Cosmic

Want to Move the Needle on Your Cause? Start By Mobilizing Your Nonprofit's Supporters.

Your nonprofit can't create once-in-a-generation transformational change in a bubble. Here's how to mobilize your supporters and scale your impact.

Eric Ressler
November 4, 2020
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Your social impact organization’s underlying goal is to spark deep, meaningful change. That’s true whether you focus on improving adult literacy, providing disaster relief, ending climate change, or spearheading something else entirely. In fact, your desire to take action rather than simply pointing out what’s wrong in the world is integral to your organization’s DNA. You do what you do because you believe it’s actually possible to create a world that aligns with your most deeply held values.

But you also know that you can’t create once-in-generation transformational change in a bubble. The larger your community of engaged supporters, the more you can scale your impact. Which means that your program work is only one piece of the puzzle. You must also build a base of dedicated supporters and mobilize them to take action in service of your cause.

Your ability to engage and activate supporters for your cause begins with a robust digital media presence. And you must use it to paint a captivating picture of your vision for the future — and inspire people to go out and work for it.

Why a Digital-First Approach is Key to Mobilizing Your Nonprofit’s Supporters

Whether you are seeking to increase awareness, raise funds, or inspire boots-on-the-ground activism, you can’t mobilize your supporters if you don’t have their undivided attention. And in today’s digital-first world, that’s no simple task. You can’t just build an attractive website, sit back, and wait for your supporters to stream in.

The truth is that the majority of your interactions with your supporters will begin out in the “wilds” of the internet, not on your organization’s homepage. You must meet your audience where they already are: on search engines and social media sites. And, once there, you must compete for their limited attention. To do that, you’ll need to create strategic, scroll-stopping content that captures your audience’s attention again and again — while also providing clear, compelling calls to action.

A Digital Media Playbook for Social Impact Organizations

Follow our step-by-step guide to design and execute a high-impact digital media strategy and supercharge your organization's impact.

At Cosmic, we believe all social impact organizations must adopt the new digital media model. That is, they must embrace a digital-first marketing and communications program that acts like a jetpack to supercharge their impact. This progressive approach is what differentiates pre-information-era charities from conversation-leading, impact-driving powerhouses.

The digital media mandate applies to all social impact organizations, not just those that seek to spark change by building a grassroots movement. Regardless of what you do, the digital media model is key to raising awareness about your issue and brand, building your organization’s credibility, and scaling your impact.

Is Your Organization Leveraging Its Digital Presence to Activate Supporters?

You might be thinking, “My organization already has a digital presence. Aren’t we already doing this?” You’re right. You probably do have several of the necessary pieces in place. If you’re like many nonprofits, you have a storytelling website with a donation button, a regularly scheduled email newsletter, and an active presence on one or more social media channels.

But here’s the thing: The question isn’t whether you are active online. It’s whether your entire suite of digital activities is grounded in a holistic and intentional digital strategy. And not just any strategy, but one that is specifically designed to engage and mobilize supporters.

To test whether your organization is actually leveraging your digital presence to activate supporters, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you invested in building a digital-first culture within your organization? Or do you perpetually give your digital marketing and communications efforts the short end of the stick?
  • Do you have an overarching digital media strategy that is clearly tied to your organization’s current objectives and theory of change?
  • Is your digital media strategy designed to not only capture your audience’s limited attention but also drive specific actions (such as making a donation, signing a petition, volunteering, or attending a protest)?
  • Do you have a digital action center or a robust digital hub that offers multiple opportunities for supporters to get involved?
  • Are you confident in your ability to design and execute a digital campaign that drives your supporters to take a single, clearly defined action?
  • Do you know who your top fifty donors are — and how they first engaged with your brand online?
  • Can you identify which individual pieces of your organization’s content have triggered the most “conversions” in the form of donations or other actions?
  • Do you track your supporters’ unique digital interactions with your brand? Do you know how many interactions it takes, on average, before your supporters make a donation or take another desired action?
  • Is there a clear strategy for deepening your supporters’ commitment to your brand and guiding them up the ladder of engagement?
  • Are you actively cultivating a digital community that gives your supporters a sense of belonging and purpose?

If your answer to one or more of these questions is “no,” you still have work to do.

Three Steps to Guide Your Action-Oriented Digital Strategy

Ready to get started? Use the following three steps to guide your thinking as you craft a digital strategy that can mobilize your supporters and push your theory of change forward.

  1. 1.
    Determine who you are mobilizing. Before you can come up with a plan to activate your supporters, you need to know who, exactly, you are trying to mobilize. Look beyond your existing email list and ask yourself: Who do you want to recruit to have at your back? This will likely include some combination of individual supporters, funders, synergistic nonprofits and businesses, and values-aligned communities. Use target audience personas to gain a richer understanding of each individual audience you plan to activate.
  2. 2.
    Identify the activities you want your supporters to engage in. This is the fun part. Let yourself dream big as you consider what actions your supporters could take that would most effectively support and further your work. These actions can range from digital (make a donation, sign an online petition) to boots-on-the-ground (volunteer at an event or phone bank). As you work to prioritize activities, consider which actions will make the fastest or biggest impact. Be sure to connect those activities to your organization’s most pressing goals. For example, are you looking to diversify your revenue sources? If so, recruiting individual donors or implementing a membership program might be your primary focus to start.
  3. 3.
    Chart a path to inspire your supporters to take action. Start by assessing what you are already doing to engage your supporters. For example, this might include a newsletter, social channels, thought leadership content, email, events, and real world outreach. Next, work to intentionally develop clear calls to action that can be applied across each of your touchpoints. In addition, you should begin planning campaigns that are designed to provoke specific actions. (You may also want to think about how to translate pre-COVID in-person fundraising events into digital happenings.) As you formulate plans, be sure that you are clear about what the why behind your ask. Your job is to show your audience why they should care about your issue — and how their actions will move the needle on your issue.

By inspiring your supporters to take meaningful action, you won’t just nurture your community of supporters and raise awareness about your issue. You’ll effectively amplify and expand your organization's capabilities — and stretch your impact to new heights.

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