When running the ING New York City Marathon in November for a small local charity, it was easy for me to see the big picture — especially when surrounded by thousands of other charity runners. It reinforced the idea that contributing to a cause is never a solo act. The things we believe in aren’t about just ourselves; they’re about our communities, locally and globally, and joining together with other likeminded people to effect change. Because of that, powerful cause marketing will always be about building stronger, better and more meaningful relationships that inspire people to be a part of something and take action.
Social and digital media have made it easier than ever for nonprofits and others to connect with those who believe in their causes. But a simple connection isn’t a relationship, and the challenge for cause marketers is to create online relationships that draw people in and leave them wanting an even greater level of engagement—to get past digital connection to begin face-to-face relationship building, often the ultimate goal of any nonprofit. There’s a meaningful difference between being moved by a charity’s story on a blog and running a marathon for that charity with a team. But, the online story has the power to start the deeper commitment.
So the question is, how do you get people to want to know your team, your organization, and to take an active role in the community as a whole? Original online content, as part of a well-considered online strategy, is a great catalyst to in-person meet-ups—blogs, websites and social media are about relationship building. But with all the noise out there, it’s essential that you set yourself apart. How? Make people like you. They’ve already shown an affinity for your cause, so the real goal is to charm and to make your audience want to know you better, work with you, and advance your cause. And in most cases, if people like you online, they will like you in person. In short, your online strategy should include meaningful content that inspires people to get to know you. A personal mantra of mine is: people like working with likable people.
Take the example of event fundraising company, Event 360, which helps nonprofit organizations strategize, plan, and operate charity events. They’ve done a great job connecting with customers and prospects through online content. Their strategy includes giving their audience complete accessibility to staff by encouraging email communication, blog contributions by various experts in their company, and “Meet Team360” posts where employees write about what matters most to them. A “Team360” Q&A is included as part of a monthly email, and then that same person is featured more in-depth in a blog post a few weeks later. Each member of the team is encouraged to talk about something they are passionate about – in their own voice – so their personality shines through. Event 360 CEO Jeff Shuck just invited people to contact him directly for “free fundraising advice to nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and world-changers big and small,” posted on both his personal and company blogs. (“My time is now your time! Let me help you change the world.”)
“We’re finding that talking to people as individuals — and not as the masses — is creating more authentic and genuine touch points with our audiences,” said Event 360 Marketing Director Therese Grohman. “When we’re putting out content, we try to keep very specific audiences and personalities in mind, as we want to connect with people at a personal level that naturally lends itself to real conversations. At the end of the day, we’re using all of our online tools to drive back to the basics – real offline, in-person conversations.”
By showing passion and a commitment to helping others, Event 360 has increased online followers and user engagement. Event 360’s online relationships often translated into positive in-person encounters at industry events, charity walks/runs, and their Event Fundraising Roundtable series.
So, when developing your online content strategy be sure to keep engagement front and center. Here are a few things to consider:
Relationship building is one of the key goals of your content strategy, and essential to building the community that gives life to any successful nonprofit organization. People need to care about a cause or organization in order to get involved, and with passionate, personal, and thoughtful communication, you can make your audience feel the all-important affinity for and connection to your team, the locus of their cause community, that will inspire people to take action—in person and online.