A lot of marketers lately are really emphasizing the value of inspiring other people to talk about your organization. Jay Baer, in his book Youtility, talks about this as a sort of “friend to friend” marketing technique. Jeremiah Owyang discusses this as part of his work on the Collaboration Economy.
It’s not difficult to understand how getting people to talk about you positively without perpetual nudging from your organization could be extremely powerful. If a friend tells you that an organization is great, that weighs more heavily than the organization telling you, “Hey, we’re great.” The tricky thing, however, can be creating that inspiration that entices people to talk about your organization or your cause in a positive fashion. While there is not an ABCs list of how to accomplish this lofty objective, I do have eight suggestions as to how you can create positive energy around your organization.
1. Creative Campaigns
It can be easy at times to approach your fundraising as a chore. Find the people who have donated in the past, approach them in the ways that have worked before, and then cross your fingers. However, if you have the time and resources, finding creative ways to approach your fundraising campaigns can inspire buzz. What can you do to make your campaign stand out? What could you do that would evoke a sense of cleverness while also not undermining the importance of your work?
One example that worked in my own experience was PBS boosting their fundraising campaign by offering donors the boxed set of season three of Downton Abbey. Timed to correspond with the premiere of the season on the channel, the give-away was targeted perfectly, and was of course irresistible to people like me who didn’t want to wait 8 weeks to find out what happened. While you may not have a popular show like Downton Abbey in your toolkit, you still might find there are ways to approach people that will make them happy to give, and happy to talk about their experiences with you.
2. Creative Work
Along similar lines, your organization can strive to create memorable content (design, written, video, etc). While you don’t want to get so creative that your true message becomes overshadowed, it can be helpful to create a well-designed direct mail piece, an engaging Facebook Page, or a really creative video. These pieces will become conversation points for people because of the creativity, meanwhile your message is spreading at the same time. What could be better?
3. Personalized Communications
We’ve talked often on this blog about how important it is to truly get to know your donors. People are perpetually approached by charitable organizations (not to mention for-profit companies). “Give us money,” “Donate to our cause,” “Buy our product.” How can you stand out from the crowd? Build a more personal and personable relationship with your donors and with people who may contribute to your cause sometime in the future. If you impress someone by remembering their name or remembering some small detail about them, they are sure to remember and talk about you.
4. Differentiate Yourself From Your Competition
Hand in hand with more personalized communications is finding ways to differentiate yourself from your competition. If you are viewed as an “also ran” no one will be likely to talk about you. Look at how other organizations in your niche handle themselves, both in terms of offline and online communications and fundraising. How can you separate yourself and your message from what they are doing?
5. Genuine Gratitude
Often times, people may feel like they are just throwing money into a black hole when they contribute to a cause. All they get in return is an impersonal “thank you” with a reminder that they can always give more. If you prove to your donors their contributions really do matter, not only will they be more likely to give again in the future, but they may also say to friends and family, “You know, I donated to that organization, and I felt like I made a difference.”
6. Stories of Success
Sometimes presenting success stories can be tricky. You don’t want to do it in such a way that it comes across as bragging, and you certainly want to make sure you attribute your success to your entire community–not just the people who work for your organization. However, if you can present a success story that includes bumps in the road you encountered, and the ultimate impact of your efforts, that can transition into a “feel-good” story that people will be happy to share.
7. Video or Photos Documenting How You Have Helped
Similar to sharing success stories, this step makes your cause feel more “real” to people who may not be immediately familiar with it. For people who donate to your cause, seeing pictures of how their dollars were put to use can be very satisfying. It can also be a good way for people to share news about why your cause is important and how donations will be used.
8. Provide a Valuable Service For Your Donors
This one is tricky, and for more information you may want to check out Jay Baer’s aforementioned book called Youtility. The idea behind Youtility is that finding ways to help people versus ways to promote yourself to people is the wave of the future. While the book is primarily dedicated to for-profit companies, there is enough inspiration there to motivate any organization to think outside the box. For example, if your cause is oriented towards the environment, perhaps you could work on creating an app that would help people find stores that only use recyclable paper bags. It would be a service to the community, people would talk about its handiness, but your name and cause would also be shared as a result.
Has your organization tried any of these tips? What else would you recommend? We’d love to hear from you!