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How to Go Viral: Takeaways from 3 Successful Non-Profit Campaigns

While digital marketing is an absolute must for businesses looking to attract more customers, it’s not reserved only for those whose goal is to capitalize on these strategies. Digital marketing is also a powerful tool for non-profit organizations hoping to raise awareness around social causes and attract more attention to their campaigns.

Here are three successful non-profit campaigns and what you can learn from them if you want to make your campaign go viral.


Diversify your content (Love Has No Labels)

Love Has No Labels was a campaign organized by Ad Council in 2015. On Valentine's day, they created a giant X-ray screen behind which couples stood behind and kissed. The point was to show that regardless of race, gender, age, and sexuality, we’re all human. It challenged people to reconsider their prejudice and bias, and celebrate diversity instead.

The entire publicity stunt was filmed with the intention to spread the message of tolerance and acceptance across social media. The video ended up becoming a viral internet sensation, with over 160 views and over 30,000 uses of the #LoveHasNoLabels hashtag. Even former First Lady Michelle Obama shared her support on social media.

Ad Council also managed to attract a huge amount of traffic to Love Has No Labels website. They encouraged their followers to visit their website and create their own sharable pictures with Love Has No Labels border and caption, driving over 2.7 million visits to its campaign site.

What made this campaign so successful and revolutionary is that they took an already established format, the public service announcement, and turned it into a shareable video that attracted the attention of millions in the digital world. Diversifying your own content strategy and taking a risk with unconventional formats can be a great way to make your campaign more interesting and improve your chances of going viral.


Make it customizable (Human Rights Campaign)

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the largest LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on LGBTQ rights, such as marriage equality, HIV/AIDS advocacy, anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation.

Their online success comes mainly from popularity and shareability of their logo. It started as a simple yellow equal sign on a blue background but has since seen many modifications and iterations. In fact, this sign became so popular, that it not only became a symbol for HRC but the entire LGBT equality movement.

What made this simple sign so appealing? Well, contrary to most brands who try to protect their logo and brand aesthetic as much as possible, HRC actually encouraged their supporters to create their own versions of the popular logo.

In 2013, the red version of the logo went viral on Facebook. During the Supreme Court hearings for two marriage equality cases, HRC was organizing a rally in Washington D.C and decided to use the red version of their logo, as a symbol of love. It quickly became viral on Facebook, with more than 800 variations and over 3 million shares. Celebrities such as Beyonce, Martha Stewart, and others showed their support for the movement by sharing the logo.

The takeaway? Let your supporters use your logo as an inspiration and give them a template. As HRC case proves, audience loves to share their own unique message to support the cause they believe in. This means that you will inevitably lose control over your message, so make sure to use social mention monitoring tools to keep track of your brand mentions and encourage positive conversation around it. This will help you gain more control over your message and expand your reach.


Use the power of influencers (Batkid)

In November 2013, the Make-A-Wish foundation decided to make a dream come true for Scott, a little boy who was finishing chemotherapy treatments for leukemia. They turned the city into Gotham and create Batman-inspired event for Scott, aka Batkid, to participate in. The whole event was filmed and turned into a viral social media sensation with the help of the marketing team from Clever Girls agency. 

They created the #SFBatkid hashtag and hyped up the event beforehand on social media. They especially made sure to engage with high profile participants and use their influence to draw more attention to the campaign.

While the event attracted 20,000 people who showed up live to see Scott’s big day, the video generated 1.7 billion social impressions. It also drove over 1,000 visits per second to the Make-a-Wish website and the popular hashtag brought out around 600,000 tweets. Following the event, Julia Roberts even produced a documentary about little Scott, named Batkid Begins.

The Batkid phenomenon really proved how powerful the influencers can be. With the help of celebrities like Julia Roberts, Ben Affleck, Britney Spears, and even former President Barack Obama sharing their support on social media, the Batkid campaign reached viral status and success every marketer should learn from.


Further information

Even though there’s no magic formula that will make your campaign go viral, looking at other successful non-profit campaigns can help you greatly improve your own. Whether you decide to diversify your content strategy, give more power to your supporters or rely on influencers, you should do your best to expand your digital reach as much as possible and spread your message across digital world as well as the real one.


Page last edited Jul 15, 2019 History

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