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Nonprofit Strategies

How to guide your audience to support your mission

Discover how you can guide people through different stages of engagement, so you can have more control over how your audience shows support for your work.

Emily Taylor
May 11, 2021
Nerd Mr Butter

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Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could count on a certain percentage of people in your email list to donate to your organization, and a certain percentage of those donors to become passionate, sustaining members or even board members?

When you guide people through stages of engagement, you can have more control over how your audience shows support for your work.

Just like traveling through a forest, a guide can show your audience how to move on the path that will most benefit your mission.

When you treat each interaction with your audience as a single interaction point, they can get stuck—engaging with you in the same spot or headed somewhere else entirely. It’s like a takeout restaurant where you order a numbered meal and move on to the next part of your day. When you guide your audience, you are more like a sit-down meal, allowing participants to read the menu, listen to your specials, and have time to order dessert. That is the mindset shift I’d like you to make:

See every touch point with your audience, not as a transaction, but an opportunity to be a guide.

In the same way, you can help people learn more about your mission by giving them simple steps to listen—first to something exciting about your work and later to what it really takes to meet your mission. As people become more knowledgeable about your work, it opens up opportunities to show them how they can be more involved and to ask them for support.

At teenyBIG, I help organizations map these stages so they can always be thinking about how they can guide their audience to the next, more meaningful stage of engagement. The concept of a map helps us break down the way people engage with our organization, so you may clearly see how and when to guide them. Below, I describe 5 stages of engagement and some ways you can make changes tomorrow to guide your audience.

So, how do you start a map to guide your audience? For each of these 5 steps, write down one thing you can do to guide people to the next stage. Practice leading people from one step to the next and take notes for what really leads people to become passionate supporters.

1. Awareness 👀

Make sure you have ways for people find out about your organization. To guide people down a path, they first need to know about you. Have several ways you are getting in front of new people. You might do this by sharing a message through a partner organization or event. Use your most comfortable form of media and comment on similar-minded posts or ask like-minded organizations to share a story about your work. Do you think there is an opportunity for friends of your followers to be interested in your mission? Ask them to share or tag themselves. Wherever you are, show up ready to tell others why they should care about your work (but don’t ask them for money at this introductory stage).

For example, if you are a science museum who would like to bring more families into your network, join the conversation in local parent Facebook groups or share a free download activity with daycares, schools, and parks that will remind them of you.

2. Stay in touch 👋

At each of these stage 1 points, make sure there is a clear action to take and reason for people to follow your updates—through an email list, social media, or print. This gives you more opportunity to tell your story and help them find ways they might want to participate. Be clear—guide them by asking them to sign up for the format you think will keep them most engaged—make it easy, and let them know about what they will get out of it. The less clicking or thinking they have to do, the better.

For example, if you are a theater, you might go beyond promoting events. Let people know they can learn more about what happens behind the stage—set design, makeup, costuming—and share the link to join your newsletter list and tag a variety groups that are into carpentry, fashion, and sewing to build up your following.

3. Give them something to do 🥾

Once you have a following, you want to get people off their ‘virtual couch’ by asking them to take a small action that isn’t too hard. For instance, they could share a post with their network, take a class, or sign a petition. This is a fun place to experiment, finding out what types of emails or posts get the most people to take action. You will always have lurkers—those who follow your news but stay behind the wall and never show their face. By guiding people to take a small action, you can find the pool of people who are most looking to connect with your work—those are the people to keep guiding forward!

For example, if you are a sustainability advocacy organization, ask your followers to fill out a short quiz about how much energy items around the house use. It is a chance for them to learn more about their relationship to your work and warms them up for the next stage.

4. Guide them to what you really want 🗺

How can your audience really help your mission? Is it volunteering to help support an event coming up? Is it attending an advocacy meeting that you need public support for? Or is it making a donation to give your organization some flexible resources? Now that you have been building this path to help them better understand your work, it is time to make the ask. Give them some juicy news, make it clear—why do you need it?—and make it easy. Don’t burry it in a long, detailed explanation or user interface that is complex.

For example, if you are an architecture heritage organization and you recently had people sign a petition to save a building (see stage 3), let the segment of your list that donated know how those signatures supported your work. Then, ask if they would like to make a donation, so you can continue to push with additional elected officials.

5. Have more opportunities 🤩

If donations are as far as you are guiding your audience, you are missing out. How else can people help you with your mission? Could they become a sustaining donor or play an advisory role in your leadership? Think about additional information you can tell them about your work that will help them better understand it. By offering a deeper understanding of your work and more impactful opportunities to those who are most engaged, you are ready to guide them to do more—not just wait for them to ask.

For example, an artist incubator might host a small talk with one of its artists each month that donors are invited to. During that talk, they not only learn about the artists work, but how additional funding could make the spaces more accessible and opportunities to help support the work.

As you can see, guiding is not complex and may already be part of the work you do.

The secret is to see each stage as a continuous path that you can always be leading people down.

It also requires your internal teams to work together so that your audience is guided between social media, programs, development, and so on. By choosing one method for guiding people at each stage, you can start to cut your own path to guide people through. As you build this habit, you can add more and continue to grow the number of people you are leading to be passionate supporters.

If you have any questions about integrating an engagement map into your organization, you can always set up a time to chat with me.

Givebutter made a $100 donation to Emily's campaign of choice, Greater Chicago Food Depository 💛, for her guest blog.

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