Photos and Gratitude: Tips for Social Media Success from The Wishing Well
Using Social Media to Build the Donor Community
On a recent December afternoon, The Wishing Well founder, Erika Thompson, and her parents, cleaned up after a group of 35 volunteers from a local Air Force unit had helped paint a newly acquired warehouse space, connected to their existing storefront. As they worked, a woman came in, asking about a twin-size bed frame she heard might be available. A young girl and her mother shopped racks of clothes organized by age group, size, and style. Another family walked out carrying pillow cases filled with their new wares. Volunteers folded clothes. Shelves lined with dozens of labeled plastic bins held shoes, socks, underwear, and other basics, all dedicated to helping families welcoming foster children.
In fact, it’s something Erika built largely thanks to a Facebook page.
With the buzz of activity and abundance of resources, you might think this was a bustling business with a huge staff and infrastructure. In fact, it’s something Erika built largely thanks to a Facebook page.
Tips for Social Media Success from The Wishing Well
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help
“I get a lot more activity on requests than I do for just regular updates” At first, I felt a lot guilt like people would be thinking why would I start something like this if I couldn’t keep it funded or provide all the supplies, but now I know people really want to give, so I have no problem asking. Whatever your niche is, you’ll find people that want to help you.”
• Be as specific as possible
“I used to think I shouldn’t tell people what we wanted because I wanted them to give what they want to give, but I realized when I go to a potluck its way easier when they just tell me they need me to bring a dip than when I have to decide what to make, and people like me to do that on here too.” “For Black Friday, I put out a list of items we needed most and including exact sizes and we got a great response.”
• Utilize tagging to increase the amount of people who see it
“When I tag a person or an organization then it pops up on their page and more people see it and click on our page and see what we’re doing. Our friends help out a lot too because if I put out a request, people tag their friends and ask if they have any of the items and then those people look us up. It just cycles and keeps growing.”
• Take lots of pictures
“You can’t put foster children’s pictures on the page, but I’ll take photos from the back when stuff goes out and people will comment like, ‘oh there’s that blanket so and so made, or there’s the backpack I donated…’ so it helps people feel more connected when they see where their donations are going.”
• Send Gratitude posts
“We got 500 pairs of pajamas from Carters I take a picture of them, tag the company and send out a gratitude post right away… or even on smaller stuff like this Dr. Seuss blanket, I know someone put a lot of time into making it, so when I so it goes out I’ll make sure to post a photo and let them know how much the child appreciated it.”
• Get on Community Pages
“I’m on a lot of community pages like Be Neighborly Puyallup or Buy Nothing Puyallup, so when people post stuff like ‘Hey, where does everybody donate gently used clothes?’ I’ll tag my page and people will be like, ‘Oh wow thanks for sharing I’ve never heard of this before.’ Then suddenly you get a bunch of new likes from people you didn’t know before and you’ve brought a whole new group into your community.”
How The Wishing Well Facebook Community Grew
Over the past ten years, Erika and her husband, Brent, have welcomed more than 100 foster children into their home. Like most foster care parents, they received money from the state to help support the kids’ needs. Those funds often didn’t come until several weeks after the children arrived, though. Many times, the check fell short of what they needed to buy for the kids. As a result, Erika and Brent often spent a significant amount out of their own pockets.
While Erika and Brent could handle the expense, they recognized those costs could be a significant burden to other families hosting foster kids. Erika wanted to do something to help, so she decided to start The Wishing Well, a place where foster families could get clothing and other supplies for kids in need.
Erika started The Wishing Well in 2011, when Facebook was growing rapidly. To get the word out, Erika created a group page on Facebook. The social media community began to build quickly. When Erika began sharing the real experiences of foster care kids in Pierce County, the page really took off.
One night in particular, Erika was overwhelmed by a message she received from the DSHS placement desk. It said 15 kids were at the office that night waiting for someone to take them. She shared the message on her Facebook page with the post: “Have I mentioned that I dislike Friday nights for one particular reason? This post from the DSHS desk tonight hurt my heart!” Within a matter of hours the post received thousands of shares, and offers of support and donations began rolling in.
She shared the message on her Facebook page with the post: “Have I mentioned that I dislike Friday nights for one particular reason? This post from the DSHS desk tonight hurt my heart!” Within a matter of hours the post received thousands of shares, and offers of support and donations began rolling in.
The Wishing Well’s Facebook page has become the core of Erika’s communication strategy. If you ask her about her website, she’ll admit it needs work. She says it’s hard to justify spending the time and effort on her website when thousands of people are engaging immediately on Facebook. The members of her social media community have provided everything Erika has asked for to help these foster families.
Erika received a Strengthening Pierce County grant this year from Greater Tacoma Community Foundation. Strengthening Pierce County grants are general operating support funds. These flexible funds are designed to bolster smaller nonprofits who are addressing critical issues to sustain and build a stronger Pierce County.
Our goal is to support organizations with clear mission and programmatic alignment, who learn from their constituents, participate in field building activities, assess their impact, and share Greater Tacoma Community Foundation’s values.
The Final Round of Strengthening Pierce County Grants is Now Open for Applications –
Deadline Friday, January 19, 2018 4:00 PM
Greater Tacoma Community Foundation is dedicated to capacity-building, fostering peer learning among nonprofit organizations, and sharing best practices for a stronger Pierce County.
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