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Connect Your Nonprofit's Offline and Online Activities

Lori Halley 17 December 2008 5 comments

Your nonprofit’s website gets tens of thousands of hits every month. Thousands support your Cause on Facebook, and you’ve mapped out a killer Twitter strategy to attract a hundred new followers weekly. So what?

“Those are impressive numbers on the surface,” says Jayne Craven of Coyote Communications, but it’s vital to evaluate your organization’s online activities in terms of offline actions: “If they don’t translate into more volunteers, repeat volunteers, new and repeat donors, new and repeat clients, greater onsite event attendance, legislation, or public pressure, they are just that: numbers.”

For online activities to translate into something tangible, online action must create and support offline action.

That desired offline action will vary, of course, depending on your organization and on your current priorities. Perhaps you want your website visitors to read a special report, to make a donation, to buy a T-shirt, to become a member of your organization, to sponsor a team, to sell a book of raffle tickets to their co-workers, to adopt a puppy — the possibilities for real-world action are endless. Whatever the goal, it’s a matter of connecting your online and offline activities to get maximum results.

The strength of a website is the limitless amount of space you’ve got to tell your story — and the possibilities for compelling story-telling through a combination of photographs, audio and video as well words, in ways that would be cost-prohibitive, offline, for most small nonprofits.

The strength of social media lies in the ability it gives you to communicate one-to-one with your supporters, to gain feedback about your programs and services, and to attract new supporters to your cause.

And the strength of online fundraising is in the relatively low overhead cost combined with a very broad reach, and more and more donors are finding it more convenient to make their donations online, even in response to a direct mail appeal.

How can you leverage those strengths to support your overall goals?

Integrate your offline and online fundraising activities, suggests Groundspring / Network for Good. For example, you might follow up with prospective donors by email to boost the response to a direct mail campaign, or repeat the appeal in your email newsletter. Give your donors the convenience of online giving options via your website, and add it to the list of payment options in your direct mail appeals.

Your newsletters, direct mail pieces, and other print communications represent an opportunity to market your website as vigorously offline as you do online. But don’t stop with the printer — Jayne Craven notes that many nonprofits still don’t include their website address on event signage, for example; or if the web address does appear on a sign, it’s often too small to be read easily and at a distance. Letterhead, business cards, advertising in other media, all offer new ways to bring a new audience to your website — where visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the issues, sign up for membership, make a donation, or otherwise be guided in greater detail toward the action you’d like to see happen.

But what about all those Twitter followers and Facebook friends?  Social media can help you to reach people who don’t use social media, Marshall Kirkpatrick (ReadWriteWeb) says, and offers tips and tools for bridging that gap.  For example, you might use social media to develop relationships with people who can help you gain the ear of others who are not so easy to reach online:

You may want to target senior executives, older people or others who just aren’t very likely to read your blog posts, Twitter messages, etc. but chances are — those people have co-workers, family and others in their lives who would. By adding value to the lives of less senior people inside organizations, you can gain mind-share with the people in whose interest it is to make good recommendations to their superiors at work.

Mainstream journalists, as Kirkpatrick points out, are tending to use social media as a research tool, so there’s an opportunity here to establish your organization and/or your leading policy people as expert resources for the newspapers and broadcast news.

Anything a nonprofit can do in the way of encouraging a two-way flow between online and offline activities can only serve to expand your reach — and the greater chance of presenting your audience with a call to action they’re ready, willing, and able to answer.

How does your organization plan to turn online activities into offline actions?

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 17 December 2008 at 1:41 AM


  • Tim said:

    Tuesday, 16 December 2008 at 5:34 PM

    Regarding that last point about engaging our supporters who don't use social media, my curiosity would be whether people feel which is more rewarding/time-cost intensive - working to strengthen and expand the online folks, or bringing the non-connected into the fold in order to show them even more of our message.

    We're trying to figure this out right now, but it's nice to have blogs like this one to help guide us along. Thanks.

  • John Haydon - CorporateDollar.Org said:

    Wednesday, 17 December 2008 at 6:14 AM


    Another great post. I especially like your quote from Marchall: "By adding value to the lives of less senior people inside organizations, you can gain mind-share with the people in whose interest it is to make good recommendations to their superiors at work."

    Social media is ONLY about relationships. The establishment of trust between two people will impact everyone that is 1 degree away or more.


  • REV.T.S.DANIEL said:

    Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 9:30 PM

    we need fund foe children ministry can you help us

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Saturday, 13 June 2009 at 10:51 AM

    I just received a real-world lesson in social networking done right — and a free bag of popcorn — thanks to Love Your City, a community outreach program by churches across Canada. What does this have to do with using social media to recruit new members

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Sunday, 30 August 2009 at 11:05 AM

    We know that it's key for non-profits to connect online activities with real-world actions , but the

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