For some charities, their online presence is limited to their website and posting on social media. It's their belief that social media is a good way to while away time chatting with friends, sharing photos, playing games or catching the latest video that’s gone viral. However, one of the most amazing things about the web is how it can bring people together to form a community around a common cause and create lasting change.
These communities can be found anywhere from forums, on Q&A sites (i.e. Quora), and more commonly on various social media platforms. Usually organized around specific topics like sexual health, suicide, diseases or environment, they provide a resource for both beneficiaries and volunteers. Along with traditional communications channels, social media and online communities can:
- Open up new funding streams as traditional donations shrink.
- Target beneficiaries and supporters that traditional media cannot reach, especially Millennials who prefer online interactions.
- Create a peer-to-peer support system which can reduce response times.
Communities are not social media networks
Although social media networks and community platforms can seem to be interchangeable, there actually is a clear distinction. A social media network could be composed of users who have nothing in common (only using the platform because their friends are on it); communities would revolve around a specific issue.
Community platforms are the best option if you require a secure, private area for your beneficiaries to interact with each other at a safe place. This is essential if your charity is focused on sensitive issues such as sexuality, diseases or any other topic that are highly confidential. Social media is a way to show support while community is a way to pull people in and help them with what they need.
Secondly, a social network normally wouldn't allow for content from specific sites (i.e. Google+ posts can't be embedded into Facebook post) whereas a community platform will allow for all types of content to be shared. Similarly, a social media network is public and "noisy" with no filter on the variety of content that is published. A community can be more focused.
Scope, a nonprofit in London, UK provides support, advice and information for disabled people in the country. It has utilized the power of community and built their own platform to provide a safe space for beneficiaries to discuss issues and peer-to-peer support. With 6000 members using it on a daily basis, they have succeeded in making a difference in people's lives by facilitating connections between members.
The Public “Likes” Nonprofits
A recent report by Achieve and Johnson Grossnickle & Associates, studied the impact of fundraising initiatives on the public through social media. Their Millennial Impact Report of 2012 “...shows 55% of people in the survey prefer social media as a way to learn about nonprofits. In fact, 92% have “Liked” nonprofit pages on Facebook.”
For a non-profit, social media is an ideal place to create branded community platforms where their fans can participate and drive the conversation. Neither the brand or the fans have an unfair advantage in the conversation because neither own the platform or the forum. This helps with free expression and sharing of ideas among the community.
Promoting Community Involvement
Community involvement can help promote sustainability of your nonprofit by building meaningful partnerships. These collaborations can help support your nonprofit's continued growth. This also can bring important resources in areas of training or technical assistance. Using social media to reach out to engage your targeted communities can light the spark to get things rolling.
Social media is gaining on email and websites as the most profitable marketing channels. Social Media’s 2015 Benchmark Study report found that “Facebook and Twitter followers grew 42% and 37%, respectively...” in comparison to only 11% growth with email list sizes. These numbers show that social media is growing at three times the speed of email, when it comes to getting attention for nonprofit organizations.
Using Community Marketing to Your Organization’s Advantage
Determine the fundamental elements of your fundraising campaign before diving blindly into building a community. Think about what your goals are and the audience you are targeting. Find out what social media platforms are preferred by your donors, supporters and volunteers. Get your message out on that platform first.
Customize your message to your intended audience and specific platform. Avoid using the same message over different platforms. For example, a Twitter tweet is going to be a shorter posting than one you would place on Facebook. If you plan to use YouTube you would need to post videos instead of written messages.
Try out different types of content. You may notice a trend in responses on certain days or times for different postings. Adjust your postings to meet your feedback.
Designate someone to monitor the online conversations to keep your audience engaged. Make sure that you are keeping your followers up to date with the progress of your campaign and how far you have before your fundraising goal is met. Reading a post that you are only a few hundred dollars away from your goal may inspire your audience to act and help you make that goal.
Don’t forget to celebrate your donors and volunteers. It is important to communicate and celebrate their efforts in helping to meet the goals of your fundraising campaign. Show them how their donation has made an impact.
Influence your audience to donate or spread the word about your fundraising campaign. Provide clear call of actions that remind donors about making a donation or sharing your postings with their friends and colleagues. When done correctly, your online community can become your army in your campaign efforts.
Communities can and should be a tool of choice when raising funds for a nonprofit organization. If you run a non-profit and are not taking advantage of social media and other community marketing platforms in your marketing strategy, what are you waiting for?