Social is Here for Good: Austin Habitat for Humanity

While preparing to #BeNiceAndSocial this holiday season, I have learned a lot about how non-profits are using social for good. One of the most surprising things I’ve learned is that most local affiliates of national and international non-profits operate independently from the parent organization. Marketing and development strategies are built at the local level— social marketing included.

For Austin Habitat for Humanity, that’s no problem. As one of seven Habitat Affiliates of Distinction, Austin Habitat is doing plenty of good work that sets them apart. I recently spoke with Georgia Thomsen and Carly Yansak to learn more about how they are using social to share that story.

So, who exactly is Austin Habitat for Humanity?

We are an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, and 2015 will be Austin Habitat's 30th anniversary. We have 44 employees in Austin across our office, ReStore, and Construction crew. We serve the working poor—contributing members of the Austin community who work very hard for what they have. Our families earn homes by making a small down payment, investing 300 hours of sweat equity, and paying a low-interest mortgage. The mortgages are investments back into Habitat that allow us to keep building more homes. Our clients also participate in financial counseling and homeownership education courses to ensure responsible, sustainable homeownership. 

An important thing to know is we are more than just homebuilders. We opened the first ReStore in the country— a home improvement store where people can donate and shop. We have a home repair program where we provide no-cost repairs to low-income homeowners, many of whom are elderly, disabled, and veterans. We also provide housing counseling to the Austin community at large.

How are you using social media to support Habitat’s efforts? 

Social for us is all about education. Most people think that we only build homes, or that we give them away for free. Social helps us capture the entire scope.

Of course, we would love to raise more money through social media so we can have a greater impact. As far as using social to encourage volunteers, we have over 9,000 volunteers currently. Most of our volunteers come through corporate sponsors, so on social we try to build awareness with potential corporate sponsors—even more than with individual volunteers.

Who are you trying to reach on social media?

On Facebook, we find most of our volunteers, the families that we serve, and smaller donors. We use Twitter to connect with sponsors and neighborhood partners. We’ll retweet relevant information from other non-profits and groups. We don’t just care about sharing our own message, we want to share information that will make the community better. On LinkedIn, we are definitely trying to reach a more professional audience, so we’ll share market studies and recognize our corporate sponsors there.

Does social play a big role in corporate sponsorship packages?

Yes, we actually include social promotion as an explicit benefit in our Community Sponsorship Program. It is a big value add for sponsors like KVUE, HomeAway, and Austin Board of Realtors who really get social.

One thing we would like to do better is to ask our sponsors to share social content about the work they do with us. Companies choose to partner with us because they want to align with our values—social seems like a great way for them to share what they are doing and we’d love the exposure to their audiences.

Are there any campaigns or social posts that have performed really well for AHFH?

From a fundraising perspective, two big campaigns for us are #GivingTuesday and #AmplifyATX. They help us get in front of social audiences that are ready to donate.  

To build awareness, we have a new campaign called #WhyIBuild where we feature a photo of volunteers and staff with their story of why they get involved with Habitat. These posts have really resonated with our social audience. 


How do you measure social success? 

We are keen on using the Insights tracker that both Facebook and Twitter have. We look for more than just how many views – it’s click-through’s onto our webpage pages that we strive more for. 

You are already doing a lot of great work in social media. What next steps do you plan to take in 2015 to grow your social efforts?

In 2015, we are hoping to expand our education piece with weekly videos called HabiFacts. We’ll promote information about our programs, dispel common myths, and let the public know city-wide housing facts and updates. We want to engage people in a more personal way than just reading type.

Austin Habitat for Humanity is one of five featured organizations in our “Social is Here for Good” Holiday Campaign Vote for Habitat and they could receive a donation and day of service from the Spredfast team.'s picture

Courtney Doman

Courtney is the Content Marketing Manager at Spredfast. She focuses on sharing smart social ideas and insights to transform the way companies connect with consumers. Courtney is a passionate football fan (supporting Arsenal and the USMNT), curious traveller, and ambitious home cook.