Social Media Nonprofit Best Practices: Grassroots Strategy

9 Killer Ways To Mobilize Action Without Burning A Hole In Your Wallet

There are tens of thousands of social-powered sites for non-profits on Ning that are the grassroots campaign headquarters for making a change. This presence online isn’t just a channel for broadcasting information but non-stop destinations that bring people together, facilitate conversations, spark excitement, and inspire action. Social media levels the playing field for non-profits where community building and creativity become more important than running expensive promotional campaigns.

Here are the 9 powerful tips we learned from the successful non-profits on Ning on how to mobilize action without burning a hole in your wallet.

1. Tell the story

Every day, we are bombarded by a ton of noise and information. To capture people’s attention, there is nothing more powerful than storytelling. Stories promote active listening and interaction, meaning that your message is much more likely to be digested and repeated to others. As Mother Theresa once said, “If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” So start connecting with your audience by telling the story of one person in need, instead of facts and figures about the issue.

2. Design matters

Let’s face it – often people judge by appearance and the same goes for non-profits. An unprofessional, disorganized site certainly wouldn’t inspire confidence, let alone getting people involved or inspired to donate. Thanks to new design tools and technology, anyone (not just professional designers or non-profit organizations with big marketing budget) can create a stunning online / social experience. So invest the time in understanding your audience and designing the right experience for them.

3. Make it fun

Rallying support for a cause doesn’t mean you need to be all serious and boring. TuDiabetes, one of our Ning Creators reached out to its community to create the first-ever poetry book on diabetes. To promote early testing for diabetes, TuDiabetes put together a Big Blue Test awareness campaign which is positioned positively and doesn’t appear intimidating. So don’t forget to make it fun to do good.

4. Make social media work for you, not the other way round

Social media is mainstream and having presence on the social web – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Ning, Foursquare, Change.org and more isn’t just important, it’s a pre-requisite. The online presence of your organization should be completely integrated with your social media campaigns to convert lightweight engagement into action for moving toward your goals. And when supporters take online action on your site, broadcast the action to their social graphs to maximize reach.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask

Being aware of an issue doesn’t necessarily imply action. Think about your campaign goals (note: be sure they are measurable) and translate them into actions people can take. Tell people what you need and be specific. Having people take the first step usually is the hardest part, soconsider lightweight actions (e.g. Tweet or “Like”) to make it easy for supporters to get involved.

6. Get 20 influencers to get the word out

According to the recent Ning Point of View Report, you may have 1000 “friends” who never visit, but it only takes 20 people to evolve from one-way broadcasting from the community leader to meaningful many-to-many interactions. Identify the small group of quality influencers within your support base and focus on nurturing those relationships to get your community kick started.

7. Encourage content creation

One of the challenges non-profit organizations face is generating fresh content to inform people on what’s happening. You don’t need to shoulder that burden alone. Encourage your community to be content generators – let them blog about why they’ve become involved, share videos from fundraising events, and more. Not only is the workload is distributed, it also sparks dialogue and opens the lines of communication within your active support base.

8. Use different approaches to keep people engaged

Everyone’s learning style is different, meaning the best way to keep people engaged varies. When you put together a non-profit awareness campaign, think about different ways to deliver information. Use different methods to present your story – videos, photos, forums, and blogs all encourage participation.

9. Reward participation

A highly effective way to drive participation is with rewards. Often, what your audience values often may not be monetary in nature. For instance, Amplifying Education – the philanthropic group on Ning formed by a Boston-based band, Dispatch – rewarded fans who donated books, volunteered, or took online action for the education crisis in America with the ability to unlock exclusive song downloads. Think about what your audience values. Frequently, the powerful incentive that makes your campaign viral isn’t something with a hefty price tag but rather just a simple, creative idea.

About the Author:

Christina Lee – who has written posts on Ning's Official Blog on Social Networking Sites.