As the coronavirus pandemic continues to mandate social distancing, non-profits and advocacy organizations are having to find new ways to fundraise and engage supporters from a distance. While COVID-19 has created new challenges, it is possible to engage your supporters despite the distance.
As a former Field Organizer turned Digital Strategist, I have a unique perspective on how to transit your advocacy work online. For two years, I hosted dozens of in-person and virtual events, engaged thousands of volunteers, and organized multiple rallies. Now, as a Digital Strategist, I help organizations strengthen their social media presence, organize digital actions, and run powerful email fundraising campaigns. With this perspective in mind, here are my thoughts on how your organization can continue reaching supporters, despite the physical distance:
Utilize Social Media
This may seem like an obvious one, but this time of social distancing is a great opportunity for your organization to utilize and strengthen its digital assets.
Post with frequency and consistency: Now’s the time to make sure your organization is posting with increased regularity. Posting content to your organization’s social profiles at least once a day is a good practice. Consistency is key: the more regularly your organization posts online, the more likely your supporters are able to see your content, and get (and stay!) involved.
Create and post graphics: Infographics attract 200% more shares than posts without an image. Data shows that people respond well to graphics. Creating and sharing graphics — even something very simple — increases the probability that your supporters will see, share, and engage with your online content.
Utilize Facebook groups: Facebook’s groups feature allows for smaller, more intimate social engagement between your organization’s staff and supporters. Depending on your group’s settings, this feature allows members themselves to share content with and create Facebook events for just group members. The great thing about Facebook groups is that most members will receive a notification every time someone posts in the group. Facebook groups are optimal for a streamlined communication method with your organization’s “core” or most engaged supporters.
Make Email a Consistent Part of Your Communication Strategy
As we rely on digital communication more heavily while we socially distance, the necessity for consistent email communication becomes even more important.
Keep in touch with your supporters: Consistent email communication should be a priority for all non-profits — you can start with something as simple as a once-a-month email update to all supporters. Keeping your organization’s name in your supporters’ inboxes is an important way to reinforce that your work is still active during these times of social distance.
Diversify your email content: Be sure that your organization is diversifying your email content — if every email your organization sends is focused on fundraising, supporters may decide to unsubscribe or tune your organization out entirely. Instead, diversify your email content by sharing major victories or relevant organizational news and updates in addition to fundraising or advocacy asks.
Create a newsletter: While this may require more staffing capacity, creating and sending a weekly, monthly, or quarterly newsletter to your supporters is another great way to share relevant information and build a rapport with your supporters. This way, when your organization does send out a fundraising or advocacy ask, your supporters will be more likely to open your email and donate or participate.
Make and Sustain Phone Contact With Your Supporters
While staying in your supporters’ inboxes is important, continuing (or beginning) to engage your supporters either via call or text can be another virtual method of communication.
Utilize peer-to-peer texting: According to studies, 90% of people read a text message within 3 minutes of receiving it — this makes texting a particularly unique and valuable communication method. Texting your supporters with a service like Hustle allows a single staff member or volunteer to send hundreds of text messages in a matter of minutes. The system allows you to pre-build written responses and send out RSVP links. If your organization does not have the budget or capacity to utilize a third-party service for your texting needs, consider having a staff member personally text your strongest supporters or most engaged activists. Either way, texting can be a crucial method of engaging supporters.
Give your supporters a call: Second only to door-to-door canvassing, phone banking remains one of the most effective ways to turn supporters out to events. Engaging your supporters by phone is just another way to ensure your organization’s name is on the top of your supporters’ minds. Call your supporters to invite them to an event, ask for a donation, or inquire about how they’re doing. Software like CallHub, HubDailer, or Voter Action Network allows your organization to call hundreds of people quickly and efficiently from wherever you have internet and cell phone service. Your organization can also turn your phone bank into an event for your supporters — host a virtual phone bank party via Zoom so your volunteers can engage with one another. Spice your virtual phone bank up with your own Phone Bank Bingo.
Host Virtual Events
While in-person events are off the table, it doesn’t mean your organization must stop hosting events altogether. While virtual events may pose more logistical challenges, with some planning and consistency, these events will help continue to activate and engage your supporters despite the physical distance.
Host virtual events with the same consistency your organization would host in-person events: With a second wave of the coronavirus expected to hit in winter, we will likely be practicing social distancing for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, it’s important for all organizations to establish consistency with their virtual events. Setting a schedule for virtual events, like you would for in-person events, allows your supporters to get and stay involved with more ease. For instance, for more engaged supporters, it’s a great idea to host weekly or monthly meetings at the same time on the same day of every month; this allows your supporters to have a consistent event to keep on their calendars. Having a consistent event on your supporters’ calendars helps boost turnout and cultivate core supporters.
Make sure your event is accessible: To optimize event turnout and to ensure your organization is not alienating any would-be attendees, it’s important to make sure all of your organization’s virtual events are as accessible as possible. Read our entire guide on ensuring accessibility for your next virtual event here.
Be sure to have some kind of RSVP system in place to capture supporters’ email addresses: It’s important to create some kind of system — be it a form, Google document, or your organization’s own RSVP platform — where event attendees can RSVP. This is important because it allows your organization to capture attendees’ contact information for follow-up. Anyone who RSVPs for an event should be automatically signed up for your organization’s mailing list.
We’re all finding new ways to connect and stay plugged in. Each organization and supporter base is different. The main takeaway here is that — whatever your preferred method — consistency is key. In these precarious times, your supporters are looking for predictability and consistency. If your organization can provide these things for your supporters, they’ll be more likely to stick around, despite the physical distance.
Still not sure how to engage your supporters remotely? We’re here to help. Schedule a call with the ACM Strategies team today.