Building your Nonprofit's Online Community

Building your Nonprofit's Online Community

The impact of social media and online platforms in shaping the way we now communicate is undeniable, and an incredible resource for Nonprofits. At One Story, we believe that being intentional when it comes to how we view online communities, and how we seek to develop these communities for non-profits should be a principal part of any digital media strategy. Social media, and the extent to which it permeates our society, provides a virtual gathering place for people with similar interest to connect - in this case the cause that an individual or organization is promoting. Most often, online communities are facilitated through a social media platform, but some organizations have created “hubs” on their website. Having a pre-qualified audience connecting and engaging with your material is something that can be leveraged to create awareness about your cause, reach people in a more meaningful way, and yes, grow your fundraising. In one of our last blog posts we explored shaping the conversation around your Non-Profit, but today we’re exploring ways to foster and develop an online community and how to continuously engage them. One way to do this is through storytelling.

Tell Your Audience Stories

You’ve probably heard us say this before, but stories, and especially visual stories, really are the best content Nonprofits can produce. Stories emphasize emotion, and emotion persuades the audience to empathize with what your story’s subject are experiencing and legitimizes a call to action. The chances are pretty high that your audience and your story subject (be that an individual or a social group, for instance) are not the same person. They probably come from different walks of life. Your audience may never really fully understand what it’s like to walk a mile in your client’s shoes, but they can understand the emotions that person experienced along the way. Emotions are the thread that connects us all, and the importance of weaving emotion into your stories is something that we at One Story keep at the forefront of every project and creative collaboration we embark upon as a company. When you share stories with your online communities, highlight those emotions. We explored in our previous blog post the importance of the balance as you don’t want to be too overt, or create an atmosphere of melodrama. But the emotions, if communicated correctly and subtly, are what will get someone to click on a link, read more or leave a comment. It is the hook of your content.

5 Tips for developing online communities

There are numerous ways to use storytelling in your online community, but the best are devices that invite audience participation. As they are undoubtedly the principle online communities I’ll focus on social media platforms in these tips!

1. Ask people to submit a story about their experience with your cause. This doesn’t have to be clients, or people who you have worked with directly - it could be people who have read and shared your content, anyone your organization has reached and affected. By asking them to share their experience, you will get them cognitively considering why they care, why it matters to them, why they’re returning to this community. You’re pulling up an emotional connection. You could even set up a landing page on your website that shares a montage of these.

2. Tell the story of impact. Chances are that some of the people in your online communities will also be donors and contributors to your organization. Make it a point to share stories that highlight the impact of a program or service. Contributors want to hear about the tangible outcomes they’ve been a part of!

3. Consider telling your story in a series. Rather than reveal the whole enchilada in one go, release it over a week or two! This will give people a reason to visit the site again and give them something to look forward to. So many super successful advertising campaigns have been executed this way!

4. Invite people to leave comments and ask questions. By creating a discussion surrounding your material you connect people in our online community, and make people feel like they’re engaging in something truly real. If you’re mindful in shaping the topics of discussion, you’ll create useful feedback for your marketing strategy by learning what is working for your audience and what isn’t.

5. Plan small events for your organization’s support groups. There is nothing like happy hours to get people together! By bringing your social media/online community into the real world you may form connections (volunteers, bloggers, other organizations with similar mission statements etc) that otherwise would have never come to the surface!

At One Story we can insure that your organization’s visual content is the best it could be to get your voice heard. Our team work with you in a creative collaboration from script and planning through to the delivery of your finished project. If you’re wondering what working with a production company is like, check out our blog post on what to expect, and if you’re ready to start creating the content to move your business forward, contact us to start the process!

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