Organization: Big Cat Rescue
Organization Size: 125 exotic cats, 9 paid staff, 107 volunteers, 80,000 supporters
Name: Carol Baskin
Title: CEO

1. What was the very first social media tool your organization utilized, and when? Aug 14, 2000:

2. What social media tools are you currently utilizing? Which has helped your organization the most and how?

We have 325 social media sites that we post to regularly, but in addition to all of the ones that everyone knows about, two of the most effective are Posterous and TrafficGeyser because we can post once to these accounts and they syndicate out to hundreds of article, podcast, blog, video and photo sites at once.

3. Who maintains your social media campaigns? Are they paid, full-time, part-time?

We have two full-time, paid people working on social networking along with me.  Chris Poole is our full time Videographer and Media Producer.  In addition to filming everything, he then creates the finished products, with a goal of one completed video per week, and then posts it to all of our social video sites.  Chris then spends about 8 hours per week responding to comments an building relationships with our viewers.

We have a second paid person, LaWanna Mitchell, who creates e-cards, games, screensavers, puzzles and a plethora of free downloads for our website.  She also helps cultivate community on a number of our social sites including ours at

4. Are you tracking Return on Investment (ROI), and how? Please summarize your ROI.

The ROI for us is measured in lives saved more than just the money raised to do so.  Most of the perils that big cats face are the result of exploiters banking on the fact that people are mesmerized by tigers and want to touch them.  The Pay to Play schemes are what cause so much breeding, abuse and then abandonment, but the people paying for these photo ops and play sessions don’t know what they are supporting.  Our videos enable us to educate the public while entertaining them.

5. Have you been able to use these tools to raise money online?

In the sheer volume of donors, about 90% contribute online, however our largest donations still come by check.  Of our 1.2 million dollar budget, around $16,000 has been generated via YouTube’s Google Checkout and other donations via PayPal.  In the past year we have raised over $47,000 in an online Razoo contest and $25,000  as prize money in a Facebook contest sponsored by Chase.  We also have quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that our online efforts are paying off because when people mail in a check they will often say something like, “I loved your YouTube video of the cats playing with pumpkins,” or “I found you on facebook.”

6. Did you experience resistance from higher ups in the organization initially utilizing about social media, or were they supportive?

As CEO, the buck stops here, (but sometimes, in years past, not enough of them) so I am always looking for ways to promote our message and create more efficiency in the way we raise money and achieve our goals.

7. What the best piece of advice you could offer nonprofits about social media, and online communications in general?

Like every thing else, the more you give the more you get.  Chris works very hard to capture the essence of the cats and then craft that into a video that is inspiring and has elements of humor to make it go viral.  He also puts a lot of thought into his responses to all of the YouTube and Facebook comments because he is on the front lines of changing the way people think about wild cats.  Because of that added effort we are the 6th most viewed (all time) and 7th most subscribed (all time) nonprofit on YouTube.

8. Are you currently investing resources in mobile marketing i.e, a mobile website, texting, mobile Apps, text-to-give, etc.?

As we speak our second iTunes app is in the making.  These were both donated, but we are investing in a text-to-give campaign with Mobile Commons that isn’t quite breaking even yet, but I think it has potential.  We are also investing in a complete overhaul of our 17,000 file website at that has taken 9 months and thousands of dollars, but will result in integrating social aspects that should improve our reach and influence.  The site currently has 1.6 million new visitors per year, but we anticipate that going much higher as people are able to comment and easily rate and post pages to their social networking sites.

9. What do you think are the most important skills necessary in a social media practitioner?

Technology and “what’s hot” is changing all the time, so the successful social media practitioner will always be researching the best tools and the best places to be seen and heard.  Once there, it is important to let our fans know that they matter and that they are being seen and heard.

Chris also notes the headlines and tags of videos that are trending and often patterns our next video to capitalize on the buzz.  We also provide reliable content in our article posts, which are often picked up by the media which brings even more awareness.  Because all of our social marketing has increased our web traffic by more than 25% our keywords are usually on the first page of Google.  That has lead to 688 stories in the press including CNN, ABC, NBC, Fox, Anderson Cooper 360, Animal Planet, Dateline, Discovery Channel, Glamour Magazine, History Channel, Jack Hannah Show, Newsweek, National Geographic, New York Times, Oprah Magazine, People Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Today Show, US News & World Report, Washington Post & more.

10. What is on your To Do List for 2011?

Our plan for 2011 is to keep growing the relationships we have been building in all of these social arenas and to roll out our new website.  Many of the disparate segments of our online business, such as our blog, online gift shop, stock photo business, weekly podcasts, advocacy site and our own social site will all be brought under one roof in the new member site.

11. Anything else?

Because our supporters just can’t get enough of the big cat photos and videos we have just launched a new YouTube site for mini clips that we capture throughout the day of the cats and volunteers in action.  We did not want to dilute the quality experience of our main YouTube site, so this one is called  I listen to dozens of podcasts whenever I am driving or exercising about online marketing, SEO, and anything I can find on emerging technology, entertainment and design, with my favorite being TED.  We will continue to jump on every new band wagon that makes the news, but will only keep the ones that prove successful.

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