Empowering NPOs with Social Storytelling

Photo by chrismeller
08.16.2012By

Photo by chrismeller

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to have Jason Konopinski guest blogging for us again this year! In this post, he touches upon a very interesting topic for nonprofits: how social media is helping nonprofits tell their stories while expanding their donorbase. Check out his previous posts on the 4 ears of communication and storytelling.

The strength and near ubiquity of social channels is driving an increasing number of NPOs to make a concerted effort to carve out a little corner of the web and utilize the platforms to share partner stories, connect with donors and volunteers, and identify future constituents for their programming.

Fundraising is a significant way that NPOs may obtain the monies necessary to feed operations. A strong social presence can offer those same organizations a powerful awareness and fundraising platform. Engaged and relevant storytelling can connect the dots between your organization’s mission and those served when programming is kept well-funded by increasing reach and amplifying awareness. By paying attention to the four stages in the fundraising cycle—discovery, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship—and building a social component into the mix, NPOs can cast a larger net for donor prospecting and give development staff some breathing room.

All fundraising efforts begin with discovery, and coincidentally, the first prescriptive step in building out a social media presence around your organization is listening and monitoring. Trying to capture the attention (and pocketbooks) of donors is hard work. Consumers in the social web suffer from fragmented attention spans and there is a glut of information available from a few keystrokes and a click of the mouse. Making an impact in the hearts and minds of donors and stakeholders starts with narrative–narrative about the mission of your organization, the constituents you serve, and how volunteers can get involved.

Organization, businesses, civic groups—they’re all people-powered. We all want to nurture, participate in, and encourage our communities. A YouTube video can be far more effective and targeted than the glossy high-dollar print collateral because it allows you to develop a story and evoke an empathetic response from viewers. Ensure that key information about story and mission are prominently displayed on your website and—above all else—easily shared with the click of a button. Blogging can allow your organization to develop a voice and build a narrative that converts prospects into donors.

Content (photos, blog posts, video) can drive revenue by building trust around your organization’s mission and reputation. In a time when NPOs are competing for limited donor dollars, donors are becoming more and more selective about which organizations they support with their time and resources. They want to know where the money is going, how it is being utilized, and be reassured that their contributions matter and make a difference. Organizations that encourage community participation and engagement via their social media outposts like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are better positioned to meeting fundraising goals. They have used content as a means to convey messages in a manner that gives the audience a reason to stay connected, engaging new and current donors, sharing their organization’s mission, personal stories, and more that trigger audience interest.

Solicitation via social media can be a bit tricky and most users on social networking sites will find it bad form, but the savvy NPO can utilize its own community to give some needed exposure to current campaigns and drives. If a generous donation comes in, ask the donor if you can publicize the gift. Encourage donors to make the details about their donations public via social channels. If you are using an online giving platform, check to see if social sharing is key functionality.

Stewardship is really about moving beyond the gift. A note of thanks or virtual badges can go a long way to encourage repeat donations and long-term support. Email periodic updates about the status of a campaign to communicate with donors how their contribution is working, telling stories of successes in meeting goals, and working towards your mission. Give donors early access to events and premium content on your website. After all, everyone wants to get behind the velvet rope.

Fundraising especially is built on relationships. Moving more operations and communications services online will empower your development staff to do more with their time and resources. And that’s a good thing.

  • Melat Tekletsadik

    I couldn’t agree more. Please also read my blog i just finished yesterday on the Role of the digital space in the non profit sector at nhttp://www.atlascorps.org/blog/?p=1255

  • JET

    Fantastic advice Nd perspective on the interaction between social media Nd development strategies.