We live in an era where information is available and can be published by just about everyone; if you’re receiving email, odds are you have the power to forward it to tens, hundreds, or thousands of others with just a few clicks. The typical user is online every day, if not constantly tethered. What’s more, people believe their family and friends far more than they do an organization or nonprofit. Getting your message to spread widely and quickly happens when people get information from more trusted sources, and that requires social media.
Social media has become an essential strategy in generating donations for nonprofits and if you aren’t active in social media channels, your nonprofit is missing a huge potential for revenue and other types of support. From Millennials and GenX to Baby Boomers, the vast majority of the world’s population is connected online to one another, to their favorite brands, and to the causes they care most about.
But with several active generations, all with different backgrounds and communication preferences, the traditional approach to engaging a group of supporters will no longer work. So how can you reach them effectively and get them to support and promote your cause?
Be Social – Really Know Your Supporters
Being social is about two-way communication, so get to know your supporters by conversing with them. Some of the strongest communities are based on relationships between supporters and the nonprofit organization. Read your supporters’ comments, chime in when you think you can add something, ask them questions to learn more, and take note of the type of content that engages them. If your nonprofit organization covers multiple issues but supporters respond well to one particular issue, focus on that issue more than the others on that platform.
Develop Multichannel Campaigns
Offline and traditional methods for communicating, engaging and organizing are still important but are rapidly declining as each generation continues to age. Nonprofits need to look at creating multichannel campaigns to successfully incorporate the needs of all generations.
Research shows that each generation uses a variety of online and offline channels. For example, when responding to a nonprofit’s fundraising efforts, the younger the donor, the greater the number of ways they give. Relying on direct mail exclusively no longer makes sense, but when used with online methods, the result may be different. For instance, a donor may receive a direct mail piece and choose to give online. Or donors that are acquired via the Internet may prefer to continue to give through direct mail. That same donor might learn of a cause, or be motivated to support a cause based on something a friend posts on their Facebook wall, but then write a check or donate online. Or, in a natural disaster situation, a donor may respond by making a gift via their mobile phone.
Know Your Generations
All groups can be reached effectively with the right messaging.
- Millennials are transforming communities, involved in causes that are important to them and are changing the world for the better. They build engagement with word-of-mouth through their social media channels as well as face-to-face events. This generation places a higher value on the opinion of someone with firsthand experience, preferably a peer or close friend rather than experts with professional or academic credentials, to recommend a brand or product.
- Gen Xers are highly technical, and with added skepticism, they are known to habitually research the purchases they make, which means they will have done their homework prior to supporting a particular nonprofit organization. Gen Xers can be inspired to engage in a particular cause based on what is being discussed in their social media networks. When this group feels they can trust, they will engage and be more inclined to give.
- Baby Boomers established a connection with the organizations they care about in early adulthood, and are now in a position to give financial support. While many give through direct mail, Boomers are becoming more digital savvy each year and are more likely to value building relationships and trust than any bells and whistles.
Thanks to B2C companies like Amazon with advances in micro-targeting, all three generations have come to expect a customized online experience – a message and call-to-action built specifically for them.
The important distinction to make is that there are very diverse supporters across several different generations that require different communication and prefer to take different kinds of action. To be successful, nonprofits need to understand how each of these groups wants to be engaged and personalize their campaigns accordingly.
Will Your Nonprofit Benefit?
The answer is yes, if, of course, you leverage your efforts well. Why? People are on email overload only reading the ones they really want with the help of spam filters and Google’s new tabs; they prefer social media where they can control the pace as well as what is important to them. Nonprofits and political organizations today need to be prepared for the social conversation by taking the first steps: listening and going where the conversation is happening. You may not think you have time for social media, but it’s going on around you. Users are now in control of a significant part of your message, not just as users, but as influencers. Individuals are influenced by friends, friends’ friends, and friends’ friends’ friends. Take advantage of the discussion, find out who your online supporters are, personalize your message, and make sure they’re involved with your cause.
Whether nonprofits are doing fundraising or advocacy, if they don’t rethink how they are reaching individuals (note we say individuals not people), and understand the modern rules of engagement, they can expect their support to decline as well. Nonprofits who define their communications and match their campaigns up with their supporter’s needs, will ultimately see the results of their efforts.