case studies, social media campaign, storytelling

FInd Your Missing Child: Revolutionizing Its Community Using Social Media

5 Comments 16 August 2013

FYMC social media guidebook

Find Your Missing Child is an organization dedicated to developing social media resources for the parents of missing and runaway children and the organizations serving that community. I met Tony Loftis, the founder and Executive Director at a Boston-area event this spring and knew immediately that his organization was doing something dramatically different from other organizations: he was revolutionizing part of the nonprofit sector.

Tony founded Find Your Missing Child after he successfully used social media to attract media attention to his daughter’s disappearance (who was found, healthy and alive). After the story of his missing daughter ran in the Huffington Post, the story garnered 4,000 Facebook Likes in under seven days. As Tony told me: “Those likes and shares turned into stories in Boston Herald and New York Daily. Because of the media coverage, we had instant third-party validation when we started a social media campaign. From the social media campaign, TV stations covered it in NY and Boston. Traditional media didn’t care at all until it became a social media story.” Ultimately, because of a TV story, his daughter was identified and brought home.

Tony understood the power of coordinating all of your outreach efforts, and powering them with social media. He also understood the power of storytelling. However, when he looked around the missing and exploited children’s community, he noticed that many of the people running those organizations were not as comfortable using social media as the parents of the missing and exploited children. Many professionals in the sector weren’t on LinkedIn, nor on Facebook personally. Many organizations did not have strong social media profiles or a social presence at all.

Find Your Missing Child set out to transform its organizational community.

Tony set out to convince with his fellow sector organizations to take advantage of social media to tell the story of the missing children during times of crisis. His organization worked with the umbrella organization for the community, the Association of Missing and Exploited Children’s Organizations (AMECO) to create the Social Media Guidebook for Families of Missing and Exploited Children. He found opportunities to combine and extend resources with the two other major organizations in the sector, and the Guidebook is now distributed many times a week through other organizations in the sector.

As Tony explains, “we wanted to train other organizations on how to use social media to bring kids home, and we created the Social Media Guide because the community itself wasn’t doing anything on social media. We really believe that using social media to find missing kids gives parents the peace of mind that they are doing everything that they can to bring their child home.” It took the other industry organizations less than a year to begin using social media, once Find Your Missing Child began speaking and working with them. Find Your Missing Child is a classic example of the value to be found from being a networked nonprofit.

Find Your Missing Child revolutionized its industry by networking with it.

Once he put the guide together, Find Your Missing Child created an infographic to help parents understand the importance of using social media to find their missing kids. The organization’s next steps will be to create step-by-step videos on how to use the social media toolkit, and a web-based app to enable parents to easily create social media sites.

Find Your Missing Child infographic

The biggest lesson he’s learned in this process? Motivating a traditional organization to accept social media means that you have to do a really good job pointing out how it helps the organization’s mission and moves it forward. If you can’t tie social media back to mission, it won’t’ be seen as a useful payoff.”

What’s next?

Storytelling is “the next big thing for this community,” according to Tony. “Success stories on video matter, and there aren’t a lot of people or organizations doing it well.” Telling compelling stories can “level the playing field for minority families.” As Tony explains, “To get coverage from the media, it’s important to be able to tell good stories. If you are not rich, white and young, there have to be ‘special circumstances’ to get covered. We try to help parents to tell their stories to get media attention and be those ‘special circumstances.’ Using social media to spread the message levels the playing field. Minorities and whites are roughly equal on social media, the difference is that those in higher income brackets understand how to use it for business ends and know how to access resources.” A next step for Find Your Missing Child is to work with other sector organizations and parents on storytelling techniques, especially with video.

Who knows? Find Your Missing Child may well revolutionize how organizations tell stories.

I have no doubt.

How? Simply by being a networked nonprofit.

Meet Tony, and watch him tell his story here:


Welcome to Parents from FYMC on Vimeo.





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  • Thanks so much for sharing this really great example, Debra! I didn’t know about the organization before this post and I’m looking forward to following them going forward. This case study also reinforces what I find I remind people of all of the time when I present and that is the need for social, just like any other program area or communication, to roll up to your mission. As organizational leaders, we would never dedicate capacity to a program or service that didn’t help us reach our mission, so would we adopt technologies or other community engagement programs that don’t? Recognizing how and where social media supports the mission helps us focus our strategies and tactics to get us there.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Amy – that’s exactly what Tony told me was so critical in helping to move the sector towards social media use and adoption. And, as you rightly note- it’s recognizing how/where social media supports the mission that keeps it in focus and useful. It’s a tool to help organizations meet mission!

    I was so excited when I met Tony and found out about his passion (and very personal experience) for using social media to find missing children. I really believe his organization is going to continue to innovate and push his nonprofit sector. Glad you found it interesting, too.


  • Social media made communication so easy. No wonder it could be effective in many other ways. I hope that people make a good use of it. I also hope that nonprofit organizations like Find your Missing Child take advantage of the nonprofit directory in the U.S. and extend their resources by being part of it.


  • melindalewis

    This is awesome on so many levels. I’m thinking, in addition to what’s here and in the comments, about what it has taken for the organization to take on the really powerful systems that are implicated when a child goes missing–namely, the criminal justice system. Here, then, social media and the networks it sustains are not just about facilitating communication, but also equipping these parents to be advocates within this unbelievably trying–and paralyzing–situation, so that they can navigate towards the resolution they need. I love how you have pulled together so many aspects of their work and strategy, and, as always, the humanity and grace with which you approach any subject. I’m sharing this now!



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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