Residents Vote by the Thousands in Facebook Charitable
Giving Contests Sponsored by Bank of Ann Arbor
Back in 2011, the Bank of Ann Arbor, Michigan, decided to try out the idea of using social media contests in connection
with charitable-giving campaigns. No other bank in the region
had used such an approach before, and the bank felt that the
contest would not only generate a lot of excitement but would
also make the bank stand out.
The first effort was entitled the Sweet 15 Charity Drive. The
bank offered to divide up a $75,000 donation among 15 local
nonprofits. Residents had to vote on which of 600 local nonprofits
would receive the money. To vote, residents went to the bank’s
Facebook page and used an app located there.
The voting was cut off after two weeks, and the 15 winners
were placed on the site and residents were invited to participate
in a second round of two-week voting. Voting was interactive
because, in order to vote, the resident had to respond to a contest
question involving the number “ 15.” For example, the voter might
be asked to describe in one word what it felt like to be 15 years old.
Responses were retained by the app and could be viewed by others.
Nonprofits receiving the largest number of votes were awarded a
larger share of the money. The top vote getter received $10,000.
To promote the campaign, the bank sent letters in advance
to all of the 600 nonprofits and asked them to encourage their
supporters to participate in the voting. The bank also put up
promotional materials in branches and asked all bank employees
to spread the word. Most of the promotion was done by word-
of-mouth and not by paid advertising. Astonishingly, the contest
generated more than 113,000 votes.
The contest resulted in a huge increase in viewership of the
bank’s Facebook site, with the number of fans leaping from 1,000
to 16,000 in four weeks.
Encouraged by the success of this initial effort, Ann Arbor
Bank launched similar contests in the following two years. In
2013, the bank targeted its giving to creative arts programs in
local schools—offering to give $3,000 each to 12 winning schools
through a contest called, “jumpstARTS.”
Again, most of the promotion involved sending letters to
the schools and educating bank employees about the campaign.
Information about the campaign was seen by 170,000 Facebook
users, who cast over 47,300 votes. And, the campaign boosted
the number of the bank’s Facebook fans by an additional 2,000.
Two best practices: Make the promised donation large enough
that recipients will be motivated to compete for it and involve as
many bank employees as possible so that they will promote the
campaign by word-of-mouth.
Take an integrated approach to the marketing of the contest:
m;Use consistent graphics in all the media you use.
m;Make sure the visuals work online and offline.
m;Use a consistent hashtag to make people feel part of a bigger
Monitor and respond. Yes, you will need to give more attention to your Facebook page during the contest. Monitoring
doesn’t need to be 24-hours-a-day but should extend beyond
work hours. Squelch inappropriate posts immediately. Do not
hesitate to block or ban users who are abusing the attention
the page is getting during the contest. Take the time to “Like”
comments, chat back and have fun. Remember that one of the
purposes of this activity is to create engagement and excitement.
Your team needs to have a part in that.
Don’t stop promotion when the contest closes. Keep the
excitement going as you present the winners with their awards.
Let the fans see the real, tangible results of their efforts. Post
photos of award ceremonies on social media so that fans can
celebrate together. And, of course, send media releases announcing the winners.
Conducting a social media giving contest can increase your
bank’s followers (fans), generate excitement on your page, create awareness for local nonprofits and foster pride among your
employees. And it might even bring in a few new accounts—as
nonprofits, businesses and individuals recognize the value of
your commitment to their community. n
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
RHONDA FOXWORTH, with Plaid Fox Marketing, is the
former vice president and marketing manager of Bank
of Ann Arbor. Telephone: (734) 717-5176; email: rhonda@
This shows an advertisement for
Ann Arbor Bank’s Facebook contest
entitled “jumpstARTS,” which
allowed residents to vote on which
public schools would receive grants
for their creative arts programs