These last few months have been a lot, haven’t they? We’ve seen COVID-19 cases spike in areas that previously had few outbreaks, cities and states have issued new lockdown orders, parents and teachers are stressed about school reopening plans, and all of this pandemic-related anxiety is happening while we witness powerful social movements resurface and gain significant momentum following the death of George Floyd.
If you’re like me, you’ve spent the past few months educating yourself on social justice issues, searching for organizations to donate and support, and aligning yourself with causes that can make a difference in your community… while also taking precautions to limit exposure to the Coronavirus.
According to a recent New York Times article, Color of Change, one of the largest online racial justice groups in the U.S., went from having 1.7 million to 7 million members and received “hundreds of thousands of individual donations” in a matter of days. On Blackout Tuesday, a day where people went dark on social media to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, ActBlue, the fundraising platform used by Black Lives Matter and other organizations, reported $41 million in donations within a single day. And the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a small community bail project, raised $35 million in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, which overwhelmed the small organization.
Many political activist and racial justice groups have been flooded with requests from volunteers, donors and supporters—which is great news for these nonprofits. But it’s also a challenge for these organizations to engage new donors quickly, provide them with resources and education, and reassure them that their chosen organization is ready to meet this moment and is the right group for them to invest their time and resources.
We’ve rounded up 5 tips to help you mobilize your movement and inspire action from your supporters:
1. Make Newcomers Feel Included
When a volunteer or donor first joins your organization, their first interactions with your team will play a critical role in laying the foundation for their future relationship with you. How are you currently onboarding new constituents in the first few weeks, and how are you getting them involved immediately? This is particularly important in the digital world, because new volunteers can’t meet people at your volunteer info session or happy hour like they could in a pre-COVID world.
Consider enrolling new members, volunteers and donors in a nurture drip campaign with emails to help them get to know your organization, activities and programming available. Invite newbies to your online community and create dedicated discussions and virtual events to help newcomers meet one another.
2. Keep People Informed About Issues They Care About
People are raising their hands to learn more about your organization because you’ve demonstrated expertise and a commitment to a topic that is near and dear to their hearts. Make that relationship with the donor or volunteer more valuable by curating unique and relevant experiences that are designed to keep them informed and advance your mission—whether you’re focused on amping up fundraising efforts, increasing attendance at an upcoming event or growing your volunteer base.
Rather than notifying your supporters about every activity in your organization and potentially overwhelming them, take advantage of a preferences center as part of your member management system or email marketing platform to deliver the content that will be most meaningful to them. You can also use newsfeeds and personalized content within your online community and virtual events platform to tailor content to their interests.
3. Create Experiences to Engage Them Year-Round
Many nonprofits and groups traditionally build their outreach calendar around a few key events that take place throughout the year such as an annual conference, fundraising event, 5K and Giving Tuesday. But, if I’m looking for a positive in our current environment, virtual events do not need to be constrained to the three days when all of your supporters attend your annual conference or the weekend that you hold your annual 5K.
Nonprofit organizations can engage people year-round through virtual events, happy hours, meetups and more. Consider breaking your annual conference into mini-events that take place each quarter and require smaller chunks of time from our supporters. Empower your volunteers to host their own meetups and form affinity groups tied to specific issues within your organization.
4. Give Supporters a Clear Path and Next Steps
How many times have you joined an organization or donated to one without knowing how to clearly get involved and become an active member of the group? This has happened to me before and I eventually stopped engaging with the group.
Your volunteers are valuable and it’s crucial to make it easy for them to understand the needs within your organization, and how to leverage their own skillsets and expertise to help reach your goals. Use your email newsletter and discussion boards on your website and online community to clearly articulate needs in your organization and match them with volunteers who have the time and expertise to support them.
Consider using badging to highlight your active supporters when they log into their volunteer portal and digital spaces, to give them recognition for their efforts and drive engagement. Badges can be used for attending a specific number of virtual events, joining committees, emailing and calling their representative, and more.
5. Deliver More Value to Help Offset Your In-Person Activities
Nearly all organizations and nonprofits have struggled during COVID-19, whether it’s the challenges of a remote workforce, concerns about revenue and the need to use financial reserves, how to engage their volunteers digitally, and more.
More than 70 percent of nonprofits reported a decline in marketing spending in 2020 as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and a significant chunk of this investment is coming from the loss of in-person events. Smart nonprofits are taking this time to focus on messaging and programming that is personalized, localized and relevant to their supporters’ needs right now, and they’re also being more efficient with their current marketing spend.
How are your programs and activities helping your volunteers navigate the overwhelming amount of information and resources that are relevant to their interests? How are you connecting them with other folks in your organization who share their passion? And, are you giving them a digital space to collaborate, share their progress and actions to further your cause?
Want a Deep Dive on This Topic?
I’ll be sharing more information and best practices for nonprofits to mobilize their movement and unite supporters on Thursday, August 27, at 11:30 AM CT/12:30 PM ET. Join for me a webinar where you’ll learn:
- The evolving landscape for volunteers, donors and supporters in a COVID-19 world
- Best practices and tips for organizations to unite their supporters and engage meaningfully through digital channels
- A roundup of tools and technology that can help organizations be more efficient and effective with their investment