If you’ve read any of our blog posts, guides, or eBooks, you know that CauseVox is serious about quality content. We put solid storytelling up there with strong fundraising appeals, because we know how important it is to inspire people to connect to a cause and take action.
The Internet and technology has created a content free-for-all: essentially, anyone who wants to create content can, and anyone who wants to consume it, can. And the options for each are seemingly endless. You are no longer relegated to newspapers, magazines, or emails. You can choose to pay a fee to get unlimited access, or pay per piece of content, or to only consume free content.
The amount of content being shared online every day—make that every second—is staggering. Between the millions of tweets and blog posts and the billions of photos and videos uploaded and viewed, we aren’t running out of it anytime soon. People can’t get enough of fresh content that resonates with them, and they can’t get enough of creating their own.
Of course, when there is an over-abundance of something, and anyone can contribute to it, quality and uniqueness becomes key. People don’t want to see the same headlines again and again, and they want to know why one story or photo or video is particularly important to them. This is why there is a push to make storytelling hyper-local.
It’s what newspapers and TV and radio stations have been doing for years: taking the global or national story and bringing it to your neighborhood. Think of Al Roker and his signature line, “Here’s what’s happening in your neck of the woods.”
Then, when you have created quality content, you need to get it out there to be consumed. For nonprofits, the vast possibilities for content distribution is a great thing: it extends your reach, allows you to segment by audience, and gives you a chance to focus on specific topics or goals. But the options can also be intimidating: which platforms should you use to place your nonprofit’s content, and how do you market it? How do you compete in an ever-crowded space that seems to evolve at lightening speed?
In this guide, we’ll outline 7 tools and tactics for distributing and marketing nonprofit content, whether it’s stories, news, research, or media. We’ll also share ways that the CauseVox platform can help you to integrate great content into your fundraising campaigns and then promote it far and wide.
Launched in 2012, by the co-founders of Twitter, Medium is all about barebones writing and reading. This web-based platform has a breezy user interface that invites you to just start writing in a blank space, with optional formatting almost as an afterthought. While the team recently removed their Collections feature in favor of tags and top stories, you can still easily search for content by themes and topics, such as tech, personal essays, current events, and more. Medium even wrote a primer for nonprofits to help them use the platform for storytelling.
✓ Readers recommend your piece, and the more recommendations you get, the more visible your writing is.
✓ You can invite others to comment on your draft before it’s published.
✓ Readers can comment in-line with your piece. The comments are collapsed in little boxes on the side instead of cluttering up the bottom.
✓ You only need a Twitter handle to publish.
How you can use it:
- Experiment with a new voice or style of writing that you aren’t ready to try on your site yet.
- Give voice to others on your team (i.e. not leadership) to provide a different perspective or insights into your work
- Reach thought leaders in your space, and in others
- Try long-form features that will be better served by Medium’s clean design and layout
Example we like: Charity: Water’s Scott Harrison wrote “The Last Walk For Water,” complete with beautiful photos.
One of the most effective ways to distribute your content (and almost always is free) is through your nonprofits’s partners and peers. Whether it’s during a fundraising campaign, or in between appeals, marketing support between partners is beneficial to both parties: you’re aligning your interests for a common goal, and you’re reaching new audiences through a trusted and credible brand.
✓ Expanded audience, and potentially reaching a different demographic
✓ New channels and tools (maybe your partner has access to TV show or top-tier publication)
✓ Added layer of credibility and support for your message
✓ Fodder for creative and unique storytelling approaches
How you can use it:
- Create partner toolkits for awareness and fundraising campaigns that include all assets and content to be distributed
- Establish what both parties will provide in the exchange through an MOU or partnership agreement
- Determine the most effective strategy to get a return for both you and your partner – don’t just go for the obvious or the channel with the most impressions
Example we like: Well Aware’s annual fundraising campaign ShowerStrike combines local (they’re in Austin) and national media awareness and partnerships to raise money for water systems around the world.
3. Social Media
It may seem obvious, but social media continues to be one of the most effective ways to share your content, and to have others share it for you. While at one time, options were limited to Facebook and Twitter, these two social networking giants have been joined by the likes of Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and other platforms and apps that reach billions of people combined. That in mind, depending on the type of content you’re creating, social media shouldn’t be an automatic option for distribution. Think about who is on each network, and the type of content they’re looking for (i.e. Snapchat users are likely not looking for long-form journalism, and email subscribers may not want to log into Pinterest to look at beautiful photos).
Things to know:
✓ Snapchat’s new “Discover” feature is meant to inspire more creative, editorial Stories from brands, going beyond the snap.
✓ Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm has created challenges for nonprofits trying to build their reach and engagement. More strategy is needed here than in early days.
✓ 51% of high school students use Instagram daily. Its hashtags feature makes it easy for content discovery, on mobile and via the web.
✓ Engagement increases by 5 times when a Tweet contains an image vs. text alone.
How you can use it:
- Create a “day in the life” story on Instagram or Snapchat for a behind-the-scenes look at your org or someone you support
- Experiment with more visual-based posts on all networks. Photos & videos continue to get the most engagement.
