Welcome to the first in a series of digital advice blogs for non-profits, charities or NGOs. We have started with a general overview, which will be followed by more in depth blogs that take you into specific tools and techniques.
What can digital channels do for your organisation?
- Amplify word of mouth
- Connect in new ways
- Build communities of support
- Make the formerly invisible, more visible (good and bad!)
- Nurture and acknowledge donors, volunteers and supporters
In a world where many of us are overwhelmed daily with too much information – and information we don’t know the quality or accuracy of in many cases, and some of us are subjected to forms of criticism and negativity that we wouldn’t receive in a face to face setting, are there any real benefits to be found by engaging in the digital world?
I believe the answer to this is yes, as long as people take some care with their privacy and understand the “rules of engagement” when connecting to others online. The points at the top of this blog are a summary of some of the benefits of having an active online presence that is well managed.
For non profits and NGOs, the challenges are different from those who are running businesses online, and the benefits in many cases can be greater since you have no commercial intention.
Unlike 90% of the organisations online, you are not trying to sell anything.
Tools and Platforms for Amplification and Engagement
- Facebook Groups – to grow your community of support in a safe and relatively private online space
- Twitter and instagram hashtags – to reach audiences who don’t currently follow or know about you, but who search these platforms via #hashtags or have regular feeds for those hashtags
- Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding – New Zealand platforms – www.givealittle.co.nz, www.pledgeme.co.nz
- Lobbying for change via platforms like ActionStation – potential tools to help raise awareness of the issues your organisation is working with, and to generate support if you need it
- Facebook Live video – a tool to communicate by live (or recorded) video with your community of supporters, for free. Use Facebook live within your Facebook Group to help communicate effectively, particularly for anything that is time sensitive and where you need support.
- Email communication campaigns using tools like MailChimp
- Marketing automation platforms like Hubspot, designed to keep in contact with your supporter base
Seven suggestions to maximise digital for your organisation
- Put someone into a communications role – overlap with grant applications and sponsorship. We can’t emphasise the importance of this too much. It might be a volunteer role, but whether paid or unpaid, someone needs to build skills in this area and gain momentum – fundraising works on an annual cycle so it is important to carry over the information from each year and build on it. Building long term relationships with grant organisations and other potential donors is also essential, and this is largely a communications role. Don’t allow the only time they ever hear from you to be when you are seeking money – keep them informed of what your organisation is doing in the community, invite them to significant events and ensure their contributions are publicly recognised and appreciated.
- Utilise the funding sources and other resources for non-profits for example www.techsoup.net.nz
Google Ad Grants for registered charities – $10k per month in free adwords
Register with the Spark Foundation’s Give programme for payroll giving.
- Build your community within a Facebook Group – attach one to your existing Facebook page if you don’t already have a group.
Set the tone for members, appoint or ask for volunteer admins to help moderate and maintain that tone and spirit of your group. Be prepared to be amazed at how members step up and contribute.
Be conscious that whatever you put out into the digital world can support or harm your position in your community.
Remember that the digital environment is dynamic, constantly evolving and the lounge room where conversations take place, not a street corner for you to shout your message by loudhailer.
Your online network can amplify your message many times over – don’t underestimate the reach and impact of your followers and members and ask them to help spread the word on your behalf. Make that process as easy as you can by putting your information, videos and posts in a format that is easy to share, for example ensure that Facebook posts are set to “public” so they can be easily shared.
Build up the “credits” of goodwill in your bank in advance, and they will repay you when you need help. So don’t wait until your next fundraiser or grant application to suddenly think about it again. Use it well, and it will be a vital resource when you are looking for community support.