Leaner, Greener Nonprofits Need To Be Authentic To Stand Out

For nonprofits, persuading the masses to donate is a matter of survival. To fund their work continually, they must be able to reach the people who care most about what they're doing — and make sure those people can find them, too. 

Don't broadcast, connect

Nonprofits are certainly making use of digital channels like email and social media, while continuing tried-and-true tactics like print mailings for older generations. 

But is that enough? For too many nonprofits, "going digital" simply means having a website, and having social media options for those who want to follow them that way. While these are both important steps, nonprofits need to be sure all digital channels are optimized for best return. 

To that end, social channels shouldn't solely be vehicles for broadcasting your latest heart-wrenching video, or appeals for donations. 

Social media requires a thoughtful strategy that allows for building donor-to-nonprofit relationships to reap maximum engagement. Social listening experts at NetBase suggest, "Flipping the script to put donors before the cause is how nonprofits can build trust and enlist social users’ support.  These are the people who — when authentically engaged — will amplify your message for you."

And nonprofits can definitely use the help of any willing social advocates. 

So it's not about simply putting out your message — it's about talking to prospective donors about their interests, and working your nonprofit into that conversation in an authentic way. 

But that's not the only area where authenticity matters. 

Be sure donors can find the real you

Your content must be authentic to searchers' intent — or Google may penalize you, something you never want to happen. 

A recent quality rater update, Phantom Update III, appears to prioritize content that meets user intent, and penalize content that doesn’t. Speaking about the update in their blog, Searchmetrics explains, "At the core of assessing the quality of a page is user intent and how well user expectation is fulfilled by the results."

That means your content has to align with search terms and expectations, or it will be pushed further down in the ranks, while other nonprofits overtake you. 

Searchmetrics also noted, "It is important to notice that [the] content is not simply long. It is comprehensive and fulfils the user’s information needs.” So no content for the sake of content, or rambling on just to fill the page with keywords — or you might be classified as "low quality."

But this isn't bad news. For nonprofits, it's the perfect opportunity to address your audience’s desire to educate themselves before donating, while hitting another donor sweet spot: being environmentally conscious. 

Phase out paper already

Many donors are turned off by printed mailings and brochures handed out at events, considering them a waste of natural resources, and a waste of funds that would be better off going to the cause at hand. 

Though Nonprofit Hub claims "direct mail is still alive and well," according to NewsCred, 44% of direct mail is never even opened. 

That's a lot of paper waste. 

While in the short term continuing with some degree of print mailing makes sense to attract donations from Baby Boomers and older generations, younger generations already want nonprofits to be more eco-friendly. And they may not donate to those who aren't — especially when there are choices that do meet their eco-conscious preference.

But take heart, nonprofits — a few tweaks to your web strategies can solve a host of issues at once and move you forward. A focused social strategy lets you connect personally with your constituents — while you talk up your transition away from print — and a focused content strategy offers the same information as your print campaigns, in an eco-friendly format that helps your search rankings to boot. 

And all of these efforts show donors you're keeping up with the times and being responsible as you strive for your cause — which just might inspire them to give even more. 

Everybody wins.

2 comments about "Leaner, Greener Nonprofits Need To Be Authentic To Stand Out".
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  1. Jennifer Jarratt from Leading Futurists, LLC, March 16, 2016 at 4:20 p.m.

    This is interesting and straightforward. Does Ms Long have any sense that non-profits are actually doing what she suggests? And can non-profits get comparable responses through social media strategies instead of their old direct mail/ email systems? If they bring the same attitudes to social media it probably isn't going to do them much good.

    I'm sure non-profits know their big donors and treat them as individuals, but for smaller donors direct mail--and to some extent social media advertising--can be, and often is, used to harass and annoy them.

  2. Mary Long from Digital Media Ghost replied, March 18, 2016 at 6:36 p.m.

    Hi Jennifer, There's a great site I'd suggest that has lots of info around nonprofits on social media, one that I should have mentioned in the piece now that I think of it, called Social Media for Nonprofits interestingly enough!

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