The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

How to Use Memes to Spread Your Nonprofit’s Message

Merriam-Webster.com defines a meme as an idea, behavior, or usage that spreads from person to person. “Who shot J.R.?” and typing “0.7734” to reveal “hello” on an upside-down calculator were popular memes in the preinternet era. Online, memes often take the form of a graphic with words, like lolcats that each feature a cat photo with text overlay personifying the feline’s thoughts.

Hey I Just Met You Dog Meme
(Credit: Anthony Rubio/Facebook, Source: Howard Koplowitz/International Business Times)

Anthony Rubio’s meme based on Carly Rae Jepsen’s popular song “Call Me Maybe” went viral. It featured his two Chihuahuas and encouraged people to adopt from animals shelters.

 

Memes are fun, catchy images that can humanize your organization and add a shot of personality to what you’re doing. Here are some tips for how you can get in the meme game:

1. Exploit popular images or pop culture references.

Piggybacking on a trending meme can be fun for your staff members and exciting for your supporters, but they also have a more useful purpose—to humanize your organization. By adopting a popular image or slogan, chances are higher that your fans will want to share it and that the popular media will see it, further increasing your visibility and encouraging new supporters. You may see results in the form of more volunteers or donations, as well as the answer to a specific call to action featured in your meme.

2. Get creative.

Now is the time to let your artistic skills shine. You don’t have to be a design wiz or a Photoshop pro to make a great meme. Use free online photo editors like PicMonkey or Pixlr to edit an image or memes for dummies site such as Meme Creator, Meme Generator, or Meme Maker. Memes can even take the form of videos, such as Sesame Street‘s “Share It Maybe,” a riff on Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit “Call Me Maybe.”

 

3. Be yourself.

Don’t compromise your values to produce a pop-culture hit. Be aware of your target audience: What will be appropriate for them and what references will resonate with them most? When brainstorming, think about if a meme or the specific pop-culture phenomena it contains is appropriate for your cause. Be sure to maintain the voice you’ve created to represent your organization so that if your meme does take off, you’ll be comfortable with the persona you’ve created and feel positively represented.

4. Share it.

For something to be a meme, it must be broadcast to a large audience. With a population greater than Europe, Facebook is a superb tool for making that happen. If your Facebook post contains a meme photo or video, it’s highly likely to appear in front of your fans due to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm. The more people who like and share something you post, the greater the chances are that those people will see your future posts and that you’ll gain new supporters.

Use these tips to make a meme that represents your organization—with your goals, your voice, your strategy—and be sure to include a strong call to action. Whether your goal is to get people to vote or to raise more money for a food pantry, think about how pop culture and your message can align to create an effective meme.

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About This Blog
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Liz Ragland
Senior Associate, Marketing and Content

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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