Whether you’re a foundation or a non-profit, there is an amazing community around your organization. The people and organizations in that community have wonderful stories to share that can strengthen the bonds that they feel to your organization’s mission and vision.
Catalogue for Philanthropy decided that they wanted to bring their community together through an innovative storytelling social media initiative called #whatsupwednesday. Today Aline Newman, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Catalogue for Philanthropy, is joining us for Q & A about their project.
What inspired the Catalogue of Philanthropy to start #whatsupwednesday?
Answer: At the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, our mission is to connect citizens with worthy community causes. Each November we feature ~75 of Greater Washington’s best small charities in a Catalogue that is distributed to over 25,000 people in the region (charities are selected out of 200 applicants, each of which are thoroughly vetted by a team of reviewers).
While interest in charitable giving is traditionally highest during the holiday season (when our Catalogue is distributed), we wanted a way to keep people informed about the everyday work that our charities do during the other 11 months of the year. We created #whatsupwednesday as a social storytelling platform that our network of more than 300 charities can use to promote their cause and engage audiences on a regular basis.
How it works: Each Wednesday, we invite charities to submit photos or short videos of — as the name implies – “what’s up” that week. Photos could represent something as big as achieving a major organizational milestone, or something as simple as welcoming a new staff member to the team. At the end of the day on Wednesday, we create a video montage of all submissions (using our Animoto.com nonprofit account), and supplement it with a blog post highlighting each organization in a bit more detail. We created a basic framework (#whatsupwednesday guidelines) for participants to use as a guide. Here are some recent posts: August 6th (blog and video), August 20th (blog and video).
What kind of results/outcomes have you seen from organizing this?
Answer: The response to this initiative has been positive from our charities and supporters alike. Our charities love that they have another platform to share their work (and that there’s very little required of them to participate), and our supporters love seeing content shared in a new, visual way. For the Catalogue, #whatsupwednesday is an easy way to gather fresh, user-generated content for our blog each week, and…best of all, we have fun putting it together!
Since #whatsupwednesday began over a month ago, we’ve seen steady increases across a number of key metrics:
- A 20 percent increase in new blog visitors on #whatsupwednesdays; and,
- An increase in time spent on our blog (the average #whatsupwednesday blog visitor spends 2.5 minutes on our site, which is a 187% increase vs. other blog posts during the same time period); and,
- A steady increase in followers and engagement on Facebook and Twitter (posts for #whatsupwednesday are among the most clicked/liked in 2014).
What tips would you share with other charities who want to start an online community building initiative like this?
Answer: Here are a few key tips I would offer:
- Set goals. Above all: Know what you want to achieve from your storytelling initiative. How does it move you forward in achieving a greater organizational goal?
- Take the “so what?” test. “Content-overload” is a very real challenge for communicators today, which is why it’s so important to make sure content is unique and relevant to the audiences you’re trying to reach (otherwise…it’s just noise!). Ask yourself, “Is this something my audience will care about, or something that makes them think ‘so what?’ and move on to the next item in their newsfeed?”
- Be flexible. Each week we learn what works – and what doesn’t – when it comes to aggregating content and promoting this initiative, and adjust our tactics accordingly (as long as they still help us achieve our overall goal, of course!).
- Make it easy for participants. Just because people are busy doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to participate in your initiative. It just means…they’re busy! Making it easy (and fun) for others to share their story is a critical part of any storytelling initiative.
Aline, thank you so much for joining us for today’s Q & A about #whatsupwednesday!