Online Success From Offline #RCS: Non-Profit Style

We recently asked our Facebook fans what kind of posts they'd like to see next on the SEER blog. Thanks to all of our fans for the feedback so far! We're taking the first request from Benji Craig.


Benji asked us to cover "RCS with a non profit spin". To me, that has a couple of potential meanings, so I'm going to cover what I think Benji, among many others, is looking for when it comes to doing RCS with limited budgets:

  • Non-profits doing RCS and
  • Companies doing RCS with a non-profit or community benefit.

Before we move on to how companies and organizations are doing RCS for non-profits, let's make sure we are all on the same page about what RCS actually is. Wil provides a great explanation of it in this interview on SEOmoz:

...#RCS should have never had to have been said... If I was at a marketing, branding, or PR conference, it would have been a dud. As that is what they have been practicing all along.

RCS is a term coined to address a plague in the SEO industry, a plague that was detrimental to client success because "marketing ideas" were coming about purely for links, and not for the overall benefit of a company. Do real company sh*t, and with some strategic promotion, links will follow.


Moving forward in this post, RCS will mean "genuine marketing strategy", meant to benefit a user, a niche group of people, or a community - not a search engine.

Non-profits Doing RCS

Non-profits inherently exemplify RCS, because they have no other choice. They are fueled by the dedication of people passionate about their cause and don't have the budget to waste on low value tactics for quick SEO wins.


The Anaheim Ballet, a non-profit organization, does an amazing job with their content marketing. Their videos have been massively successful on YouTube, and the majority of them have millions of views. For example, this video, only about 2 minutes long, has gotten over 11 million views on  YouTube and 376 backlinks from 116 domains.

I had a chance to interview Evan Rosenberg, the creator and producer of the videos for the Anaheim Ballet, to discuss the ways that he is involved in creating success for the organization through the use of video.

The resounding theme of our conversation was to produce content that you're passionate about, instead of creating content just for marketing purposes. I have a feeling he and Wil would be friends. Evan couldn't reveal the exact costs of production for the videos, but he explained that if you have people who are passionate about your organization, and willing to support you in any way they can (expertise, equipment, time), the costs are "nominal". Just don't be afraid to ask, and take the help your community is willing to offer you.

Community support is what helped catapult The Anaheim Ballet's visibility on YouTube. Back when users' favorite videos were featured on the homepage of YouTube, the "Ballet: Dancers" video made it to the homepage. From there, the video took off.  YouTube even did a case study on the success that The Anaheim Ballet has had with their video marketing efforts. Sounds like RCS to me.


The city of Boston has partnered with Code for America (non-profit in this situation) to form the Adopt-a-Hydrant Program. The program uses technology and talent from Code for America. Adopt-a-Hydrant allows people to volunteer and dedicate themselves to removing snow and ice from a specific hydrant in the winter time. They can even assign a name to the hydrant if they wish.


This is a unique, engaging idea that is benefiting the city of Boston and helping draw attention to Code for America. RCS comes in to play here because this is a unique, real idea that was clearly done for the benefit of the city, and not for links. However, the Adopt a Hydrant program has gotten links from 174 domains. This will no doubt help Code for America get some publicity.


Companies Doing RCS With a Non-Profit Spin


A cleaning supply company local to Philadelphia spearheaded a beautification project for LOVE Park, flash-mob style. provided trash bags, gloves, brooms, dust pans, and other cleaning supplies to help the cause. They got over 50 volunteers to join in and help clean up the park.

love park cleanup

By holding this event, they were able to get local press coverage, links, establish credibility, and helped improve a local, admittedly littered, landmark. By holding events that are done for the benefit of a community, search engine benefits will follow if you can leverage the events online. To learn more about the best ways to leverage events online, this post by Kane Jamison is a go-to resource for building links for events. This cleanup project wasn't just a one-time event for CleanItSupply, either. They have offered to donate cleaning supplies to communities across the US who would like to have similar clean-up events. This will help them continue to get press coverage and links.


An example of a company doing RCS with a non-profit or charitable spin is AMC, and one of their most popular shows, Breaking Bad. The show is based on a man with cancer, and in the first season, his son creates a website called AMC has actually created this website and gives you the option to donate to "save Walter White", exactly like the show.


When clicking on the donate button, however, it goes to a landing page on the National Cancer Coalition with the option to donate to them instead of the fictional TV character. has 551 linking root domains, and AMC has dedicated the site to helping out a non-profit organization.


Continue To Be Inspired

A source of inspiration for some of these ideas came from SpringWise, an idea database. If you want to continue conducting your own research for ideas around RCS with a non-profit spin, the non-profit/social cause section of Springwise is guaranteed to keep you busy for a while! Another source of inspiration for some non-profit RCS ideas is Kickstarter.

Thanks to our Facebook fans for requesting topics! Keep them coming on the Facebook page, or reach out to us on Google+ and Twitter.


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