Today’s donor wants more than a transactional relationship with a charitable organization, so let’s shift our traditional view of the ‘case for support’ to a ‘case for engagement’.
Below I have provided key suggestions for transforming your traditional case for support into a dynamic case for engagement. The shift reflects an integrated approach using the traditional primary document along with your website, social media platforms and stakeholder engagement.
CASE FOR SUPPORT: PRIMARY DOCUMENT
An effective primary document should accomplish 3 things: tell your story, connect impact with data and take a donor from intention to action.
Before you begin designing your case host a number of discussions across your organization about your donor audience. The better you understand what motivates, resonates and what the giving behaviors are with donors the more likely you will create an effective case for engagement that connects your cause with the donor. Conducting new research can provide fresh perspective on what is working or not in an ever-changing fundraising environment.
Research has shown audiences respond to stories that are emotive, demonstrate mission and connect the viewer with the charity in a more personal and relevant way. With greater donor insight you can carefully select stories that connect with a donor and avoid the infomercial approach. Your best stories not only help to inform but motivate donors into action.
Written stories should be supported by strong photographic images. Select these images based on clearly defined criteria to ensure your cause is differentiated from others. High quality images bring compelling stories to life and help connect the reader with your charity.
Traditional documents often layout financial and service metrics on the back pages, however by connecting data throughout the narrative of the document can improve transparency with your organization, highlight how donations are being used and make it easier for your audience to connect the metrics to activity. By selecting data the donors want and need can move them to donate and understand the business side of your charity better.
Given all the attention surrounding overhead costs, fundraising expenses and executive compensation I would suggest these investments be clearly articulated in the document to demonstrate transparency, build donor trust and share the realities of operating your charity. Donors understand there is business related costs however it’s up to you to educate them as to the why and how these costs support the work of your charity.
Donating is largely an emotive response rather than a carefully planned action. The primary function of your case for engagement is to move the potential donor from intention to action so use the donor giving research to make your donating process and involvement easier. These options should be clearly laid out in your primary document.
We live in a technology rich environment where donors expect the traditional case for support to be fully integrated with responsive digital platforms. Think of your website as a living extension of your case for support primary document. Websites provide a great opportunity for donor engagement and convert them from interested parties to active contributors. By using your website as a digital layer of your case for support you can upload stories, current events and campaign news that creates a relationship with the target audience. Essentially shifting a static case for support to mobile engagement platform.
If you intend to print your case for support create a more robust digital version to enable donors access thru your website. Where your print document has website, social media and email addresses you can create live integrated links on your digital version – essentially building out a super case for engagement that is unlimited and has easy access to a real-time campaign. Avoid the practice of posting a PDF version of your document but rather develop an e-book the potential donor can interact with.
Like many charities, your donors will access your charity from multiple digital pathways. For this reason, creating a dedicated campaign page can give potential donors easy access to your case materials. A well designed page should include the case e-book, a library of storied videos, images of impact, increased layers of data and the easy steps to donating. There is no correct formula for how much information you make available however pay careful attention to what your research is telling you and the user’s experience.
SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM ENGAGEMENTS
The growth and trends in social media platforms is staggering and for many small charities simply difficult to keep abreast of. I suggest selecting a few commonly used platforms as I have cited in the examples below. Depending on the target cohort you want you can help influence the level of engagement you receive on any particular platform, however each should have its own content strategy integrated into your overall case for engagement.
Twitter is a powerful tool to share short impact stories and news items related to your fundraising and the charity in general. Designing a content plan that supports your case that followers are interested in can help increase the levels of impressions and engagements you receive and convert audiences into donors. Include in your plan the hashtags you will use to help generate effective searches from the broader audience as a pathway to your charity’s door.
Instagram is a great platform to share emotional images and short videos as an alternative point of engagement with the community. Again, having a planned approach to your content can ensure you are responding to what interests the current and potential followers. Giving thought to the narrative and hashtags that support your images should help build a relationship with the audience, encourage the sharing of the content and connect back to the reasons to become a partner in your cause.
Like any social media, content is everything. What works for one isn’t necessarily effective with another and keeping informed about the platform design advancements will help you remain relevant and connected to your followers. Simply, social media content should be a woven tapestry of your charity’s mission and activities that provide a compelling reason for engagement and donor contribution.
STAKEHOLDER FACE-TO-FACE ENCOUNTERS
A wonderful benefit of our digital world is the ease it provides for large or small charities to interact with stakeholders face-to-face. Facetime, Skype and other on-line conferencing tools give donors and fundraisers a new platform to carry out the more traditional solicitation call. Learning how to use these tools effectively and building in the use of your other digital tools (e.g. documents, videos, data profiles) can elevate the quality of your presentations and the conversations that lead to donor financial contributions.
If you are new to these platforms and designing presentations I would suggest you carry out a bit of research on the ‘how to’ and ‘what not to do’ to ensure your presentations are seamless and professional. Setting time aside to rehearse and your test the technology can put your mind at ease and plan for a successful meeting with that important donor.
By taking this new approach to transforming your traditional case for support you embrace the digital world your donors are in, enhance your donor-charity relationships and create a more sustainable donor experience.
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Originally published on charitablebychoice.com, July 5, 2016
Revised, November 22, 2017.