I recently participated on a panel for the Tech Valley Not For Profit Council on how to effectively use Web 2.0 in Not For Profit marketing efforts.  By the time I and the 2 other panalists were finished, the majority of the attendees’ heads were spinning with all the information they just received.  It takes a while to absorb something that is so vastly different from what you are used to… so I figured that putting it in plain English might be of some help.

Not For Profit companies have to

  1. Create awareness for their product / service
  2. Obtain donors and supporters for their cause
  3. Reach the people they want to help

With marketing having to take place on 3 fronts simultaneously, how does a Not for Profit succeed online?

First and foremost – you have to tell your story.  As I have stated a hundred times, the most successful business owners are the ones who are passionate about what they are doing.   So passionate that they never get sick of talking about their business, their goals, the successes and the lessons learned along the way.  The majority of people who are involved in a Not For Profit, are there because they believe in the cause and are passionate about what they are doing.   The problem is, they get so caught up in the “daily must-do’s” that they forget to share their passion and the real reason they are part of the organization. 

The stories Not For Profits have to share have the potential to be the most compelling of all.  Most Not For Profits exist to serve a segment of the population who are suffering from disease, environment or a particular set of circumstances.  Describing why your organization exists, sharing a story of someone or a community of people you have helped, what a day in the life of a Not For Profit employees goes through are all compelling story ideas.

A Great Story holds your audiences attention, grabs them by the heart strings and elicits an emotional response.  Want to create a A Great Story?  Follow these guidelines:

  1. It’s the truth.  Honesty is always the best policy.  Sharing an authentic story about who you have helped, the circumstances surrounding them and what your organization did to improve them is a win – win.
  2. Keep it short.  You don’t need 8 pages to tell a great story.  You can easily get your point across in 3 or 4 paragraphs.
  3. Appeals to a small but interested audience.  Your story is not going to WOW everyone.  Write it so that it appeals to those who will be most interested in your cause.
  4. Can be shared.  A great story is told over and over again.  It is by far one of the best viral marketing techniques known to man.  We humans have been sharing stories for centuries, we are not going to stop any time soon.
  5. Creates a desire to take action:  A great story will lead the reader into action.  Case and point… A woman from my Rotary club came into lunch one day after a visit to Africa.  She told the story of a small school in a little village outside of Victoria Falls.  Her story was so compelling, that I and a few others took almost immediate action to help the kids in the school.  We didn’t just cut a check either, we showed up.  Five of us flew to Zimbabwe to help rebuild the school and create a sustainable community for these kids to live in.
  6. Comes from the heart.  For a story to really grip its readers, it must come from the heart.  A trite recount of facts and figures is not going to elicit the response you are hoping for.  You will get more mileage out of sharing the story of one woman who is fighting for her life then you will telling the world that you have helped 487 women through chemo.

See my point?

If your Not For Profit does not have a blog on its web site yet, get one.  It is by far the best place for your to share your stories.  You want visitors to come to your site, get their hearts tugged by your story, then easily navigate into the rest of your web site to learn more about how they can help you succeed.