Between jobs, with five kids and having recently divorced, Molly MacDonald was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. On line at the food bank one day, it struck her how many other patients she’d met who were facing bankruptcy as they underwent treatment, which lasts seven to eight months on average. Indeed, 50% of bankruptcies result from illness or illness-related job loss, according to a widely cited Harvard study.
Soon after her successful treatment, MacDonald founded The Pink Fund expressly to provide short-term financial assistance to women — and men — whose breast cancer diagnoses have left them struggling to keep up with basic expenses such as health insurance premiums, rent or a car payment. It has given away $1.8 million to 1,700 applicants across the country since 2006.
You can read more about how MacDonald took the nonprofit from her kitchen table in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., to becoming one of the organizations in the Ford Warriors in Pink Family in this 2013 Q&A. At that time, a part-time associate was spreading the basic message of The Pink Fund’s mission on social media.
Jeanine Wilson’s W Media Group in Basking Ridge, N.J., assumed responsibility for all communications and marketing a couple of years ago after one of her employees, who was herself undergoing breast cancer treatment, learned about The Pink Fund from a social worker. Social media has become a key component of its fundraising and awareness efforts since then, although Wilson says that mixing online content with real-world events is where the real magic happens.
Take for example, the pink profile picture frame Facebook has activated for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“We thought we’d get a jump in the donate numbers in the Google Analytics,” Wilson says. “What we’re finding is we’re getting a jump in [people finding out] who we are and what we’re about.”
And that represents success, she says, because people are absorbing the “Real Help Now” message that’s embedded in the frame and differentiates the nonprofit from other organizations. Plus, they are reading the comments posted to its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, particularly those from a younger demographic than usual. “Comments such as, ‘they helped my mom four years ago when I was in high school and we kept our home because of them,’” Wilson says.
'Dancing With The Survivors'
But beyond the online effort, The Pink Fund has been taking printed versions of the frame to events such as “Dancing with the Survivors,” where patients in active treatment are paired with professional ballroom dancers for four months in communities across the country. They then dance in a showcase. Local celebrities pose with the frame and the participants -- and those photos, of course, make their way to the social feeds of all involved.
“People like it. It’s fun. They have something to play and interact with... and then they go to our Facebook page, they see the frame and they want it. So we’re trying to make the connection both online and offline. And I think that makes a big difference in our strategy because most brands are not doing that. It’s an online vehicle only for them. We bring it into the community.”
All of the money raised by these events stays within the state unless it’s earmarked elsewhere by the donor, by the way. And that means that there are lots of local sponsors also creating events and attention-grabbing content. For example, Freeway Ford in Denver, Co., Friendly Ford in Roselle, Ill., and Royal Oak Ford in Royal Oak, Mich., have their own co-branded campaigns.
Another national partner is Snap-on Tools. For one thing, its funny car team promotes #SocketToBreastCancer, with driver, crew and car all dressed in pink for the month. Then there was the promotion a few weeks ago where Snap-on created a pink tool cabinet instead of its traditional red. It asked its audience to share a post about it, promising to donate $5,000 to The Pink Fund and another charity if 2,000 of them did so.
“We did it in an hour,” Wilson recalls.
It’s an alliance that, as with most successful partners, makes business sense for Snap-on. “Snap-on supports mechanics and the car industry, right?” Wilson points out. “One of the biggest struggles these women, and men, have is getting to treatment.”
Social gives people a way to talk about things that they may not have a platform for in real life, Wilson says. “And it also helps a brand like ours” — which wants to give the money it raises to cancer patients rather than use it to buy media — “a chance to get a message out virally. Social media is the perfect way for us to reach the people who need the most help.”