online communication styles facebookThe following is an excerpt from Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits.

Your content strategy thus far has focused on what types of content your nonprofit plans to create and what channels it will use to distribute the content. The next step is to start thinking about the tone of voice of your content. The easiest way to craft your tone of voice is to base it upon the mission of your nonprofit. If your nonprofit focuses on human rights or poverty, for example, then your tone of voice should be serious, smart, and thought-provoking. If your nonprofit works to protect the environment or animals, then your tone of voice could be informational, resolute, and sometimes even humorous. If you are an arts and culture organization, think about crafting a tone of voice that is creative, clever, and entertaining. Ask yourself: what are five words that describe the character traits of your mission or organizational culture? And then use these words to craft your tone of voice.

Your tone of voice should then become the basis for all. When writing and designing content, keep those five words at the forefront of your mind and work toward having those five words become synonymous with your online brand. Branding isn’t only visual. It’s also intellectual. Your tone of voice and your brand will then guide you as you actively employ the five communication methods most commonly used in the nonprofit sector. Storytelling should be your top priority, but it should be balanced with a steady intermingling of marketing, fundraising, engagement, and curation.

1. Storytelling

Communicating the stories of your nonprofit is the most powerful means of inspiring your donors and supporters. When done well, storytelling will evoke emotions ranging from empathy to anger that will galvanize your donors and supporters to take action on behalf of your nonprofit. In fact, 56 percent of individuals who follow nonprofits on mobile and social networks take further action, the number one action being making a donation, after they have read a compelling story published by a nonprofit. Telling a good story requires a creative mind, excellent writing skills, and the ability to edit and brand images.

2. Marketing

Marketing is the strategic use of content and communication channels for direct gain. In the business sector, it’s about selling products and services. In the nonprofit sector it’s about securing more donors, e-newsletter subscribers, event attendees and so on. Many nonprofits new to mobile and social media make marketing a high priority in their content strategy by repetitively asking for donors, e-newsletter subscribers, and event attendees. However, without storytelling, a heavily focused marketing approach is doomed to fail. Marketing on mobile and social media in the nonprofit sector needs to be subtle because most donors and supporters don’t like being marketed to. Direct asks and calls to action are powerful online, but only in moderation and when balanced with storytelling.

3. Fundraising

Fundraising content embraces both storytelling and the concept of marketing, but it is unique in that its primary purpose is to inspire individuals and businesses to give money. A good story published on blog that receives a lot traffic and has a strategically placed donate button may result in a small number of passive donations, but fundraising content is written to tap into the core characteristics of what motivates donors to give online (as discussed in Chapter 5) and not just once but multiple times.

4. Engagement

For many years the dominant benchmark for whether a nonprofit is successfully using mobile and social media has been if it engages or not, but engagement for the sake of engagement is a flawed communication method. The overtouting of conversation as the ultimate metric of mobile and social media success has unfortunately been overdone. For example, many nonprofits mass thank their Twitterfollowers for retweets and their Facebook fans for every comment posted on their Facebook Page. This is both ineffective and a poor investment of time. To engage effectively is to respond genuinely to questions and comments and facilitate the discussions that your followers are having with each other. When more than 2,000 individuals who support nonprofits on social networks were asked what inspired them to donate money or items, or become a volunteer or attend an event, not one of them replied that it was because a nonprofit engaged with them on a social network.

5. Curation

For nonprofits that cannot create content on a regular basis, embracing content curation can help you fill in the gap in your content strategy. On mobile and social media, whoever shares, posts, tweets, and features the best content wins. If you can’t hire a designer to create an infographic but a nonprofit similar to yours in mission can, then retweet, repin, and share the infographic. It’s the same with video, branded images, cases studies, and so forth. Your donors and supporters follow you on mobile and social media first and foremost because they are connected to your mission and the cause(s) you stand for. Through content curation, there is a never-ending reservoir of top-notch content you can use to communicate your cause, uplift your brand, and inspire your donors and supporters.