Did you know that the word “meme” was introduced by an evolutionary biologist in the mid 70s? I did not. I thought memes were a more recent invention of funny pictures with captions that appeared over and over again on social media platforms. It was not until I started researching memes that I had an appreciation for their origin and purpose.
A meme as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, described a meme as analogous to a gene.* (Now you can impress your friends, family, and colleagues, or win at trivia. You’re welcome.)
Anything can be a meme with such a broad definition. Modern memes are most often about pop culture or current events with a twist of humor. Other modern memes are more shock value, dramatic, life lessons, or even myths. Either way, modern memes are no longer comical creations by the younger generations. They are indeed a useful tool to help communicate your nonprofit story online.
The nonprofit memes I have come across in my web surfing are quite funny and leave a lasting impression. I have even incorporated memes into my presentations for the purpose of conveying a main message in a visual representation with a dash of humor. Other times I have used memes to relate with others who share a common interest.
If you choose to share a meme, make sure it fits your message. You want the meme to be relevant to your organization. Also a word to the wise, sharing too many can negatively inundate and flood the message.
Creating your own meme is an option, tailoring a recent occurance to your organization. Some nonprofits have had quite a bit success with making their own memes to communicate their message. For example, Red Cross used Charlie Sheen’s phrase “tiger blood” to develop a meme about Red Cross Month. The key, whether creating or sharing, is for nonprofit organizations to spread their own message by piggybacking cultural phenomena.**