3 Steps to Growing Your Nonprofit’s Online Community With User-Generated Content

The rise of all things digital has brought forth tremendous change in the philanthropic landscape. Nowadays, the individuals who support your work want more from their connection to your nonprofit.

Our basic human needs for community, as well as personalized and authentic interactions, are increasingly becoming the focus for numerous brands and organizations looking to drive deeper connections with their audiences.

Building an online community optimizes the experience donors have with your nonprofit and increases your organization’s overall exposure, enhancing its mission and ultimately driving more support for its cause. Additionally, it plays a vital role in keeping your supporters engaged and up-to-date with the work your nonprofit is doing.

Harnessing the power of user-generated content (UGC), your nonprofit can build an active and engaged online community. UGC is content that has been created by your nonprofit’s supporters and followers. When an individual posts photos, videos, blog and social media posts that highlight your organization and its work, that is considered UGC. It can be especially helpful to small nonprofits that may be strapped for time and resources, allowing them to collect valuable content that can be repurposed across various mediums.

Not only does UGC save your nonprofit time and resources, it is a great way to obtain additional support and improve trust in its work. More than half of Americans trust UGC over content published by an organization directly — and for people interested in supporting your cause, UGC can serve as the vital endorsement that motivates them to contribute to your mission.

Here are three steps to begin building your online community with user-generated content.

Doubling Down on Social Media

Today, the natural gathering of people happens online. We build our online communities on social media, and they work together to ignite massive movements that fuel emotional dialogue, policy change and vital fundraising. Your online community is made up of people who deeply believe in your cause and are willing to take action to support it. Your donors, volunteers, staff, board members and beneficiaries should all have a presence in your nonprofit’s online community.

Building an online community through social media means more than simply creating a Facebook group. It requires tapping into two-way communication to listen to, engage and mobilize your supporters. In recent years, social media platforms have updated and added tools to enhance engagement for brands — some specifically for nonprofits, such as:

  • Facebook, Instagram and Twitter polls. Polls are a great way to incentivize your followers to lean in and engage with your organization. Asking your audience questions also shows your supporters that you value their feedback.
  • Facebook and Instagram donate buttons. These tools enable your supporters to raise funds and spread your mission to their own social networks. Equipping your audience with these tools and asking them to share your organization’s work and impact produces what for-profit companies call “brand advocates.”

When it comes to online communities — especially those in philanthropy — building engagement and participation is like tending to a new garden. You plant the seeds. Arming your supporters with creative hashtags and generating enticing hashtag campaigns, your organization can engage a network of supporters to share your mission and advocate for your nonprofit.

Creating Branded Hashtags

Once you’ve begun building your online community, it’s essential to keep them actively engaged with your mission. Through the use of hashtags, we have the power to spread messages and connect with others across the world. Creating a unique and consistent branded hashtag for your organization helps it “own” the conversation and differentiates it from other organizations with similar missions.

Hashtags increase social media engagement and brand awareness. In addition, having a branded hashtag gives your supporters a space to come together and connect based on their shared passions and beliefs. Hashtags make your brand more discoverable and optimize its content to an easily identifiable stream. Furthermore, they incentivize your supporters to share information and stories using the hashtag, creating a living library of your nonprofit’s impact.

When developing your nonprofit’s branded hashtags, remember to craft something that is:

  • Memorable. A branded hashtag that is compelling and easy to remember enhances your organization’s chances of being discoverable. Tying in the name of your nonprofit or a piece of its mission will give your audience something to connect with.
  • Unique. It’s important to do research prior to creating your branded hashtag to ensure that it isn’t already heavily being used — and that it aligns with your cause and mission. Doing a quick search on some of the hashtags your online community is using when referring to your organization will help guide you in the right direction.

Your organization can use branded hashtags for various engagement opportunities, such as promotions, events and product launches.

Building Hashtag Campaigns

Once you’ve built a solid online community and crafted a unique branded hashtag, your focus should shift to engaging your supporters. Your online community plays a critical role in acquiring more support for your nonprofit’s mission. Hashtag campaigns get your online community engaged and involved as contributors to your nonprofit’s success.

Using hashtags that ask your audience to do something specific and play off emotion will encourage your supporters to get involved in your campaign. To celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 90th Anniversary, Disney — in collaboration with the Make-A-Wish Foundation — launched a hashtag campaign where fans and park-goers were encouraged to post photos of themselves with their Mickey ears on with the hashtag #ShareYourEars. Disney asked participants to share photos of themselves For each post using the hashtag, Disney pledged to donate $5 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The campaign instantly went viral, resulting in Disney donating $3 million to the foundation. Although the campaign has concluded, the hashtag is still driving engagement among their followers and actively being used on both Instagram and Twitter.

Once you’ve landed on a hashtag, mapped out your goals and strategy, successfully implementing your campaign requires:

  • Promoting your campaign. Show your followers what you kind of content you want them to share by promoting your campaign with your own social posts. This way your supporters can visualize what you’re asking them to do, ensuring an efficient response.
  • Reminding them to include the hashtag. This might seem obvious for a hashtag campaign, but it’s crucial to your campaign’s success that participants keep linking the content back to your conversation by using the hashtag in their posts.
  • Sharing your supporters’ posts. Your supporters want to feel acknowledged, and sharing their posts on your own social media and communications channels will make them feel seen and valued. In addition, sharing their content will incentivize others to get involved in your campaign.

Encouraging your online community to share their own stories with a hashtag campaign will increase your visibility, followers, traffic and overall support.

Growing Your Online Community

Times have changed. And so has the way donors connect with the organizations that share their passions, beliefs and worldview. The digital landscape has altered traditional marketing methods, challenging the way that businesses and nonprofit organizations connect with individuals.

Just like for-profit companies, nonprofits need to spread their missions and acquire more support to sustain their work. Online communities are about bringing people together to work toward a common purpose. Having the support of an online community can have substantial benefits for your nonprofit, and the more you get your supporters involved, the stronger your community will be.

Do you need help moving the needle on your organization’s social media efforts? We’re here to help. You can set up a free 15 minute consultation with us to discuss your new direction here.

photo credit: Daniel Funes Fuentes via Unsplash 

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