The top discussions on mainstream and social media news these days revolve around a few hot (and important) topics: COVID-19 and its impact on our health and economy; systematic racism in the US and police brutality, and the ongoing presidential election. With these topics dominating our news feeds, how are nonprofits or associations—entities that relied on the contributions of its donors and members to survive pre-pandemic—going to fit into that?
Or rather, maybe the better question is: how can a nonprofit stand out?
Between these very important social issues and the election, it seems everywhere we turn we are being asked for money to support a cause. Add in the fact that 6.2 million Americans are still furloughed and 1.4 million are newly unemployed as of September 4 according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report, and how people spend their money has become even more important.
Oh, and let's not forget the pièce de résistance; large-scale events like fundraisers (aka a major source of revenue for nonprofits) have been persona non grata since March with no clear sign of their return on the horizon.
So what is a nonprofit to do?
1. Reeducate donors (and prospective donors) about your mission and programs.
Every nonprofit has a purpose. While raising money is an important part of enacting that purpose in real life and our communities, let’s take a step back to remind people WHY they are being asked for money.
You are not just one more organization or person asking them to open their wallets. You are an organization making change in your communities and contributing to our society as a whole. Share that. Nonprofits can share content on your social media channels and your email newsletters that reminds your past donors why they gave to you by SHOWING them how you use it.
2. Button up your website.
This is a whole new world from the one lived in pre-pandemic, which means your online messaging needs to be updated to reflect that. Whatever content you share on social media or emails should always lead readers back to your website whether to read the article you created or learn more about how your organization is adapting (or struggling) as a result of the pandemic.
While I’m not saying it necessarily has to be completely overhauled, it definitely needs to reflect that you are aware of the larger societal and humanitarian situation we find ourselves in and you are both listening and taking action to do your part.
3. Think of email and social media as new roads to your cause rather than additional locations of the cause.
Email and social media are wonderful ways for nonprofits to stay connected with your donors and supporters, but they are not autonomous. Your time, energy and financial resources have gone into what is now a beautiful, robust and easily-navigated website. You want people to see the fruits of that labor now right? Exactly! So rather than recreate the same brand experience on a secondary channel (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn or via email newsletters), you should create a smaller version of the content for those channels that links back to the larger story on your site.
Emails to former donors and social posts will surely keep you top of mind, but should be used to point people back to your website where even more information is located. This will serve you more over time because that fantastic mission-driven content you are creating (the videos, articles and other search optimized educational elements) will be indexed by Google, which could bring additional new traffic and eyeballs to your site.
Most Important Takeaway
The organizations that don’t hide from the pandemic, but rather confront it head on with brand- tailored programs and messaging, are the ones that continue to receive contributions via individual donations and corporate sponsorships.
You don’t have to be the loudest voice in the room, (i.e. the biggest social media movement or front page headliner of top news outlets) in order to get attention for your cause, but you do need to be IN the room.
D. Channing Muller is the principal and founder of DCM Communications, a marketing consulting firm based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. She works primarily with event professionals and business owners to grow and scale their businesses through one-on-one and group coaching. She has over 15 years of experience in the communications industry, serving in top roles within marketing, magazine and web editorial, advertising and business development for a variety of media, software and PR companies in the United States and internationally. Follow her on Instagram @ChanningMuller.