DoSomething’s Mobile Campaign Wins NYTimes Plaudits – and Motivates Millions of Teens


This weekend, the New York Times chronicled how the charity Do Something is revolutionizing its outreach to young people by taking its message mobile.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Do Something provides teenagers concrete steps they can take to do good in their local communities. Projects range from recycling bottles to collecting used jeans for the homeless to brainstorming new ways to reduce energy consumption. The article highlights Do Something’s effort “to sign up 3.8 million members by 2014, up from 1.2 million in 2010.” That’s a dramatic change for an organization that started as brick-and-mortar, and made the transition to digital outreach from pure necessity.

Mobile Commons has actually been working with Do Something for years. They’re one of those customers that has made us so much better as a company, as they push the boundaries of what a mobile campaign can be. Their programs to engage teenagers are some of the most innovative – and successful – initiatives we’ve ever worked on. To name just one: Do Something sends a biweekly text to its members giving them ideas for new projects they can undertake, targeted around their areas of interest. The Times story mentions how one text blast encouraging some of the list’s less active members to start local food drives spurred 20% of its recipients to action in under 10 minutes.

What makes Do Something’s campaigns so effective is that they use mobile as a supplement to their existing outreach. As the Times quotes one involved investor:

What piqued my interest is that she’s not replacing what the organization was already doing but instead using technology to take it far beyond where it has been,” said Todor Tashev, an investment partner at the network.

In our experience, that’s exactly the kind of program that works best. When an organization uses mobile as a supplement to its existing outreach, the whole has a greater impact than the sum of its parts.

That’s particularly true when the organization focuses its mobile outreach around engagement, rather than fundraising. The Times also cites Alberto Ibargüen, chief executive of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, one of Do Something’s donors:

I don’t think very many social change organizations, even the well-funded, sophisticated ones, are paying nearly enough attention to the technology available for engaging support and enhancing their missions.

We’ve found that organizations that focus on engagement, and that use mobile in concert with other elements of their campaigns, actually have a greater impact in fundraising too. Check out our post on how building engagement can increase your bottom line. And if you’re interested in creating a mobile campaign of your own, email us at

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