Digital Stewardship

July 2, 2012       Kelley Jarrett      

Nonprofit stewardship is not just about saying thank you, it’s about showing how you use your resources to further your mission and sharing the impact your constituents have towards it. Above all, supporters are looking for information that they will translate into credibility and accountability, increasing the likelihood of engagement, trust and loyalty.

Your website can be a powerful vehicle for showcasing your stewardship and commitment to your mission. The use of imagery and infographics, charts or images can provide supporters with a quick, visual display of impact. Providing client success stories and real results will lend a personal touch to your mission. When donors hear about the impact of their support from those directly impacted, they’ll be more likely to give and will ultimately feel more involved.

Share Your Mission. According to a W.K. Kellogg Foundation study, 60 percent of donors check a nonprofit’s website before donating. Be sure to tell them why they should give and what impact it will make — quickly before they change their mind. Share your mission clearly and succinctly and show the direct impact a supporter’s action will make on your mission.

Here’s an example. Helping People. Saving Gorillas. It’s not just a tagline and not just a mission. The site has rich links to compelling content that shares with site visitors what the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is about, how they help and who they serve.

Use Infographics. Supporters often scan your site for a quick way to learn how their support will affect change. Infographics allow you to show all types of content visually, clearly and succinctly — stewardship, impact, mission fulfillment and even campaign progress. charity:water does an excellent job using icons and infographics to tell their story and show how supporting their organization can directly impact lives.

Share Real Stories of Impact. Sharing stories of how others are affected by your work, outreach and mission will build credibility and encourage empathy. Showing stewardship is not just about transparency. It’s about showing real-life examples of those affected by your work. Consider sharing stories visually through imagery and photo slideshows and share them through user-generated content like blogs, comments, and personal stories written by those impacted by your work.

Say Thank You Digitally. Saying “Thank you” seems simple but it’s often forgotten. Your website is a great place to say it publicly with a strong voice and broad reach. The digital channel is one that many supporters are using almost exclusively, and is growing in adoption every day, so it’s important to make it count.

Because supporters like to be thanked in different ways, it’s important to ask, listen and then act.

First, ask your supporters their preferences. Do they want their name on a donor wall? Would they rather an email from someone directly affected by their gift? Or are they looking simply for an understanding of where their dollars are going in relation to the other areas your nonprofit supports?

Listen by keeping track of preferences and styles, and accommodating as much as possible. Act by implementing the online vehicles that will allow for you to show and easily update online appreciation. Set up a blog for personal “thank yous” from the field. Add a scrolling donor wall that you can update as needed. Write a sample email that can be edited and sent from someone who was impacted by the supporter’s gift. Create a YouTube account where thank you videos can be posted and published on your website.

Support your actions through multiple digital channels. Twitter and Facebook, for example, can be used to highlight a different donor each day, regardless of the size of the gift. Using social media will allow you to recognize the donor publicly and individually, say thank you and drive the audience to your website to learn more about the donors and the impact their gift had on your mission.

To extend the stewardship to your website, consider creating an online interactive element that not only tells a donor’s story, but also allows the user to see pictures, read personal accounts of appreciation and learn impact of dollars raised from real people affected by your work. Alberta Cancer Foundation does this well:

http://albertacancer.ca/personal-cancer-stories

Provide a Personal Touch with Multimedia. Your users’ preference for consuming content varies, just as their browsing and navigation styles do. Using multimedia allows you to show stewardship in a personal, engaging way even when you can’t be there in person.

Sharing a personal story through a video on YouTube not only shows your donors the impact of their giving, it also allows you to reach new users virally who might have never heard your story or had the chance to learn about your organization’s impact.

In sensitive situations where personal videos might not be possible, consider incorporating an interactive map of the community you serve that highlights areas of service, photos from the field and impact levels where users can learn more about your reach and involvement in an interactive way.

There are many ways to show your supporters strong and thorough stewardship. The digital channel should be incorporated into a broader strategy that allows you to serve your constituents in multiple ways, allowing them access to you on their terms. Diversifying your efforts across channels helps to build consistency, credibility and trust. Remember, saying thank you and showing the love seems simple, but is often forgotten. NPT

Kelley Jarrett is marketing manager, Creative Design, at Guide Creative by Blackbaud in Charleston, S.C. Her email is kelley.jarrett@guidecreative.com

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