove about 3,000 attendees to Box’s online impact center, which featured three partner nonprofits aligned with the company’s social mission.
The backdrop: Empowering nonprofits with technology
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Box launched Box.org in early 2014 to lead the company’s social impact work. In total, Box.org has partnered with and built capacity for more than 7,000 nonprofits. These partnerships provide nonprofits donated or subsidized access to Box technology, volunteer support, charitable donations, advocacy and other forms of capacity-building support (nonprofits can apply for donated or discounted access to Box cloud content management at www.box.org!).
One goal of BoxWorks, Box’s large annual customer event, is to highlight and support select Box.org partners. For 2018, BoxWorks focused on three partners: International Rescue Committee (IRC), Think of Us, and Black Girls Code. These organizations depend on donations to carry out large-scale, complex missions.
IRC, for instance, is working to help more than 68.5 million displaced people rebuild their lives in the wake of conflicts and disasters. Think of Us aims to serve 450,000 US foster youth through digital mentorship and coaching programs. Black Girls Code seeks to train 1 million African-American girls in STEM disciplines by 2040.
In addition to supporting these nonprofits with technology, Box.org wanted to use the BoxWorks platform and 9,000 BoxWorks attendees from the Box community to help with fundraising and advocate engagement. The question was, how would they accomplish that during a live event?
Since 2014, Phone2Action has helped organizations spark real-time social action around timely ongoing social and political issues, and at events such as trade and professional association conventions. Individual campaigns can generate thousands of emails, social posts and phone calls to lawmakers, connecting attendees to policymakers in real-time so they can participate in the civic process. When Box.org connected with us about BoxWorks, we thought: Why not apply the same tactics to fundraising?
Together, Phone2Action and Box.org built the Box.org Impact Center, a place where the Box community can learn about featured nonprofits, make donations and tell lawmakers about their causes. Text messaging — a technology common to every mobile phone — is the bridge to this impact center. BoxWorks attendees could text “Box” to 52886 to bring up the impact center on any web-enabled phone.
On the backend, Phone2Action integrated this Impact Center with Classy and other fundraising technologies used by their nonprofit partners. Donors electing to “DONATE” to Think of Us were taken to the following Classy campaign page:
“We want to activate the power of the collective”
Jeetu Patel, Box’s Chief Product Officer, took the honor of introducing the Box.org campaign and its three nonprofit partners. During his keynote speech on August 30, Patel welcomed onstage Em Fackler, Chief Information Officer at IRC, to speak about its mission.
After Fackler’s speech, with the audience’s emotional engagement and attention at a peak, Patel said, “We want to activate the power of the collective.”
He went on, “We have an ask: When you text ‘Box’ to 52886, you can donate to any one of the charitable causes.”
He reinforced the ease of action and steps to do it. “Just type in ‘Box,’ and you’ll get a link and be able to donate to your cause, or ideally all three … Whatever you want to donate, do something!”
Before the end of the conference, about 3,000 individuals had visited the Box.org Impact Center; hundreds made an average donation of about $100. 66 percent of the donations were made within 120 seconds of Patel’s appeal.
What worked and why
Effectively, in return for investing 15 minutes of a keynote speech and adding a link and activity feed reminders to its conference app, Box.org raised $30,000 for its nonprofit partners. The company ran a practical, powerful campaign. But most importantly, it demonstrated how organizations like Box can help millions of nonprofits in the US and beyond scale awareness and supporter acquisition through technology.
First, Box gathered its community in one place — the BoxWorks conference. Second, it set up a toolkit for channeling community engagement into digital social action. Third, it raised awareness of partner causes that this community could get behind. Finally, it made a live appeal to the Box community, which, through the toolkit, made an exceptional number of donations in a matter of minutes.
This process sounds so obvious, but it’s rare! Of all the on-demand, one-tap technologies at our hands, few are designed for brand activism and fundraising. In this case, blending Phone2Action and Classy gave Box.org and its community a quick, frictionless way to make a difference.
Notice how the gap closed between ‘real life’ — a conference where people mingle, learn and speak — and ‘digital life’ — the place where people transact, advocate and scale awareness. Closing that gap should be a prime goal of all brand activists. Cheers to Box.org for showing us the way.