Five Ways to Pay it Forward Online


As an NPO, much of your success is dependent upon others. You need for people to share the word about your cause, you need people to contribute to your fundraising efforts, and ideally, you’d love for people to help promote the good that you do. In the online world, maintaining the balance between nourishing important relationships and promoting your own cause can sometimes be difficult.

One of the best ways to make sure that you are making and keeping your online friends is to approach the online world with a focus of paying your support forward. Here are five easy ways to “pay it forward” online. The best part is that all of these steps are extremely easy but pay high dividends. That’s the best kind of work to do!

1. Share Other Cause Campaigns

This will probably seem counter-intuitive. After all, a cause that is striving for contributor dollars could well be considered your competition. The trick would be to find a cause that is quite obviously not directly competitive with you. Find an organization that is doing a different kind of work but still something you as an organization can get behind. Sharing another organization’s efforts accomplishes a few things. First and most obviously, you are paying your support forward.

More than that, however, you are exemplifying your charitable philosophy, you are showing that you are aware of causes outside of your own, and you are showing that while you often ask for share and support, you can also offer shares and more support. This can make you seem more accessible to potential contributors and potentially could earn you more loyalty down the road as well.

2. Promote Donors on Social Media

Social media makes it easier than ever to connect with our communities, whether as an individual, as a business, or as a cause. A quick search on Twitter or a scan of your “fans” on Facebook should make it easy to find out a little more about them. You could also send out a simple question to your donors via a Facebook post or an e-newsletter asking if they are engaged in any efforts online that you could help support. Your willingness to support your donors in their efforts will also likely entice others to join your community as well.

3. Help Strangers

Another great way to represent your organization positively online as well as to pay forward the support you receive is to strive to answer questions and help people out even if they have nothing to do with your cause. It’s not difficult to find people who are asking questions, but you could even conduct a quick search to find people in need of assistance. Questions can range from the simple (“What does #FF mean?”) to the more complex (“How can I most effectively use Twitter to promote my business or cause?”). This course of action offers the added benefits of showing that you are interested in proactively helping people and that you are knowledgeable.

4. Offer Guest Blogging

This is particularly valuable if you have a fairly active community, which would help give the blogger good exposure. Offering a donor or someone else who has supported your cause in some way a chance to demonstrate their expertise via a post on your site. Make sure you promote these guest posts as much as you promote your own posts, and confirm with the blogger what information would be most beneficial for them to have included in their bio.

5. Co-host a Webinar or Seminar

Similar to the blog idea but more time-intensive and aggressive (and ultimately more valuable to your partner), this concept really allows you to shine the light on a member of your community while also (one would hope) educating your community on something they need to learn more about. For example, perhaps one of your donors is a CPA. You know that a lot of the people your organization works with struggle with tax questions, so you could co-host a webinar on tax tips with your CPA community member, highlighting his or her expertise (and perhaps earning them new business) while also helping out your community.

Paying it forward is a concept that is sometimes hard to justify because there is no straight line to realizing ROI. You can’t guarantee that someone whom you help on Twitter will donate to or support your cause. You’ll probably never find out that a person who donated to your cause was inspired to do so because they saw you helping someone online and found that remarkable. Where paying it forward pays dividends, however, is in the reputation of your organization and making those who do donate to your cause feel appreciated. These objectives don’t have price tags associated with them but one might say, instead, that they are priceless.