The following is an excerpt from Nonprofit Tech for Good. It’s original source is credited to Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits.
Nonprofits are familiar with writing blog posts that provide program updates, tell success stories, comment on breaking news and current affairs, and promote calls to action. This type of blog content is standard in nonprofit communications and should continue to be reported on regularly; however, some of your most shared, retweeted, and +1′d blog posts will be those that are out of the ordinary. With more than 250 million blogs in existence and countless online news outlets worldwide, your new media manager must excel at writing and have the ability to expand their storytelling, marketing, and fundraising content beyond traditional blog writing. The rise of mobile and social media has profoundly altered how journalists frame and format their stories, and the same is true for nonprofit bloggers.
1. Write Numbered Lists
Formatting your nonprofit’s cause(s) and programs into numbered lists is guaranteed to grab the attention of your donors and supporters. Since most readers now scan online content rather than read it thoroughly, listing and bolding content in a numbered format ensures easy reading and piques curiosity. Examples of numbered lists include, “Five Reasons Why Conserving Wildlife is Important,” “Ten Simple Ways to Serve Your Local Community,” “Nine Powerful Stats about Domestic Violence in America,” and “Six Reasons Why You Should Read to Your Children.” Numbered lists have broad appeal on mobile and social media and are often read by individuals who have never been exposed to your nonprofit.
2. Photo Essays
Due to most readers now scanning content rather than consuming it in its entirety, photo essays have emerged in recent years as a powerful means for telling a story. Your photo essay should include at least five images, and each image should fill the entire width of the page. Photos should include large bolded captions that explain what’s happening in photo. Additionally, all photos should be the same size and include a border. You should also preface your photo essay with one or two descriptive paragraphs and close your essay with a call to action.
3. Summarize Research Reports and Studies
Making a habit of summarizing the key findings of recently released research reports or studies is good strategy. Quite often the nonprofits or think tanks that release the report will promote your article or blog post. Since most reports and studies are released in association with a hashtag, you can promote your summary and gain access to new readers by using the hashtag on social networks. When summarizing a report, be sure to bullet-point at least five of the most important stats mentioned in the report. Then when distributing your summary, tweet or post one of the stats with a link to your summary. By including at least five stats in your summary, you can then distribute your summary up to five times over a one or two week period.
4. Share Resources Relevant to Your Cause
The Internet is a vast repository of resources. A simple search will reveal countless articles related to health, lifestyle, family, and popular culture. In addition, after breaking news and current affairs, it’s the articles related to daily life that are the most popular on mobile and social media. Creative new media managers will expand their ideas about what their nonprofit can write about and experiment with publishing blog posts that share resources and useful advice. For example, a health organization could write a blog post about the benefits of people consuming less salt. An environmental organization could write about which commonly bought food packaging items can be recycled. An organization whose mission is to support education could write a post about how parents can instill in their children at an early age the desire to go to college. Or an arts organization could write about the top 10 museums to visit in a lifetime. Very few nonprofits create this kind of blog content, but those that do have come to understand its power and integrate sharing resources into their long-term content strategy.
5. Show Donation Impact
Your nonprofit should regularly write blogs post about how donations are being used and the impact they have had. For program milestones, illuminate how the funds that were raised helped you achieve the milestones. You should mention the amount raised and how many donors gave. In the process thank the donors and encourage others to give so your nonprofit can continue to move forward and achieve new milestones. You can also write about how your nonprofit decides which programs to assign a high priority and provide a timeline of the fundraising benchmarks that allowed your nonprofit to implement its programs. For example, if your nonprofit raised $10,000 to provide emergency supplies in the aftermath of a disaster, list all the products bought and delivered. Donors are much more likely to continue giving if there is concrete evidence that their donations are making an impact. You can also ask donors to submit statements about why they choose to give and integrate their quotes into your donation impact articles and blog posts.