- Partner with a brand or other nonprofit for a social media campaign to help expand your community
This blogging platform is a cross between Twitter and a traditional blog: you can post long-form content, settle with a fun quote or one-liner, or go crazy with photos, gifs and videos. Since it launched in 2007, Tumblr has grown to 420 million users, has 217 million blogs, and sees more than 113 million posts per day. But it isn’t just for Benedict Cumberbatch fans and Corgi lovers; everyone from the White House and AARP to NPR and Heifer International are using it to share fun photos and links, real-time updates, and shareable content.
✓ 50% of active users access content through the Tumblr mobile app
✓ Only 3% of U.S. charities use Tumblr (be a pioneer!)
✓ Reblog feature makes it easy to share content from other users that you love – and for them to share your content.
✓ Extensive tagging database allows you to get uber-specific or super broad with your reach
How you can use it:
- Got too many photos and videos and not enough places to share it? Try one a day on Tumblr.
- Inject some humor into a serious subject: Tumblr is known for its parodies and silliness. Go GIF crazy here.
- Post mini actions and inspiration suitable for quick consumption and sharing.
This newer content platform describes itself as “devoted to untold human stories.” Their editorial team picks one theme a week, and publishes only one story a day, avoiding breaking news and clickbait headlines. Pieces include topics like pageant winners raising awareness about sexual assault, a woman meeting a gymnast she idolized as a child, and self-reflection through travel. The site has already received numerous awards and recognition for its focus on quality content.
✓ Narrative.ly works with brands big and small for a custom content experience: from films and live storytelling events, to mobile advertising and email partnerships.
✓ They partner with other big-name publishers like Salon, Slate, Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed for more reach and engagement.
✓ They work with orgs to create the content you need, fit for your goals, whether it’s building an online magazine, or crafting supplementary content for a campaign.
How you can use it:
✓ Let Narrative.ly showcase a particular programmatic or issue-based theme through storytelling to coincide with a fundraising or awareness campaign.
✓ Explore integrated storytelling techniques, like film, art, and written word.
✓ Make use of syndication partnerships for a global reach
Example we like: A piece about veterans using music to overcome trauma includes audio embeds.
Despite the annual proclamation that email is dead, email is very much still alive. Although brands have been challenged with declining open, click-throughs, and response rates, email remains a popular and effective way for nonprofits to update their community, share stories, and drive action. In fact, M+R’s annual nonprofit online benchmarks study showed a 14 % average increase of subscribers in 2013 from 2014. And judging by the amount of email we all still receive on a daily basis, we can probably agree that it is, in fact, thriving. Email isn’t just another medium for a fundraising appeal or to push out a monthly newsletter of generic updates. Nonprofits who use email to customize great content by demographic, geographic location, and activity see more engagement, and ultimately, more donations.
Ins and outs:
✓ 196 Billion emails are sent & received per day around the world, and it’s growing
✓ Nearly half of emails are now opened on smartphones and tablets
✓ 79% of people scan instead of reading word for word: subject lines, visuals, and opening hooks are key.
How you can use it:
- Use email to deliver a story through installments, and tease upcoming content, announcements, and actions. Take your queue from binge-worthy TV shows or comic books.
- Craft specialized stories for target audiences: do the research on who is on your list, and what they want to read.
- Develop content partnerships to reach new audiences through other email lists, and ask to be featured in other newsletters.
Examples we like: Great volunteer recruitment email from Greenpeace (see the breakdown from Pamela Grow on why it works); while the email itself is a bit lengthy, Savory Institute’s combination of subject line, hook and theme, and visuals with a call to action covers a lot of bases.
Another new player to the online storytelling space, Maptia’s goal is to highlight “a world of remarkable stories” from photographers, adventurers, and writers. They aim to feature stories that show the positive impact humans are making around the world, that are inspiring, and help us to learn about different cultures and ways of life. It seems like the perfect place for nonprofits, especially those with an international focus (and it’s free) – Kiva, Charity:Water, and UNAIDS are already using it. Story themes include things like Festivals & Celebrations, People of the World, Adrenaline Seeking, Culinary Adventures, and more.
✓ Simple and clean writing environment. Great to use with high-res, beautiful images. No video as of now.
✓ Call-to-actions are fine, but Maptia wants the story to come first. Stories can be tagged with descriptors such as “thought-provoking,” “heart-warming,” “reflective,” or “unusual.”
✓ Mobile app allows reading; writing to come in 2016.
How you can use it:
- Go deep into the culture and lifestyles of the people your org impacts.
- Focus on the places you work – Maptia specifically calls out geographic location as part of its layout. Great for international orgs working in multiple regions.
- Fit your story under the platform’s categories: cause, theme, or place.
Using CauseVox for Content
The tools above are great to try to expand your audience and test out new platforms with unique features. But if you’re looking to stick closer to home, the CauseVox platform has several options to help you to showcase and distribute nonprofit content as well.
Between our blog tool, social networking widgets, and site administration tools, there are multiple opportunities for you to add content to your fundraising site to help tell your story and drive awareness and action. You can read more about content marketing tactics and techniques here.
As we said before, there are so many options available to distribute nonprofit content online (and offline for that matter), but what it comes down to is the strategy and goals you have for your social good project. While some of these options in this guide may work for you, some may not be right. We encourage you to experiment and figure out what does work for you, and to let us know! We always want to hear case studies, and if our recommendations had an impact with your nonprofit.
*Statistical sources: Koozai.com, ExtendedRamblings.com