Where and how should you be promoting your cause? Are you overwhelmed by third party statistics and infographics? The internet and social media has added a whole new layer of ways to communicate with your supporters, but with it came a whole new layer of things that need updating, writing and monitoring.
But as complicated as it may seem at times, the bottom line still remains the same: you have to deliver your cause’s message to the broad public and you have to get it to your current supporters.
While the younger generations are online and on social media more often than the elder generations, the elder generations are still very comfortable with the media they grew up with like print, radio and TV. But in the end every generation uses every channel just in different amounts.
Once you start promoting your cause and start collecting donations and you’ve tracked your efforts for a while you will find out many details, like giving habits, size of gifts and how you’ve gotten them. You will then have your own statistics to work with without having to rely solely on third-party data.
1. Promoting Your Cause: Hit the Ground Running or Take It Slow
Depending on the number and expertise of people who will help you promote your cause you can either get started promoting your cause through many media channels at the same time or, you’ll pick just one or two channels you feel comfortable with and get started slowly.
Either one has its advantages and disadvantages and you will have to decide what’s right for you:
Hitting all channels at the same time (social media, radio, local TV etc.) will guarantee that your message will get out quickly to as many people as possible. But ask yourself: can you sustain the amount of work this will take and keep it going? What if this strategy will gain you thousands of Facebook followers? Do you have a designated social media person to keep this channel going? How will you track your actions, failures and successes? How will you pay for it? Do you have the time and full-time partners to pull this through?
On the other hand, starting things more slowly and controlled will take a while to get the word out about your cause, but the slow approach allows you to adjust as you go along and grow slowly with a lower requirement for man-power and funding. If one channel turns out to be a dud you can then easily switch all your focus to a channel that’s more popular and grow from there.
Also read: 8 Ways to Deal With Negative Online Reviews
2. Develop a Social Media Strategy
Millions of Americans are online. Even if your cause isn’t one of the most popular ones online right now, that doesn’t mean it won’t gain popularity in the future. It looks like social media is here to stay for a while and it is constantly changing and morphing and uncovering new opportunities. Jump into the stream and make your waves!
Start with what you’re already doing or are good at: sharing pictures and videos, sharing stories, promoting your events, sharing info about who is supporting your cause and so on. When planning for promoting your cause make social media a priority by including it in all marketing plans. More about creating a social media strategy.
3. Set up Your Social Media Accounts
– Create a Facebook page: If you have a hard time believing that social media like Facebook should be a priority, just think: even if you don’t like being on Facebook, that doesn’t mean millions of others don’t. People want the opportunity to show which cause they support by ‘liking’ a Facebook page. On top of that, anytime you add an update to your group’s Facebook page, it will show on all the people’s newsfeeds who ‘liked’ it. Get with it and make Facebook a priority and use it to post updates about your activities and respond to comments; but don’t abuse it and constantly ask for donations. If you have your own personal Facebook page you already know: anyone who posts too much or constantly asks for stuff gets ‘unliked’ or blocked. More about creating a Facebook page.
– Having a Twitter account is important too, even though Twitter followers might not always be interested in your cause. That’s because many individuals and businesses seem to care much more about the number of followers they get – and thus randomly following others – than actually be interested in your cause.
However, it is still important to have a Twitter account, because nowhere will news spread as fast, and will connections be made as quickly as through Twitter. This is one reason why Twitter is often used by news sources to monitor real time events (wars, terrorist attacks). So even though Twitter might be ‘messier’ in general and the number of followers might be deceiving, it is a great tool through which to spread your message.
– Google+ is also becoming more important, because Google is still the #1 company to serve search results and is promoting causes and non-profits with a Google+ page as a part of their own business strategy.
– LinkedIn should also be at the top of your social media lists. It offers a wealth of background information because the site is used to create and promote individuals’ professional profiles as opposed to Facebook’s focus on personal profiles.
– The younger generation is using YouTube (also owned by Google) like a search engine: if it’s not on YouTube, it might as well not even exist! They even forgo TV in order to watch videos instead. Videos that capture your cause’s spirit and appeal to a young crowd will raise awareness and close the demographics circle.
– There are lots of other popular social media sites out there and it doesn’t hurt to experiment: try Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr if you like to share images, Foursquare and Yelp for location based sharing.
Just because Facebook and Twitter are überpopular right now doesn’t mean they will be next year: anyone remember MySpace?
As you’re setting up your social media accounts, don’t forget to like, +1, favorite, list, follow, repin and comment on others’ accounts, like your supporters, partners or similar groups. Take the time to do this from the very beginning and every time you’re posting on your own account. Don’t wait until the last minute, it takes time to build a following and a presence.
