Understanding your audience and the people who support you is the key to generating meaningful content that helps spread your message and drives impact
Article by guest writer Dean Gillespie, Digital and Data Manager at All We Can
The present global pandemic has forced charities to rely on digital content as never before. At All We Can, a faith-based international development and relief organisation, we have pursued a ‘people-first’ digital content strategy.
This has enabled us to adapt and innovate in new and exciting ways. With a commitment to embracing calculated digital risk over inaction or inertia, our ‘people-first’ content approach has significantly grown digital engagement, built an online community and generated new revenue for our vital international work. Here is how our team at All We Can have endeavoured to make our digital content – people ‘F.I.R.S.T’:
Any digital content strategy is only as good as the value it places on its supporters. You should always frame your digital content strategy around people, not products.
As feelings of anxiety have been universal throughout lockdown, we at All We Can needed to remind supporters that we were not a distant, but a relational charity.
Firstly, we initiated online pastoral support and produced digital content framed specifically to address our supporters’ needs. This included online materials for families who were homeschooling, as well as a digital resource which was more spiritually focused, framed around a biblical passage, Colossians 1.17.
All digital content should inspire a sense of purpose, not simply perception. Having created online resources focused on supporters’ needs, we wanted to inspire a sense of common purpose together.
We created a new online community - called 1.17 - across our social media channels. Every day at 1.17 pm, online video content would be shown (pre-recorded or live), focusing on a people-led and community online approach. Content shared included live worship, prayers, quizzes and featured special guests.
Having built an active online community, we were able to launch our new global Emergency Coronavirus Appeal to core supporters. Our key digital strapline for the appeal was easy to remember and action-driven - ‘Pray. Give. Save lives.’ Through promotional appeal videos, shared via social media to thousands of people through our 1.17 broadcasts, online content reinforced our key messaging and meant supporters were better informed about the appeal. In turn, they became digital ambassadors who shared appeal content more widely in their own social networks.
Your digital content strategy should capture imagination – focusing on innovation, not inaction. At All We Can, we quickly realised that this global crisis allowed us to re-imagine the use of digital as never before.
Taking a ‘people-first’ digital approach, we recognised that there was a gap in the market - church congregations were not allowed to meet together nor could people sing in choirs or large groups.
In response, ‘The Big Church Sing’ was created. This was a new, collaborative online experience featuring special musical performances interspersed with key appeal messaging and fundraising content. The event encouraged people to donate through the simple yet effective strapline - ‘Pray. Give. Sing and save lives’ - a natural extension of our existing online fundraising proposition.
To deliver ‘The Big Church Sing’, our team worked in collaboration with the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the newly formed Methodist Choir - a virtual choir of 1,600 singers, created by the award-winning conductor Matt Beckingham. Our first broadcast on Easter Sunday was watched live by over 2,000 households and raised the highest amount of online income in a single event in our history. Following this success, ‘The Big Church Sing’ became a regular monthly event during lockdown. It regularly brought together thousands of people, involved acclaimed singers and choirs, gained recognition on BBC Radio and endorsements from prominent Christian musicians. Most importantly, it raised much needed funds for the communities we serve globally as well as bringing hope and encouragement to our supporters during these uncertain times.
Digital content is key in strengthening supporters’ capacity to fundraise online. We recognised that we needed to equip supporters with the right tools and content to generate income themselves through simple acts of active participation. This included online challenge events, social media fundraisers and virtual church services.
The ‘In Her Shoes Challenge’ was one such fundraising initiative. Using digital content, we invited our supporters to see if they could walk or bike the same distance as Nawalat, a young Ugandan girl, walks every day to school. This challenge proved popular with people of all ages. Additionally, we encouraged those who had taken part to join our 1.17 digital community, which further reinforced a sense of togetherness.
Through working together with local churches, we also produced a range of content for online worship – including pre-recording sermons or streaming live services via Facebook and YouTube as well as optimising space during these digital services for supporters to give online directly to our appeal. These virtual church services again proved extremely popular and led to a marked increase in online speaking engagements for our staff to further engage with new audiences.
Digital content should encourage trust with your supporters about the impact of your work. It is no good if you frame, inspire, imagine and strengthen your supporters to fundraise - if in the end, they do not trust your content, or believe that their generous donations have changed lives.
Lockdown presented All We Can with an opportunity to use digital content to break down the barriers of distant and impersonal fundraising asks and generic fundraising approaches through telling stories of impact online, providing regular updates from the field and special messages of thanks. We wanted our supporters to be in no doubt that their donations were making a difference. Through digital content, All We Can was able to unpack the value of their generosity in new and creative online ways which demonstrated clearly the impact that our supporters’ donations were making in some of the world’s poorest communities.