6. Tell the Story of a Community Served
Evoking empathy is essential when telling the story of the communities or individuals that your nonprofit serves, or hopes to serve in the future. People who donate to nonprofits are empathic or they wouldn’t give away their financial resources. They are motivated by simply knowing that they are making a difference or that they have the possibility to. Your challenge is to communicate the need though text, images, and video with dignity and respect for your communities, but in a way that also makes it clear that these communities and individuals are real human beings who are acutely affected by poverty, injustice, violence, or circumstances often out of their control. When telling their story, include quotes or video clips from community members and photos that do not objectify their need and wants, but rather illuminate how their needs and wants can be or are being met. Hope and possibility should be interwoven throughout the storyline. Otherwise donors will feel like the need is too great, and they may hesitate to give. A decade ago the storytelling of communities in need was meant to shock a donor into action. But with today’s 24/7 news cycle that focuses on sensational and often depressing news, that style of storytelling no longer makes an impact in the nonprofit sector. Many donors have become numb to desperate pleas for help or feel overwhelmed and disempowered by them. Focusing on the positive that exists in even the most unfortunate of situations is much more likely to trigger a giving response.
7. Interview Donors and Volunteers
It’s rare that a nonprofit interviews donors to give them the chance to share their thoughts and feelings about why they give. If you want to create a community of long-term givers who are more than just a collection of faceless database entries, then at least four times a year send a set of questions to donors willing to be interviewed, and ask them to include of photo of themselves that best represents who they are. Your donors will find it interesting to see the faces of other donors and read their stories and online supporters who not yet donated may even be inspired to give. The same is true for volunteers. Potential volunteers want to read real stories based on actual volunteer experiences, not just marketing materials. For both donor and volunteer interviews, you can ask unique questions beyond the obvious to add more personality and character to the interviews, such as the next country the want to visit and why or how would they react if they won the lottery. In truth, for your content strategy to work, it has to expand beyond traditional news writing and blogging or your readers simply will not take much notice of your content, much less share it with their social networks.
8. Go Behind the Scenes
Many donors and supporters want to see what happens behind the scenes at your nonprofit. Take photos of important meetings and solicit quotes from staff about key takeaways from the meetings. Record a video of your office or facilities. You can also interview staff and volunteers as they are preparing for an event. Though donors are primarily concerned with the cause(s) you advocate, demonstrating how hard your staff works behind the scenes can further cement their commitment to your nonprofit.
9. Write Book and Movie Reviews
Writing reviews about popular books and movies whose plots and characters are related to the cause(s) your nonprofit advocates is an easy way to tap into pop culture. It’s often perplexing when you read a book or attend a movie that evokes powerful emotions ranging from empathy to outrage, and the book’s conclusion and the movie’s closing credits rarely suggest how individuals can take action. It’s a missed opportunity to foster social good and one that nonprofits can fill by occasionally writing reviews and commentaries on bestselling books and box office hits. Before distributing your reviews, search for popular hashtags representative of the book or movie.
10. Feature New Mobile and Social Media Content
When your nonprofit launches a new infographic, video, or e-book, for example, write an article or blog post that features the content. Often nonprofits will launch a new video, but simply link to their YouTube channel when distributing the video on social networks. This is a missed opportunity. By embedding the video into your website or blog and providing some background information on why and how the video was made, you’ll likely get more video views and website traffic. The same is true for infographics. They should be featured on your website in proximity to a donate button, e-newsletter and mobile alert opt-in forms, and social network icons rather than being hosted on a third-party website. Infographics are very popular on mobile and social media, and converting infographic readers into donors, e-newsletter and mobile alert subscribers, and social network followers should be the dominant strategy behind creating an infographic. Also, if your nonprofit creates an e-book or online report, never directly link to a PDF version on social networks. Rather, create a summary on your website or blog about the e-book or report and then link to the PDF version in the website article or blog post. Even better, digitalize your e-book or online report directly inside your website. Finally, if your nonprofit launches a presence on a new social network, then write about your goals and ask your donors and supporters to help grow your new community.