Before they were (multichannel) stars…

by Rachel Hope Allison

Photo by Matthias Rosenkranz

HRC’s marriage equality logo phenomenon, Charity Water’s blockbuster September campaign, even Invisible Children’s possibly flawed but undoubtedly huge Stop Kony 2012 campaign

They’re the nonprofit world’s version of celebrities, the organizations who have managed to have a multichannel campaign go “viral.”

The bad news about these guys? There IS a certain amount of luck and timing pixie dusk that goes into hitting the viral heights.

But the good news far outweighs the bad, and that’s that, viral pixie dust aside, much of what made these blockbuster campaigns successful is achievable for almost any organization. Namely – before their campaigns went viral, they each took small, simple steps to build a strong foundation of trust and excitement among their core supporters.

And if you do the same, chances are you can raise powerful amounts of awareness and funds – even without going viral.

So how can you build your own powerful foundation for multichannel success? Start by scanning this checklist for your core supporters, and taking some of the small, but absolutely doable steps that can take you to the next level of multichannel stardom.

Ask yourself, does my audience…

1. Actually exist… and is it reachable?

Chances are, you already have supporters who are excited about your work. But can you reach them? Make sure existing supporters can stay in touch with you by:

  • Asking for a minimal, initial form of contact information (like an email or mailing address) wherever supporters who aren’t yet on your list engage with you (like on your website or at events).
  • Once they’re reachable in one channel, make it easy for them to hear from you in other channels as well. This can be as easy as adding an email form field to your direct mail reply device, or asking email subscribers to like you on Facebook.
  • While simply asking for contact information is better than nothing, it’s even more effective to do so alongside an action that relates to your mission, like an online petition, survey, or advocacy action.

2. Do they know who the heck we are?

Once a new supporter joins your list, don’t assume they know your organization well. Help get to know your work and your team by…

  • Making sure you have clear, visible explanations of your mission on your website.
  • Establishing one or two regular signers on your email and mail communications, and making sure they write with consistent personality.   
  • Paying special attention to new list members by sending them special welcome messages and thank-you messages after they take action.

3. Do they expect and want to hear from us?

Stay out of sight and you’ll stay out of mind—stay on your audience’s radar by sending messages and updates on a regular basis…

  • In email, send at least one email a month (do less and your response rates will fall)
  • In social media, shoot for one to two social media updates a week, and try to end each one by asking for your followers to like, share, or comment
  • In mail, send at least two direct mail packages a year—and make sure at least one hits mailboxes in December for that all-important year-end season.

4. Do they see us in the channels that are right for them?

Start investing in the channels where your audience is already active by…

  • Researching your supporters preferences and habits—try launching a quick online survey or poll that asks them how they like to hear from you.
  • Setting up pages or systems in the channels your audience indicates, and gradually building up your list in each by sending regular updates (see #3)
  • Helping your audiences explore new channels by regularly cross-promoting other ways to stay in touch.

5. Do they know why their support is needed, and why it matters?

Establish the need for support by…

  • Explaining the problem or opportunity the supporter will be helping to solve or seize by taking action. Make this as specific and tangible as possible.
  • After you explain the specific problem, show why donating or acting now also relates back to your big picture mission

6. Do they trust that we’re legit?

Establish credibility with your audience by…

  • Displaying prominent trust seals on donation pages and forms
  • Making sure all fundraising appeals and forms use a design that displays your logo prominently, and feels consistent with your website and brand.
  • Sending prompt receipts and thank you’s after someone has made a donation, and somewhat later, following up with an update on the impact of their giving.

7. Do they know how they can (Quickly! Easily!) make a difference?

Even when the need has been established, your audience needs your help to understand how they can make a difference. Make it clear by …

  • Even when you’re trying to keep your audience informed, try to also make it interactive by ending with a clear request to do something to help—either by sharing the news, taking action, or donating.
  • Make it easy to take action with simple, focused forms or reply devices.
  • Once they have taken action, always remind them there are other ways to stay involved via other channels or supporting actions.

8. Has our audience gotten big enough to invest more resources in outreach?

As you’re establishing your multichannel foundation with the above steps, be strategic about how and where you’ll try to expand your multichannel outreach by…

  • Researching the start-up cost of establishing new channels or offerings, a great resource is the NTEN.org community
  • Looking to industry benchmarks to gauge the initial returns you can expect
  • Exploring how much outside consulting or internal staffing time you’ll need to make the most of an expanded multichannel program

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