[Cause Camp] The Three As of Nonprofit Content Generation

One of the biggest questions when curating social media content is “What the heck should we be posting and how often?”

Content guidelines such as the 80/20 Rule or the Rule of Thirds are great aids for helping decide how to keep your content diverse and engage followers. These two tools have been a huge help to a lot of people and businesses, but there are two fatal flaws: they don’t help you to know what the content should be about and they aren’t exactly ideal tools for nonprofits.

Enter Steven Shattuck, Bloomerang’s content generator and social media extraordinaire. Shattuck developed the The Three As methodology for nonprofits to decide what specific content should look like on social media.

1. Appreciation

According to Shattuck, appreciation is the most important of The Three As. In fact, appreciation should take up about 70 percent of your content. It will help gain traction for the next two steps and it also receives the most engagement and visibility.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals conducted a study to see why donors quit donating and what they found was that half of the top reasons donors left (four out of eight) could have been avoided with ample appreciation. Donors want to feel needed and thanked. Some donors forgot they even donated. Showing public appreciation to donors is a proven way to keep these donors around.

Appreciation isn’t just for those donating to your organization. Volunteers and employees should also be included in this step. Keep in mind that volunteers are 10 times more likely to donate to your organization than someone with no direct involvement. Don’t lose out on this potential and show them how vital they are to your operation.

Shattuck said social media is an excellent outlet for appreciation because it is fast, personalized and effectively communicates the impact of individuals. The best part is it’s easy. Find a username, craft a message, push send and you’re done. Easier than snail mail, eh?

Something cool happens when you give a social media shoutout. People interact with it and share it on their own accounts. On Facebook, tagging someone in a post will make that content show up on not only your own timeline but also everyone’s timeline that is tagged in the post. For this reason, Shattuck believes no post should go untagged.

This step gets the ball rolling for the following steps. It shows that you aren’t selfish but you truly care for those who care about your organization while building your reach when you want to advocate or ask for help.

I’ve Got A Name does a great job combining appreciation with advocacy. Here is a textbook appreciation post: a photo of their intern, giving him props in the copy, a call to action woven in the post and a hashtag.


2. Advocacy

Remember how half the reasons donors were leaving was due to poor appreciation methods? Having stellar advocacy tactics eliminate the other half of those faults.

“Advocacy is championing the cause you serve,” Shattuck said.

This step is not about your own organization, but about the cause you are serving. You can post articles from other sources and organizations that are either educational, humanistic or some other point of interest that your audience would want to keep up on. Shattuck said advocacy should take up about 20 percent of your social content. This allows you to serve as a news resource to educate supporters. You get to prove that you are passionate about your cause not just your organization’s well being.

The Global Down Syndrome Foundation does a perfect job advocating their cause. They used a photo in a Tweet and mentioning the original poster. It doesn’t have a call to action, but it is just purely awesome content.


3. Appeals

Simply put, appeals are where you can ask for help. The best way to have successful appeals is by first showing your appreciation to those who support you and advocating your cause. People take to appeals better when they’re appreciated and when they know that you’re passionate about the cause.

To be even more successful, make your posts visual with photos or graphics, be specific about your needs and give action steps on how people can be involved.

Appeals don’t always come in the form of asking for donations or volunteers, Shattuck stressed that asking for comments, likes and shares is okay. He said posts that ask for some sort of answer have better engagement.

The Nebraska Community Blood Bank did a great job of combining some advocacy with an appeal. They used #EarthDay to ask for their urgent need of five different blood types.


Final Thoughts

Now you know what you should be saying, the only thing left to answer is how often you should be saying it. Well, as I channel my inner Steven Shattuck I’ll tell you the only time you should say anything on social media is when you have something to say. Don’t post on Tuesday at 9 a.m. because you post every Tuesday at 9 a.m. Your NPO accounts can be human.

“For your personal accounts, you don’t say ‘Oh I’m need to post a baby picture on Wednesday,’ so your organization’s account shouldn’t be different,” Shattuck said.

The great thing about social media is that there is no one recipe that works for every nonprofit. Each nonprofit has a different voice and different purpose for their accounts. The Three As work on a rough 70/20/10 rule, but that can be modified. For example, it may make sense to split up these three aspects between three different platforms. Try out the Three As and modify it to what works best for your organization. Just keep three things in mind: keep your content diverse, balance is key and only post when you have something to say. Oh and when all else fails, pictures of baby animals are always a good idea.


Nick Small

With specialties in content strategy and creation, social media engagement and digital marketing optimization, Nick brings a depth of experience in nonprofit marketing. He’s also helped hundreds of nonprofits with their online presence to improve donor retention and attract new audiences, and he still has time for a good glass of whiskey, round of golf or new adventure.

April 24, 2015

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