– If you don’t have a blog yet, you should set one up. It will serve as your ‘home’ for any and all information that might not fit or not be appropriate for your social media channels, like financial information and government filings.
It will also serve to instill another layer of trust in your donors and confirm that your cause is a ‘real’ one. Unless you have third party verification (like an article about your cause in a major newspaper) potential donors might doubt that you’re a legitimate organization. Invest in a good domain or URL (your web address) that people can remember and sign up with a host (we use Hostgator) that let’s you use your own domain.
If you plan on having your blog custom designed, be sure that it’s designed in a way so it can easily be read on different size screens, like a smart phone or pad. ‘Responsive’ design will automatically adjust your blog to the size of the screen it’s being viewed on whether it’s a 4″ smart phone or a 24″ desktop monitor. If you’re setting up the blog yourself, there are free plug-ins available that will reformat your blog to be easily legible on smaller screens.
If you’re not convinced preparing for mobile is necessary, just look at these mobile giving statistics. (updated for 2018)
– When you’re using social media accounts, take advantage of the analytics programs some sites offer, or search for a third party analytics tool. Make yourself familiar with reading and evaluating the data before you have an event to promote. Some social media sites offer designated programs just for non-profits – be sure to sign up and reap the benefits!
4. Ask for Money
That seems obvious, but try browsing through medium and small sized non-profits’ websites (some larger ones are guilty as well) and see how long it takes you to find a ‘donate’ button or a page through which to make a donation. Some don’t have one at all, some only list a mailing address and some of them ‘hide’ a tiny button somewhere on the site.
How long would you scan through a page and click on links to chase after a “Donate Now” button before giving yourself an excuse to not donate? Five seconds, ten seconds?
If your supporters have to click over to your website and then have to click on a Donate button only to be taken to another page that tells them all about your cause and then have to scroll only to find another Donate button or a link that takes them to a third party website that makes them create an account first before they can add their credit card number, you’ve pretty much lost them.
Don’t take the chance and make your potential supporters jump through hoops in order to donate. Have an easily visible donate button on your pages and experiment with color to see which one will bring in the most funds.
The same is true for sending emails. Not every email needs to explicitly ask for money; you’re also sending emails to keep your supporters updated with success stories and news. But if someone is ready to make a donation, how hard is it for them to do so? If it takes longer than a few seconds they might change their minds and move on. Harness that instance that makes them want to give, don’t waste that moment!
Another tip for emails: make sure you design your emails so they are easy to read on mobile phones. That means, getting rid of clutter, using larger fonts and donation buttons. Test your emails on your own and others’ cell phones before sending them out to the masses.
5. Fundraising Letters
Print is not dead! This fact is apparent in all of us getting solicitations in our mailboxes on a weekly basis. Some people like shorter letters, and get spooked by seeing six pages of print; some folks (often mature generations) like to read stories and appreciate a fundraising letter that looks like a magazine article with lots of pictures. Try both at various times and check the response: which one yielded more or larger donations from what age group?
Also read: 17 Mistakes Fundraisers Can Stop Making now
6. Local TV, Radio and Print Ads
If you have connections, or have it in your budget to announce your event on TV, radio or the local newspaper, by all means go for it! The reason these channels have lost popularity is because the disadvantage to using them is that you’ll be unable to exactly measure how many people have seen or heard your message at what time.
You can measure all these things when you post online and send info through email. But that doesn’t mean that the traditional channels aren’t effective. When announcing an event, you could resort to the tried and true method of offering a coupon or code that lets your supporters buy “2 raffle tickets for the price of 1” for example, so you’ll have some sort of feedback as to how effective your message was. (See Mary Meekers Internet Trends.)
7. Keep an Eye on the Future
The world changes constantly, supporters come and go, where you spend donation dollars might shift, and one thing we all know for sure is that five years from now things will be different than today. As you’re working in today’s world don’t forget to keep an eye on the future and how things might be: your donor base might be a different demographic, gifts might change from fewer larger gifts to many smaller gifts. In other words, experiment, try new things here and there and don’t get stuck.
Finally, when working on any of the above, be sure to refer the different channels to one another: on your Twitter account post your Facebook link and blog and vice versa, in your emails link to your social media accounts, blog and also add a physical address, in a print ad list your social media channels and so on. Network all your channels together so you’ll never lose a supporter or a donation because they couldn’t find an easy way to connect with you!
More about connecting marketing efforts.