Your nonprofit mission is going well, whether it’s saving the dogs or saving the children or saving the electricity, you are being successful in your noble endeavor. And you’ve been diligent at letting the world know all about your progress through your various social media platforms.
Your message is out there.
And you have gained a following and they are reading and listening and watching and getting excited.
How do you turn this diverse group of people into an active community of helpers, brand ambassadors, and donors? How do you leverage your current work through your fans and take it to the next level?
When filming a television program, the production company has the challenge of transforming a disparate group of people who have wandered in off the streets into an audience who respond as one to the story whether it be a drama or a comedy. These folks may know about the show ahead of time and are big fans or they may be just there for the novelty of the experience. That sampling of people is representative of the larger television audience at home. If it works in the studio, it will probably work then at home.
First you make them comfortable. The heat or air conditioning needs to be working and set to a comfortable temperature. The seats need to be inviting and with a clear view of the performers. Now everyone is seated, comfortable, and awaiting the start of the show. If the show is lousy, you may unite the people but coordinated booing is not the goal.
By the end, if all goes well, you have turned them into a united group and if you’ve managed to turn the individuals into an audience in the studio, that gives the production team confidence that the show is ready for a mass audience. If it fails, that episode probably gets reworked or scrapped.
A united audience then becomes loyal supporters, brand ambassadors, tweeters, fan-page creators, and so on. They are your free marketing group taking the word of your show to places you never dreamed exist.
STEPS TO TAKE
Bring Them Inside
A television studio audience is told that they are a part of the show and that puts them in a good place to make your evening a success. By telling your nonprofit community your current and future plans, it makes them feel like insiders, like part of the frontline team, co-laborers in the cause. They will hear the challenges, the obstacles, and hopefully seeds will be planted in their minds on how to help. And it lays the groundwork for requests you are going to make of them later on.
Ask Their Opinion
Ask your community what they think. About this issue or that. About a plan to move forward. About a solution to a larger problem. Talking openly about what you’re thinking and where you want to go.
Armed with social media channels, you have almost immediate access to many passionate people who have been thinking about the overall cause in general and your work in particular. They might have some good ideas for both the overall cause and your particular organization. They might know a board member on a foundation, be able to assemble a team of volunteers, give you a discount on catering from their restaurant.
Let them help you solve your problems. The “we’re all in it together” attitude is very powerful for community bonding.
Share Your Stories
Nothing brings people closer to you than the stories you tell. Stories of success, of failure, of the brave, the beaten down. Of puppies saved, of scholarships won. After you clear away all the talk, it’s the raw human/puppy interest stories that move your people and bring them closer to your cause.
You can also make great strides in cementing relationships by soliciting stories. It might be involvement with your group or with the overarching challenges, but unfiltered stories from the front are powerful, authentic, and highly sharable.
Be Simple to Join and Share
To help grow your overall community and spread the word about your cause and organization, make it easy for your customers to connect with you and with others. Use the highly recognizable social media sharing icons on your website. If someone likes your article, video, picture, you want that content to be one easy click away from being shared with the world. And most importantly, with the world by way of the person who is passionate about your cause. That authentic endorsement is the most powerful one you can get.
Don’t Neglect Them
Don’t begin mobilizing your community until you are willing to commit to the work; consistent commitment is required to ensure the relationships survive and thrive. Start slow with what you can manage, be it a weekly Facebook post or a daily tweet. Building slowly and being consistent is far better than starting strong and fading.
Ask for Help!
Whether it’s for a special donation, a reoccurring donation, for volunteers, for contacts, for sharing content, for providing content, ask you community to get behind you. Not only does it make sustaining and furthering your work possible, it also further cements the relationship.
Volunteers become contributors, donors become board members, board members solicit foundations on your behalf, and so on. You never know what’s out there until you ask. Every nonprofit has an amazing story or three about a huge donation or bequeath or opportunity that emerged from a source who was previously unknown.
Suzie has a job and a family and lives halfway across the country from your location, and she can’t be on the frontlines but Suzie is passionate about saving the baby seals from the seagulls and by helping your organization in some small way, she can actually make a difference from where she is and that’s an amazing opportunity for her. By asking her to help, you are giving her a great gift and that’s going to be her perspective as well.
Don’t hesitate, ask!
The goal of all this hard work is to build up a group of individuals into a team of brand ambassadors for your organization and for your cause. From casual interest and minimal interaction can come surges of growth based on leveraging the passion, creativity, wealth, and contacts of all these people now pulling together for the first time.