“What’s the ROI of social media?” Do you ever get that question? It’s probably raised at every management team and board meeting. While it’s certainly a fair question (and there’s plenty written about the subject), sometimes social media’s ROI goes beyond numbers.

There are times when social media simply makes an impact—a human impact.

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Consider the case of Southwest Airlines Federal Credit Union ($300 million, Dallas, TX). For two weeks during December, the credit union conducted a “12 Days of Christmas” promotion on their Facebook page. Only they weren’t really promoting the credit union. They were making an impact.

During the two weeks, members entered a contest for daily prizes through an app on the credit union’s Facebook page. Prizes included Visa gift cards, iTunes gift cards or tickets to a show. With each entry form, however, members also nominated someone else to win the “final prize” on the contest’s last day. The “final prize” was $500 cash for someone who could use a little help during the holidays.

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“The response was incredible,” said Crosby Butler, member development representative for Southwest Airlines FCU. Over 300 entries were made, nominating a friend, co-worker or family member.

The entry that received the $500 was a member who nominated her brother’s family. The family had four kids of their own plus three adopted children from another family whose parents were struggling with addiction.

“There were so many days I wish I could do more for them,” the Southwest Airlines FCU member said. “When I saw the contest, I thought what a surprise it would be go give them $500 and make Christmas a little less stressful.”

How do you put the ROI on that? You don’t. You use social media to make an impact (one member and family at a time).