Cosmic

4 Scroll-Stopping Digital Experiences to Inspire Your Nonprofit's Content

Interactive content is your nonprofit's best bet for convincing and engaging an audience. Let these four examples of powerful experiences be inspiration.

Eric Ressler
October 13, 2020
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In the digital attention economy, nonprofits like yours have to work overtime to make yourself heard. After all, consistently reaching a wider audience is hard in these busy, algorithmically mediated times. But the truth is you no longer have a choice. In your quest to create a more just and equitable world, you can’t focus single-mindedly on the boots-on-the-ground work and leave the rest to happenstance.

If you want to maximize your impact, you must engage and grow your audience of like-minded supporters. Which means the only way forward is to win at the same game every other for-profit company and media organization is already playing. That is, you must create scroll-stopping digital experiences so captivating that your audience can’t help but take notice. Experiences that naturally rise above the latest viral videos, political outrages, and attention-grabbing memes currently fighting for screen time in your audiences’ newsfeed.

So what exactly constitutes a scroll-stopping digital experience? And how do you know when it’s right for your nonprofit? We have answers — as well as some heavy duty inspiration from a handful of organizations at the top of their digital game.

What Exactly Is a Scroll-Stopping Digital Experience?

The name (mostly) says it all. Scroll-stopping digital content is content that is so compelling, provocative, and informative that it cuts through the noise. Not only that, but it provokes engagement, inspires your audience to share it with their network, and even gets featured in the news.

How "Scroll-Stopping" is Your Nonprofit's Content?

Is your content capable of beating the signal-to-noise odds in today's attention economy? Use our checklist to find out.

A scroll-stopping digital experience, by contrast, takes it one step further. Whereas scroll-stopping content can take any form (from a video to an article or even a meme), scroll-stopping experiences are much more immersive. As you’ll see in the examples below, they are often packaged as microsites or websites. Think of them as interactive digital features.

Scroll-stopping digital experiences should be:

  • Informative
  • Compelling
  • Engaging
  • Interactive and immersive
  • Unexpected and unique — but never gimmicky

Scroll-stopping digital experiences inform your audience about your issue (or some key aspect of it), inspire engagement, convert new supporters to your cause, and underscore your organization’s credibility. Just as importantly, your showpiece digital experience should feature prominent calls to action. Once you’ve engaged your audience and convinced them to side with your cause, what do you want them to do next? Make those next steps clear and easy to follow.

True scroll-stopping digital experiences aren’t your run-of-the-mill monthly or weekly content items. They represent a major investment of time and resources. Because of that, they must serve a specific, strategic purpose. Moreover, they should benefit your organization for a long time (or be used to maximize impact in a shorter time frame).

Ideally, you should plan to produce at least two interactive digital features per year. Your overall strategy for change should determine the exact number. If your organization is involved in multiple issues, scroll-stopping digital experiences are a good way to more meaningfully advance each of your core areas of action.

When Should My Nonprofit Consider Producing an Interactive Digital Feature?

It’s worth considering investing in a show-stopping digital experience if your organization:

  • Has already embraced a digital-first culture, including a robust digital hub and a steady content production schedule.
  • Has a major milestone approaching for which you need to raise awareness and stoke engagement (such as an election or key piece of legislation).
  • Can use the feature to radically shift your audience’s perspective, convert new supporters to your cause or mission, or demonstrate your impact in a way that garners earned media attention and accelerates the rate of change.
  • Will use the feature for at least a year, during which you can repurpose it for your annual fundraising, to recruit board members, and as a talking point for large donor asks.

Learning From the Best: Four of Our Favorite Scroll-Stopping Digital Experiences

The following examples of interactive digital experiences demonstrate the many forms scroll-stopping digital experiences can take. Despite the differences, each one is elegantly designed, immediately impactful, and highly informative.

Mass Bail Out

Mass Bail Out is a collaborative project spearheaded by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization. Its goal is to shed light on inequitable wealth-based detention at the notorious Rikers Island facility, raise funds to pay bail for hundreds of impoverished inmates, and ultimately hasten the planned closing of the facility.

As a digital experience, Mass Bail Out is text-driven and streamlined. It’s not visually complex or particularly technologically sophisticated. Yet it’s still compelling. Because of that, it’s an excellent example of how simple design can still make a powerful impact.

From a production standpoint, a project like this is also more attainable. With fewer creative assets and technological techniques, Mass Bail Out should give you motivation and confidence to create your own digital feature.

Outrider’s Nuclear Weapons Interactive

If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if a nuclear bomb went off in your neighborhood, Outrider’s nuclear weapons interactive has chilling answers. This incredibly immersive digital experience allows users to plug in their geographic location and select a nuclear weapon. Next, they watch as a bomb detonates over their town and see the likely impact in the form of fatalities and injuries. In one fell swoop, this interactive makes the threat of nuclear warfare hit much too close to home.

Outrider developed this interactive experience to get people talking about the danger of nuclear weapons. This is a challenge given that the threat of nuclear weapons is no longer top of mind in the broader national conversation. Not surprisingly, it worked. The experience went viral and has 3.6 million views to date and an average session duration of close to 10 minutes.

Equal Justice Initiative

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) focuses on racial justice, criminal justice reform, and public education. Rather than showcasing a single digital experience, Equal Justice Initiative is worth mentioning because they have produced so many interactive digital experiences, including:

By investing deeply in scroll-stopping digital features, EJI has created a potent digital hub that supporters will want to engage with time and time again.

The New York Times’s Homeless Camp Interactive

As the organization that practically invented interactive digital features with its famous 2012 Snow Fall piece, we had to include something from The New York Times.

Produced in 2019, “Among the World’s Most Dire Places: This California Homeless Camp” is an example of immersive, emotional digital storytelling at its finest. While it’s extremely ambitious, this interactive demonstrates how interactive digital features can be used to tell deeply human stories with the power to convince and activate audiences.

Forward-thinking social impact leaders are already embracing a digital media model to marketing and communications. Scroll-stopping digital experiences are the next step in building a compelling digital presence that your supporters won’t be able to take their eyes off of.

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