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Social media helps United Way campaign
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United Way of Central Kansas Executive Director Julie Bugner Smith reported Thursday that the 2102 campaign has surpassed the 80 percent mark. The goal for the drive, which started in November, is $235,000. Smith hopes to wrap the effort up by late January.
“I feel really good about this campaign,” Smith said, adding she believes the residents are beginning to understand that most of the funds raised stay local. Also, the annual event is bringing more awareness to the agencies.
The UWCK raises money to support 21 agencies in Barton and Pawnee counties. These include:
• The American Red Cross
• Barton County Youth Care
• Barton County Young  Men’s Organization
• Big Brothers/Big Sisters
• Boy Scouts of America
• Caring Hands Daycare Center
• Catholic Social Services
• Central Kansas CASA, Inc.
• Child Abuse Protection Education
• ElderCare
• Ellinwood Heritage Center
• Family Crisis Center
• Girl Scouts of Central Kansas
• Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice
• Great Bend Children’s Learning Center
• Meals on Wheels
• Ourselves and Our Families (Coalition for the Prevention of Child Abuse)
• Salvation Army
• Teen Court
• United Cerebral Palsy
For more info, contact the United Way office at 620-792-2403 or go online to

Although officially on vacation, United Way of Central Kansas Executive Director Julie Bugner Smith sat in her office Thursday morning catching up on the pile of work created by the holidays. However, even though the season has caused much of the door-to-door fundraising to grind to a halt, UWCK remains on track to meet its $235,000 goal, due in large part to the increased use of social media.
“Social media has largely changed the way people communicate with one another,” Smith said. People can now instantly share thoughts and opinions with donors, volunteers, representatives of the 21 agencies UWCK serves or people on the other side of the globe.
The prevalence of social media has also made it easier for charities to share a mission statement or message – like a call to volunteer or submit a donation, Smith said. “It’s vital.”
The global reach of social media is impressive. Sources including Google, Mac World, Socialnomics and Pingdom cite some statistics with regard to the reach of social media, including:
• One in every nine people on Earth is on Facebook.
• People spend 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook.
• YouTube has generated 450 million unique users who visit every month. The site also boasts 92 billion page views per month.
• Twitter handles around 190 million tweets per day.
• Google+ was the fastest social network to reach 10 million, doing so in just 16 days.
• During an average 20-minute period registered in 2010 on Facebook, there were 580,000 wall posts, 2,716,000 photos uploaded and 10,208,000 comments posted.
While individuals do not necessarily use social media to research nonprofit organizations or make donations, social media is an effective and low-cost method for soliciting people for volunteerism and even fundraising, Smith said. People also turn to social media sites to find out information about the efforts of certain charitable organizations or to hear more from people who benefited from an organization’s services or actions.
“It’s just very important to get the word out,” Smith said. When she took over the UW job three years ago, there wasn’t even a website.
To enable information flow to people via social media, nonprofits must create a social media presence. One of the easiest ways to do so is to start a Facebook fan page or establish a Twitter following. Because people may become annoyed by organizations that constantly try to push products or solicit donations via social media, it is important to balance out the content shared with fans.
Now, UWCK utilizes its web presence, Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.
Keep the ratio close to 80/20, which means there should be 80 percent of generic informative information offered with 20 percent of donation/volunteerism messaging. To keep people coming back for more, you will need to engage them on a level that goes beyond simply asking for help.
Social media experts advise that organizations publish information on topics that are interesting, some of which pertains to the charitable organization itself and some that is just newsworthy. People are very interested in the personal stories of “survivors” or those helped by organizations. Offering testimonials or tales from these people will lend credibility to your nonprofit as well.
Social media also helps to make anyone who is using it feel more connected on a personal level than a corporate website or an information hotline. It may reduce inhibitions about contacting a charity if it seems like the organization’s members are willing to “chat” via social media. Experts advise that charities should use social networks as a way to connect with users through real stories, conversations and interactions.
 Nonprofits and other organizations should not overlook the effectiveness of social media to share a special message in a relatively short amount of time with people around the world. 
But, there are down sides, Smith said. “You have to keep it updated,” and this can be time consuming.
Even with the digital media, she said there is still a need for the old-school methods. “You still need your basics.”