With the rise of social media and online platforms, non-profits are starting to intentionally develop online communities. Online communities are basically a virtual gathering place for people with similar interests – in this case your non-profit’s cause. Most often, online communities are facilitated through a social media platform, but some organization have created “hubs” on their website. Having a pre-qualified audience at your disposal is a great thing to leverage to create awareness about your cause, engage people in a more meaningful way, and yes, grow your fundraising.
If you have an online community already or are looking to develop one, you’ll need to think about ways to continuously engage your community. One way to do this is through storytelling.
Why Stories Make Engaging Content
You’ve probably heard me say this before, but stories really are the best content non-profits can produce. Stories focus on emotions, and emotions allow you audience to empathize with what your story’s subject experienced.
Chances are very high that your audience and your story subject (a client, for instance) are not the same person. They probably come from different walks of life. Your audience may never really fully understand what it’s like to walk a mile in your client’s shoes. But they can understand the emotions that person experienced along the way. Emotions are the thread that connects us all.
When you share stories with your online communities, highlight those emotions. Although you don’t want to be too overt, the emotions are what will get someone to click on a link, read more or leave a comment. It is the hook of your content.
3 Ways to Foster Your Online Community Through Storytelling
There are numerous ways to use storytelling in your online community, but the best ways invite audience participation. For these examples, I’ll focus on social media communities.
- Ask people to submit a story about their experience with your cause. This will get them thinking about why they care and why it matters to them. Again, this pulls up an emotional connection. You could even set up a landing page on your website that shares a montage of these.
- Tell a story of impact. Chances are that some of the people in your online communities will also be donors to your organization. Make it a point to share stories that highlight the impact of a program or service. Donors want to hear about the tangible outcomes they’ve been a part of.
- Tell a story in a series. Rather than reveal the whole enchilada in one go, release it over a week or two. This will give people a reason to visit the site again and give them something to look forward to.
Does your non-profit manage online communities? Please let a comment below with your thoughts on engaging your online communities. What’s worked/not worked for your organization?