Selfless Selfies: How Nonprofits Are Using Them for Social Good

Despite distinct differences between nonprofits and traditional businesses, one thing remains the same: the desire to attract followers who are genuinely interested in a product or service. Much like global brands, many nonprofit organizations are turning to social media, even adopting popular trends, to spread their messages.

One such trend is selfies. Over the last year, what many thought was just a passing fad has actually proven to be a valuable marketing tactic, with both businesses and consumers taking part. Selfies are being worked into successful campaigns across industries, but how does a nonprofit — which values selflessness — incorporate something so self-centered?

Here are three inspiring examples of nonprofits using selfies for social good.

Made Man and Career Gear

Through its inaugural campaign “Gentleman Up,” Made Man (owned by Defy Media) aimed to educate and improve the lives of its readers while supporting a leading men’s nonprofit organization, Career Gear.

As part of the campaign, which took place on Nov. 7, readers were asked to suit up and take a selfie of themselves looking their best. For every photo tagged with #FormalFriday or #GentlemanUp, Made Man donated $1 to Career Gear to help men in need.

According to Chris Strickland, Defy Media’s senior marketing manager, the campaign raised thousands of dollars for the nonprofit over the course of a single day. In total, it reached 30 million people across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+. Additionally, its videos on YouTube and Facebook amassed 4 million and 3 million views, respectively.

National Wildlife Federation

Who said that selfies could only feature humans? The National Wildlife Federation showed off its sense of humor and affinity for social trends through its #wildlifeselfies campaign on Instagram. The organization is creating selfies using the images that were submitted by individuals through its national wildlife photo contest.

Each selfie is watermarked with the original photographer’s name, which is a great way to showcase and acknowledge supporters. Unlike the Made Man campaign, the goal of #wildlifeselfies wasn’t to raise money or draw attention to a specific issue, but it did help to create more awareness for the nonprofit while engaging supporters.

New York Public Library

Even the New York Public Library has turned to selfies in an effort to engage patrons. In 2013, NYPL installed photo booths at a couple of its locations, encouraging visitors to step inside and share the results on social media. Photos from the booth were also uploaded to Flickr where anyone can browse through the library’s visitors.

“This is new ground for us,” Ken Weine, vice president of communications and marketing at NYPL, said in an interview. “An institution like us has to find ways to communicate with people in person and digitally, and what’s fun about this project is that we’re doing both at the same time.”

Even if there’s not a monetary goal behind the campaign, it’s a great way to breathe new digital life into a largely analog institution. Only a few weeks after installing the booths, more than 1,900 selfies had been snapped. NYPL then shared some of the favorites on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

While this doesn’t mean that every selfie-inspired campaign will find success, it goes to show how social trends can be adopted by businesses of all shapes and sizes. What works for one won’t necessarily work for everyone, but through some trial and error, you’ll find what works best for your brand and overall goals. As for selfies, a little creativity and a good sense of humor can go a long way.