Most of the organizations at which I’ve been an employee have been somewhat obsessed with reaching new audiences. The goals probably sound familiar: grow our lists; get new subscribers; connect with more people. The quest for increasing numbers can consume an organization—but for what purpose?
As a consultant with LightBox Collaborative, I get to help non-profits take a step back and ask: How effectively are we engaging our current supporters? Do we really need more people or do we need more of the people we already have?
Recently, I joined fellow collaborators Alexis and Amanda to ask this question at the Bay Area Open Space Council’s annual conference. Standing in front of a tree with blank paper apples in hand, we wanted to know: who is your low-hanging fruit? In no time, our tree was full of people’s names who are connected with the groups in the room, but who haven’t yet acted to help these organizations grow and maintain the lands they love.
So before you decide to commit to outreach to new audiences in new locations, ask yourself, “Can I reach my same goals by better mobilizing the people with whom I’m already connected?” Here are five tips to mobilize your “low-hanging fruit:”
Make an ask. The number one barrier to not getting the actions you want? Not asking! When you do ask, be specific and don’t limit yourself to financial contributions. Ask for reviews on Yelp! or Charity Navigator. Ask for input. Ask for an endorsement or testimonial. Or simply ask what your work means to them. Just the very act of doing something short, simple, and easy can re-energize followers who may have fallen out of touch.
Get personal. When trying to mobilize existing supporters, don’t limit yourself to emails. Try sending one or two personalized Facebook messages per day. Tweet them. Give them a call. And when all else fails, send them a personal, handwritten letter (or at least a letter that looks handwritten).
Tailor your message. We all know the feeling of getting something generic. Use what you do know about your supporters—such as their occupation, family, or address—to send a more targeted message. Imagine if you spent 40 hours a week making widgets for Go-Go Gadgets. Now imagine getting an email asking, “How are things at Go-Go Gadgets? We sure hope they are well because we need the help of amazing widget makers like you.” If you’ve got such information about your supporters, put it to use. If not, start surveying and find out!
Make them feel special. Few people are moved to act when they feel like just another name on a list. Help your supporters feel special by thanking them and inviting them for a sneak preview of a special new initiative. Even ask for their input and feedback. Tell them how much they mean to you, and they will be more likely to act on your requests.
Tell them a story. Help your supporters see the impact that their actions can have on your work. Highlight someone who recently took a small, simple action and the better world you were able to create because of it. Then ask others to do something similar. When people see a model in action, they are more likely to want to follow along.
So—who is your low-hanging fruit? Drop us a comment below and tell us how you’ve moved existing supporters to do more.
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Photo courtesy of Open Space Council, Jennifer Hale
Ryan Schwartz is a LightBox collaborator who suspects you have untapped power in your current fan base.