Regardless of where your nonprofit falls on the political spectrum (and whether it falls on the spectrum at all), our current political climate is new and different. For the savvy nonprofit, that means approaching traditional marketing tactics— like email list building— in new and different ways.
More than ever, the news cycle is moving at breakneck speed and it seems that messaging from the White House follows suit.
For Matthew Rullo, Associate Director of Marketing at Human Rights Watch, capitalizing on those messages means being able to respond at a similar pace. “In general,” he says, “we’ve been more agile in how quickly we turn around online marketing and advertising messaging.”
In order to capitalize on critical moments and retain support beyond the news cycle, here are 4 key components your nonprofit marketing strategy must include:
1. Rapid Response
Quick responses to breaking news can help focus attention on your organization’s work and drive quick bursts of email sign-ups.
When a message or tweet comes out that causes your target audience to react, responding quickly via your website, email, and social media helps to turn supporters’ emotions into action by giving them a clear and productive way to participate.
Emotional responses may also drive supporters to make donations. Rullo says that it’s important to segment those donors and respond to them accordingly. When people give because of an emotional response to a message or policy, “they’re making a powerful statement for what they believe, and we want to be sure we’re honoring that.”
You can use analytics to monitor what message or channel drives the most supporter engagement. One way is by creating unique UTM Tracking Codes for every post, channel, and campaign to determine whether spikes in sign-ups or donations (total dollars, number of gifts, or average gift amount) are driven by a specific channel or message. Are there trends showing that certain messages or announcements on a particular channel drive greater support for your cause?
Understanding and acknowledging people’s reasons for making donations can be a great opportunity to also encourage them to spread the word. When people feel passionate about an issue, they’re more willing to tell their family and friends about it. Consider adding social sharing options to your donation forms to make it easy for supporters to show their support publicly.
3. Social Media Advertising
The use of social media by our elected officials is on the rise, providing the public with a reason to monitor and use these channels themselves. This may signal an opportunity for your organization to adapt your email acquisition efforts and expand the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms.
Human Rights Watch identified Facebook in particular as a prime acquisition source. “We made a crucial investment in online acquisition this past year,” says Rullo. “Because the targeting tools allow you to strategically keep cost low, we wanted to be sure we were leveraging Facebook acquisition in our overall digital strategy.”
When Facebook friends are sharing news stories and discussing politics online, it can be a clever tactic to advertise your stance on an issue, and include your organization in the conversation. You can expand your reach using features like Facebook’s lookalike audiences (people who Facebook deems statistically similar to your most engaged audience). Remember to also include people who already like your page and people who are on your email list. You can also target ads to friends of people who already like your Facebook page.
4. Diverse Content
Making social media a core part of your email list-building toolkit requires that you pay close attention to engagement—how is your audience responding to your messaging? Sticking to messages that are strictly political in nature can cause emotional fatigue for your list, no matter where your supporters fall on the political spectrum. It’s important to diversify the types of messages and content that you share to keep your entire audience enaged.
Rullo says that Human Rights Watch has “managed to stay true to its core mission, while evolving to generate more content that engages a wider range of people online.” He says that they are always “testing cultivation and fundraising messaging while remaining sensitive to the unsubscribe and churn rate of our lists.”
Engaging your email list, as well as enticing others to join, doesn’t always have to come from big, impassioned messages and statements. In between the agile messaging, emotional messaging, and targeted acquisition, don’t forget to share information and personal stories about your organization’s impact — educating new and long-standing supporters about the importance of your cause (outside the political realm). Finding the right combination of proactive and reactive messaging will help retain your supporters long after the most recent tweet has vanished from their Twitter feed.
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