Social media newbies go online to protect the boobies!

Many of us loves boobs. There is certainly no shortage of boobs online, but they are often used for a good cause. Fortunately, the Avon Foundation is using the Internet to save them.

The Avon Foundation for Women is a major supporter of breast cancer and has distributed more than $860 million to programs around the world that support both research and access to care. A major component of its fundraising efforts are the Avon Walks, two-day, 39-mile walkathons that take place around the country.

These events bring together thousands of women and their supporters and raise millions of dollars. This past weekend at the walk in Santa Barbara, 1,700 participants collectively brought in $4.7 million. The only pre-requisite for signing up, aside from a dedication to the cause, is walkers must raise a minimum of $1,800.

For many, the financial challenge is more daunting than the walk itself.

“One of the barriers for people to participate is the worry that they can’t raise the money, especially for people who have never fundraised before,” said program director Eloise Caggiano. “By making it super-easy for them to do the fundraising using our website, apps, and social media, we can alleviate some of their fears. We do anything we can do break down these obstacles.”

The foundation has come a long way in the past couple years with regard to social media. Based on demand from consumers and participants, the organization began using technology to engage more with their community. Walkers can easily register online or from their smart phone. The Avon Walk application for the iPhone enables fundraising on the go. People can also use these tools track their fundraising progress, reach out to donors, and send “thank you” messages.

Avon has also partnered with Runtastic to create a pedometer app that monitors steps, distance, and speed during preparatory walks. People in training can post progress updates on their social networks, conveniently next to a “Donate Now” button. 

A huge number of participants use their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts as part of their individual fundraising efforts. The Avon Walk Facebook page itself has 50,000 fans and is full of shared stories, photos, and videos to digitally communicate the experience of the walk. Caggiano said the capability to see in advance what the walk is like is comforting to women who are nervous and is also encouraging for those on the fence about signing up.

“The more we can get the word out there, the better,” she said. “Keeping up with the times is an important element in that. If we keep printing out brochures and putting them in snail mail when everyone else is online, then we aren’t being very smart. We want as many people to know about the good work as possible, and for people to feel comfortable with who we are and what we do.”

The Avon Foundation also uses their enhanced online and mobile presence to keep supporters in the loop about there their money is actually going. Avon provides donations to a variety of causes, and a feature on the site shares the real-world impact of the dollars.

Michael Spatz turned his social media power into $11,000. Spatz lost his mother to breast cancer and knew multiple friends who also struggled with the disease. He felt helpless and wanted to take action, so he signed up for the Avon Walk.

“As a guy, I don’t know what is going on inside a woman’s body,” he said. “As you get older, things start to happen to the people you love and care about. It is a harsh reality. This is what I was able to do, and I did it all to social media, emailing and Twitter.”

Spatz began his fundraising efforts online. He created T-shirts with cute slogans on them like “Viva La Boobies” and posted to his Facebook that anyone who contributed $20 would get a free shirt. His efforts spiraled. Soon, he had hundreds of requests for T-shirts coming in and people sending thousands of dollars in checks. He completed his fundraising within a month.

The walks are examples of events where the journey is just as significant as the destination. People spend months fundraising, training, and raising awareness their efforts and this pervasive disease. While technology is useful for fundraising, one of its most powerful effects has been the capability to connect women all over the country, before, during, and after the events.

Participants are able to reach out to a wider audience, including people from around the world or those they have lost touch with. On platforms like MyBreastCancerTeam, women facing the disease can find a protected, nurturing, safe support network. The internet offers opportunities, not only to raise money but to also meaningfully rally around a cause in an online environment.

In this case, the cause is to Save the Ta-Tas!


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