Charity Water, a nonprofit that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations, is leading the way when it comes to creating powerful content to inspire people to join their cause. Central to this is their approach to developing great content.
Great stories are sharable
The people on the Charity Water team are great at using stories to inspire support. They do it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as on their blog, their website and in their email marketing campaigns.
Charity Water even has an entire section of their site dedicated to stories from the field, where people who work for or collaborate with the nonprofit tell stories about the experiences they’ve had bringing clean water to people in Rwanda, Uganda, Bangladesh and more. What makes Charity Water’s stories so powerful is the use of impactful images and stunning video combined with personal stories.
“At our core we are an amazing content marketing shop” says Paul Young. “We don’t buy advertising. We 100% focus on word-of-mouth marketing. We create amazing content that we then distribute through the web––through social media––and then we give that to people we hope are passionate advocates who will take the content and share it with their friends.”
Once you understand what inspires your donors you can create a content marketing strategy around that. Make inspiration a core element of your content strategy. As Young says, “Inspired people with the mouthpiece of social media can do amazing things.”
Build relationships and create advocates
This idea is reinforced through their approach to relationship building. Charity Water has truly mastered the art of getting people to form personal connections with their organisation. Paul Young, Director of Digital at charity: water, describes the strategy this way:
“We are trying to build a movement of passionate people who are going to form a relationship with us for years…. We want our donors to be advocates. We want them to share content, we want them to feel really connected to their impact and we want them to represent that to all their friends and family.”
One of the most powerful ways they’ve done this is by building an online platform that allows people to create fundraising pages where supporters can share information about their fundraising activities.
Through this platform they are encourage supporters to spread their message by sharing their campaign with their personal network online.
If you want them them to share they need to like you
For their five-year anniversary charity: water launched a very creative campaign focused on thanking the incredible supporters who helped them raise the $42 million dollars that allowed them to serve over 2 million people in need through 4,282 water projects.
From a traditional nonprofit perspective the idea of thanking supporters isn’t new, but doing it online with video in a creative way like what charity: water has done is a radically deviation from the norm. They’ve taken the commonplace thank you letter and made something that feels personal because it is thoughtful.
Their approach to thank you videos is part of a broader communications strategy to build a personal connection with supporters through the people that represent the organisation.
— charity: water (@charitywater) February 26, 2014
As organisations with limited resources nonprofits in particular depend on the culture of an organisation and the people that represent the organisation to shape the public impression of a brand.
A little bit of Social Proof helps a lot
Brian Gardner defines social proof as “the positive influence created when people find out others are doing something – now, suddenly, everyone else wants to do that something too.”
charity: water is excellent at using social proof to encourage people to fundraise on their online platform. They employ numbers throughout their site to make people feel aligned with thousands of others, and they give a face and a voice to those thousands with pictures, videos and written stories.
Here are a few images from the charity: water website that show how they employ social proof.
Social proof is particularly powerful when famous people are setting the example. On the “birthdays” section of their website, after discovering that many others with the same birthday as you – and 47,492 people in total at the time of this writing – have asked for donations instead of presents for their birthday, charity: water tells you how cool celebrities like Depeche Mode and Tony Hawk pledged their birthdays to the nonprofit.
You don’t have to get testimonials from celebrities (although each day it seems that more and more celebrities are publicizing their devotion to social causes); start by collecting short statements from your most loyal donors (both individuals and companies or foundations, if possible) and put them on your website. You can then make each testimonial a piece of content for your social channels by quoting the best parts in an image. Include photos of the donors or the company logo whenever possible.
Celebrate your donors in your digital channels in any way you can: create a collage of their photos similar to charity: water’s Twitter thumbnail collage pictured above, or, if you have a blog, highlight the stories of your most devoted donors or volunteers on a monthly basis.