This article is the third in our Knowledge For Nonprofits series, which is made up of articles, interviews and tips for the nonprofit sector. The previous articles can be found here and here. The series will continue to be rolled out on It’s All About Revenue over the coming weeks.
Nonprofits are not typically seen as pioneers of social media or content marketing. Faced with a chronic lack of resources, many in the sector have been slow to adopt these emerging channels.
But there are many that are doing it right, creating lasting campaigns that even those in the for-profit world could learn from. Here, we provide five examples of nonprofits that are creating compelling content, nurturing potential supporters and finding imaginative ways to advance their mission in this changing world.
Some organizations treat like Twitter like just another broadcasting channel, tossing up the latest plea for funding or information about their next gala. But socially smart nonprofits chase more than followers. They crave engagement.
The National Wildlife Federation has mastered the art of engagement on Twitter. With nearly 50,000 followers, the NWF has an active community. The organization keeps the excitement stoked by conversing with supporters, replying and retweeting.
But the NWF went a step further, setting up a separate “Wildlife Watch” Twitter stream. Nature lovers can contribute their animal sightings, including links to photos, simply by tagging their tweet with the #NWF hashtag.
Connecting the joy of discovering wildlife with the nonprofit’s mission of protecting wildlife; it’s the kind of synchronicity Twitter can deliver – when done right.
The first rule of publishing, even marketing, is knowing your audience. For Get Schooled, the nonprofit founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom, the audience is young people all across the country. It makes sense then that Get Schooled would take to Facebook in a big way.
Get Schooled’s mission is keeping kids motivated to finish high school and pursue college degrees. They travel to high schools and recruit celebrity ambassadors to engage kids. Facebook serves as a hub for all the action. Get Schooled regularly posts photos, video and interactive kids. The nonprofit makes its Facebook presence more exciting by adding a welcome page that offers entrance to its “Exclusive Extras” tab, further enticing you to push that all important “like” button.
Once inside, there’s video and audio from hip-hop artists and actors – even a shout-out to a school from rapper Big Boi.
Putting the fun back in Facebook and cultivating content your audience will love – clearly Get Schooled has been well tutored.
In the buzzing art scene of New York City, it’s tough for art houses outside of Manhattan to get as much attention. Geosocial applications, like Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places and Yelp, can help level the playing field by giving smaller institutions with smaller budgets the opportunity to connect with the surrounding community.
Enter the Brooklyn Museum. The museum leveraged Foursquare’s API to create a vibrant community page. It contains a mosaic of Foursquare users who have checked in at the museum as well as a roster of past mayors (users with the most check-ins at the museum). It advertises a special free day for the person who takes mayoral status on the first Saturday of the month. And there are plenty of tips from previous visitors to the Brooklyn Museum.
And my favorite feature: The museum had its staff fan out to the surrounding neighborhood and write up reviews of local bars, cafes and restaurants. Rather than coming off as monolithic, the nonprofit shows it knows people want food with their culture.
If content is king, then Livestrong might be the king of content. Best known for its founder, Lance Armstrong, and those bright yellow bracelets, Livestrong puts a lot of stock in story.
A quick trip over to Livestrong.org demonstrates just how many stories the nonprofit shares every day. Created with the purpose of eradicating cancer, Livestrong acts in many ways like a publisher. It keeps a regularly updated blog full of relevant news and information. The site is also full of interviews with cancer survivors, advice for young people with cancer, a guidebook for cancer survivors navigating the healthcare industry, links to independent news stories about health topics, and a professional-looking quarterly newsletter.
Livestrong’s mission is to “empower the cancer community to address the unmet needs of cancer survivors” through “collaboration, knowledge-sharing and partnership.” Publishing provides it ample opportunity to educate the community it serves as well as reach donors and clients.
Radio is a pretty dusty medium. Yet, there are programs that still can bring a radio story to life, and podcasting helped push it into the 21st century.
When you’re entire mission is capturing audio records of everyday, ordinary American lives, you might feel fenced in by the medium. StoryCorps, however, doesn’t suffer from that affliction.
With over 13,000 subscribers to its YouTube channel and more than 3.6 million views of all its videos, StoryCorps has capitalized on the surging popularity of online video to extend the life of its content and reach new audiences. The nonprofit travels all over the country recording interviews with people that are then housed at the Library of Congress. While they have a podcast and often broadcast on NPR, StoryCorps has taken to video in a big way. The organization takes those stories and re-imagines them as animated cartoons, which provides an additional visual layer to the already powerful stories.
Take a look at this popular re-telling of one Brooklyn couple’s love story and try not to get a little misty. Go ahead, I dare you.
Reimagining the content you have in different, viral ways; it’s a smart way to connect your mission with a powerful platform.