When you hear about its amazing story, you may shake your head and say: “Sigh. There is absolutely NO way that my tiny, itty bitty, bootstrapped nonprofit can do what they do.”
But you are wrong!
Take the advice of the incredibly talented and enthusiastic Paull Young, past Director of Digital at the organization, currently at Instagram working on Strategic Partnerships.
He wrote a fantastically insightful post on Medium about the 5 things he learned during his tenure at charity:water – lessons that I believe can translate to even the smallest of nonprofit organizations.
Here are 5 ways that your small nonprofit can start raising money and awareness just like charity:water:
1) Learn the model.
charity:water has a very simple and laser-focused strategy for fundraising and marketing.
Inspire – Activate – Experience.
All of their content, online and otherwise, focuses on inspiring people. This inspiration leads to activation – donating to a fundraiser and/or becoming a fundraiser. This activation is followed up by a high-quality personalized experience with the nonprofit.
Is the content that you put out there inspiring? Think of all the ways you communicate to the public online and off. What would motivate people to get involved? What would inspire someone to give to your nonprofit?
What happens next? You manage to inspire someone with a tweet, a story, a Facebook post, an email or a great video. What do you want them to do? Is there a clear path to activism? For charity:water, they aim to activate people to become fundraisers and start their own campaigns. This message is crystal clear on their website, in all their videos and throughout all of their communications.
Truly inspired people do amazing things if they’re given a platform. – Paull Young
What is your donor experience? “Donor experience” is really just another term for what you may call “donor cultivation”. What is the journey that your donors make when they first support you or express and interest in supporting you? When they make a donation, do they only get a generic, bland email thanking them? Do they get anything at all? How can you be more creative in producing a unique donor experience – one that will bring them back again and again?
Does the cycle begin again? How do you keep donors in the fold, and further inspire them to then raise money on your behalf or spread the word about the cause?
2) Stop the sad, woe-is-me marketing campaigns.
charity:water has many mantras, but one is called “Opportunity not Guilt.” The fundraising campaigns developed by the nonprofit do not make donors and prospects feel terrible and guilty.
Rather, they create positive, uplifting opportunities for people to build on the good work being done by the organization.
Eliciting emotion is very important in fundraising, but as Paull says:
In a model where inspiration is key, and a media environment where sharing wins, Opportunity not Guilt is critical for our content strategy.
Content that inspires, motivates and elicits happy emotions gets spread much more often than content that is depressing. What this means is that your organization is going to get your message spread further and across more networks if it is positive and uplifting.
3) Recognize that people are busy (and lazy).
Over 100 years ago, before the crush of modern technology, Save the Children founder Eglantine Jebb shared this quote that still resonates today:
We have to devise means of making known the facts in such a way as to touch the imagination of the world. The world is not ungenerous, but unimaginative and very busy.
The majority of people in this world will never make a donation to your nonprofit, and they will never like you on Facebook or retweet your tweets. That is just the reality.
It is incredibly hard to cut through the clutter and noise of everyday life to activate well-intentioned but overwhelmed people.
The only way to reach people is to be creative, relevant and brilliant. There are no silver bullets, and no free passes.
Technology is just a tool to inspire and activate people, as well as to provide them with a unique experience through video, dynamic blog posts and other great content. Your content should always be focused on people, not the tools used to promote it.
4) Let others fundraise for you.
charity:water has been so successful because they focus on creating active and inspired fundraisers, not just passive donors who may give once and never again.
This model has worked for them, and it can work for you too. They focus on the long-term, not just the short-term direct-mail one-and-done ask.
Go back to lesson #1 – everything they do creates a cycle where these fundraisers are inspired, activated and given a fantastic experience. This then motivates them to share the work of charity:water with their networks to create new fundraisers, and so on and so forth.
Give your supporters the tools to raise money for you! Give them the tools to spread the word about your cause and your great work. Make it simple!
Check out charity:water’s online fundraiser tool kit for ideas.
5) Make your supporters look and feel like the heroes they are.
Do your donors feel like heroes – or do they feel like checkbooks?
The golden rule of social sharing – getting people to share your stuff with their social networks – is to make them look and feel good.
People share information because they want to influence others, and because they want to make a good impression!
Making your supporters look and feel like heroes involves creating content that is not just about asking. It’s about showcasing your impact and featuring your donors in your communications.
How else does your nonprofit inspire, activate and provide great donor experiences?