MINDDRIVE, a Kansas City program for at-risk teens, was created to combat rising high school dropout rates. It worked, but no one outside of Kansas City knew about it. So we built a car powered by social media and got the whole world talking about education reform. We knew the very nature of social media made it an obvious platform for us to utilize. Plus, the minimal effort involved would appeal to the casual philanthropist, hopefully sparking enough conversation to attract the hard-core one we really wanted. Creative Idea: A tweet-powered Car So we built and installed a special device in the students’ newly converted 1967 Karmann Ghia that turned social media activity into watts and acted as a fuel gauge. Which meant that before the car could move, people would have to spread the word about MINDDRIVE. Then, we planned a trip for the students to drive the car from Kansas City to Washington D.C. in hopes of discussing education reform with lawmakers. But they couldn’t get there if people weren’t tweeting, posting, hashtagging, watching or liking MINDDRIVE. We called it Social Fuel. In all, the students would need 71,040 social watts to make the trip. But we knew people weren’t magically going to start talking about MINDDRIVE. So, to drive conversation we: • Created a “plea video" that introduced the country to the MINDDRIVE program. In it, the students asked for a simple like, tweet or post to help them get from KC to D.C. Even watching the video added social fuel to their tank. • Seeded the video through MINDDRIVE’s YouTube channel, Facebook page, Twitter feed and a landing page: http://minddrive.org/social-fuel-tour-2013/ • Sent the video to a few local and national media contacts and invited them to attend a press conference to kick off the trip in Kansas City. • Leveraged MINDDRIVE’s corporate sponsors’ social sites to promote the message • Set up preplanned events in several cities between Kansas City and Washington, D.C., and invited local press to attend. The campaign caught worldwide media attention right away and stories started showing up as far as India, Finland and Kazakhstan. In all, 481 news outlets around the world picked it up, leading to nearly half a billion earned media impressions. Even Richard Branson tweeted and blogged about the program. The students not only made it to DC, they had enough social fuel to complete the journey seven times. They were also invited to make their case for more experiential learning programs like MINDDRIVE at an official congressional briefing. More importantly, the MINDDRIVE story reached the right people. Thanks to this worldwide exposure, philanthropists in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, as well as Sydney, Australia are opening new MINDDRIVE programs in their cities.After subsequent years of achieving a 100 percent graduation rate and seeing more than 80 percent of their students go on to earn secondary educations, MINDDRIVE’S founders realized they had something that could make a real impact on the education system. But it would have to exist in more places than just Kansas City to do it. So our goal wasn’t to increase donations or get more volunteers, it was to inspire like-minded people to open MINDDRIVE programs in their own cities. A successful program no one knew about Few in Kansas City had ever even heard of MINDDRIVE, let alone the rest of the country. There are more than 1 million charitable organizations vying for the spotlight and the ones people know are they ones they trust. With long-established, billion-dollar organizations such as Boys and Girls Club and City Year committed to solving the same problem as MINDDRIVE, getting attention wasn’t going to be easy. A target that’s a needle in a haystack Not only did our target not know about MINDDRIVE, we didn’t know much about them. We knew they were out there, but we didn’t know how many there were or how to reach them. While 88 percent of Americans donate cash or goods to causes6, far fewer volunteer their time, and even less are willing to actually run a philanthropic organization. These were people with a passion not only for education and helping at-risk youth, but also cars and sustainable energy. And, on top of that, had the resources, in both time and money, to take on this kind of venture. They aren’t afraid to take risks when something inspires them. If MINDDRIVE was going to make any real impact on the education system, there were two things that had to happen: 1. Make people aware it exists Prior to this campaign, MINDDRIVE had only 1,396 social interactions across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and three national media placements7. We knew that if we were going to reach our objective of expanding the program, awareness was crucial. So we set lofty goals to amplify MINDDRIVE’s social presence to 26,000 interactions and get three to five new local/national media placements over the one-month run of the campaign. 2. Expand the program nationally Previously, MINDDRIVE’s main focus was keeping the program viable in Kansas City and continuing to generate funding to stay operational. Our goal for this campaign, though it may seem small, was actually quite ambitious—generating at least one new MINDDRIVE location in the United States. We utilized MINDDRIVE’s social channels, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to seed the video, promote the message and keep followers updated on the trip and how much fuel was still needed. The Minddrive.org website served as the central hub for the campaign, aggregating social activity and tracking trip progress and social fuel levels. The Social Fuel campaign, over a period of one month, took MINDDRIVE from unheard of to the subject of a worldwide conversation. Objective 1: Make people aware MINDDRIVE exists • The campaign was covered by 481 news outlets worldwide8, including Mashable, HLN, Forbes, CNN, The Chicago Tribune, WIRED and Huffington Post. Stories showed up as far as India, Finland and Kazakhstan. This blew our goal of three to five local/national placements completely out of the water. • Prominent government official Nancy Pelosi retweeted MINDDRIVE’s tweet • Virgin founder and business magnate Sir Richard Branson retweeted and posted the MINDDRIVE plea video on his personal blog • Thousands of inspired people tweeted and posted about MINDDRIVE, helping us exceed our social interaction goals by 400% • In its one-month run, the campaign generated 434,000,000 earned media impressions. • All the social activity resulted in 800 percent10 more social watts than were needed to make the trip to D.C. In fact, the students could have driven all the way to the Arctic Circle and back. What’s more, when the students arrived in the city they were met by government officials and invited to tell their story in an official congressional briefing. Objective 2: Expand the program nationally. • As a direct result of the campaign, there are now six new MINDDRIVE programs opening not only in the U.S., but around the world. Next year, it will be helping students in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas and Melbourne, Australia. Why are these results significant? We got the entire world talking about an unknown Kansas City-based nonprofit. Compared to giants such as Boys and Girls Club and City Year, MINDDRIVE is minute. And without a single dollar spent on paid media, we were able to make MINDDRIVE the subject of a worldwide conversation. Chipping away at the national dropout rate. MINDDRIVE’s ultimate goal is to reform the education system and reduce the national dropout rate. Last year, 12 students on the brink of dropping out earned their diploma as a result of the program. Because of the success of this campaign, they’ll be able to increase that number by 600 percent next year alone.
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