I’ve had a few1 organizations reach out to me for advice on how to come out ahead in this year’s LA 2050 Grants Challenge. They seemed to find my advice helpful, so I thought I’d share it with the rest of you lovely people.
Granted, you’re in the home stretch and there isn’t much time to implement, and maybe the middle of the event isn’t the optimal time to begin strategizing (more on this in the thrilling conclusion).
And with time running out you probably feel like this:
But better late than never. Probably.
I’m starting the list with #2, because the #1 most important thing is not necessarily the most urgent thing, and I decided to save it for last.
You’ll see what I mean. (Also, I’m the dessert-first type.)
2. Keep on emailing your list.
You’re already doing it, obvs. Don’t be shy about it, because anyone who’s on a few nonprofit/innovation/social justice/whatever lists is already primed to receive frequent LA 2050 vote appeals. You can get a few more out in the next week without alienating your list members too much.2
3. Cross-check your email list and your social media audiences.
Hopefully your CRM can do this. What you want to do is look for the most engaged members of your community. For example, if someone is on your email list, and follows you on Twitter, and has liked your Facebook posts, then they are really into you. Make a list of these super-fans and reach out to them directly to ask them to share your posts and to ask their friends & followers to vote for your project. You may want to look at people who connect to any two “nodes”: e.g. follow on Twitter & liked a post on Facebook; subscribe to email list and follow on Twitter; etc. You get the idea.
4. Enlist your allies.
This might prove to be challenging because we’ve all got friends & allies in competing organizations. (Someone – the source is murky – called the Grants Challenge the Hunger Games of Los Angeles nonprofits). But if you can, reach out to influential individuals & organizations who can amplify your message. Make a simple, specific request that they either share one of your social media posts, or create their own post asking their friends & followers to vote for your project. If you’re doing the latter, make it as easy as possible for your influencer and have a sample post written, along with an image, before you make the ask. If they agree, great! Now, send them the link or the content immediately so that they don’t forget, and so you don’t have to worry about whether to make that awkward follow-up request. Do the same for the super-supporters you identified in the second step. And by second step, of course, I mean step #3.
5. Quick-and-dirty Facebook ads.
The organizations that reached out to me didn’t have much in the way of social media ad budgets. They aren’t going to get into the numbers of impressions where they would get meaningful data on content performance nor would they likely see the performance indicators move much in response to content or targeting tweaks, so I kept my advice as simple as possible.
- Export your email list as a .csv file and format it so that it contains only a single column of email addresses.
- Create a Custom Audience by uploading your list.
- You can then create a campaign that targets this custom audience.
The way it works is that if someone has subscribed to your list with the same email address they used to register their Facebook account, Facebook will place their profile in the Custom Audience. This won’t be everyone on your list. For example, I registered my Facebook account with an email address that I have never used for anything else, ever, so even if I’m on your email list, Facebook won’t find a profile associated with the email address you have on file for me. But this will work with a certain percentage of your list. And you don’t get charged for ads that aren’t served, so it’s worth a shot. The reason this is worthwhile is that these are people who have already shown an interest in your organization’s work, and we know that not everybody opens your email or clicks on the links, so this is a second shot at some of your supporters.
There’s one more step: create a look-alike audience based on the Custom Audience you just created from your uploaded list of email addresses.
Since Facebook knows everything about us3, they have algorithms that can identify profiles that are similar in interests and behavior to the profiles of your supporters.
These are the simplest way to serve ads to people who are likely to vote for your proposal.
We haven’t touched on content, but there isn’t a whole lot of time to perfect your posts. I did give one content tip, which I’ll share below.
6. Make the most of any video (preferably) or photos (fallback option) of your organization in action.
Ideally, you want media depicting people doing whatever it is your project will facilitate/enable/create, and showing people what your organization makes possible. Obviously, if you haven’t done anything in line with your proposal, and that’s why you joined the challenge in the first place, you won’t have this kind of media.
But if you can do the following, right now, I would: contact someone who would benefit from the project you’re trying to get funded; go and record a video interview with them talking about what your project would mean to them personally; try to get them to keep it under 30 seconds (or edit it later). Post this today with the link to vote for your project and make it the subject of any paid social media campaigns.
Finally, we come to the beginning.
1. Start last year.
I know, I know, that’s not 100% helpful. Aaaaaaaand it’s 40% obnoxious.
But really, the best strategy (for pretty much any and all things) is prepared well ahead-of-time. I don’t have a magic MAKE IT VIRAL button. Nor do I broker deals with the devil (but I know a guy who knows a guy, so…).
Where this advice becomes less annoying and more practical is when we think ahead to the possibility of another Grants Challenge next year, or any fundraising campaign, advocacy push, any time you’re going to ask someone to do something.
Start now by working on this (inexhaustive) list:
- Build your email list
- Reach out to influencers
- Build relationships with bloggers & other journalists
- Curate/collect/create ZOMG AMAZING content
Work on those consistently and you’ll be much better situated for any future online outreach effort.
1 I think three is the minimum number that qualifies as “a few.”
2 Not a guarantee.
3 I have mixed feelings about this. If anyone wants to talk about it, let’s have that conversation!