This Is How You Get Your Fans Engaged – Nonprofit Success Story

Cassia Burke

Cassia Burke

I coached the fundraising staff at Children of the Nations for part of 2012 and 2013, and I am so excited about the creative ideas they have had to engage their fans and child sponsors. I asked Cassia Burke of Children of the Nations to share how they came up with a recent campaign that I think you might just want to “borrow” and customize in your own way.  ~Kivi

Guest Post by Cassia Burke of Children of the Nations

Last fall my organization, Children of the Nations, had the privilege of working with Kivi as one of her coaching clients. One of the things she encouraged us to do for our fall campaign was integrate “engagement” asks along with our financial asks—asking partners to DO something as well as giving.

We settled on a pretty simple, easy activity. Leave a comment on a Facebook post encouraging the children we serve in Africa and the Caribbean to stay in school. The response was overwhelming, and Kivi blogged about it last year.

This summer, we wanted to take it to the next level.

We planned our first-ever child sponsorship campaign from our headquarters office (until now, most of our sponsorship efforts were focused around events and personal relationships) for the months of July and August. And since we were doing so many brand new things anyway, I decided to throw in a ridiculous engagement ask while I was at it.

Each time a new sponsor signed up, they received an email from me. The email thanked them for sponsoring, and informed them what number they were to sponsor in our campaign (I kept a Google spreadsheet of the new sponsors and assigned each a number, which I merged through MailChimp).

Then, I asked them to share their story. I gave them two options. 1) Write a sentence or two (or four or forty) explaining why you chose to sponsor or 2) Take a photo of yourself with your number, to encourage others to sponsor. I made several suggestions for how they could do this creatively, and encouraged them to do something wacky and out-of-the-ordinary.

In case they needed proof that I was serious about the photo (or needed ideas), I convinced my husband to sponsor yet another child with me and to be the first to take a wacky photo. I included our photo in the email.  He is a great sport, and I think he makes a rather fine “2.”

COTN-Be-One-Email

In retrospect, I think I had several goals when I crafted this ask:

1) Make the whole campaign feel like a movement that people could join. Kivi taught us that millennials most commonly use the word “community” to describe their relationship with nonprofits. So I wanted to create a sense of community.

2)  Get new sponsors to take that next step of engagement right away, and become advocates. By sharing their story and taking a photo, they would be immediately advocating for others to become sponsors.

3) Work on that sixth R in Kivi’s Six R’s of Relevant Messaging—refreshing. “Authentic” and “surprising” have not been our fortés in communications in the past. Plus, it was summer and I wanted to have some fun.

I also had a lot of fears — the primary one being that no one would actually take a picture with their number and I would be the sole wierdo trying to bend myself into a twelve to promote sponsorship.

Luckily, I was wrong. To my surprise and relief, over the course of the campaign ten of the 286 new sponsors sent back photos, most of which surpassed my photo on the creativity scale, and each with at least a paragraph explaining why they sponsored. Seven more replied with their stories. Several others replied to my email with questions about sponsorship or about how they could get more involved. We posted all the photos and shortened testimonies on our Facebook as they came in as a way to celebrate the new sponsors and rally others to help meet our goal.

COTN-Sponsor-#155

The most exciting reply I got was from a woman who had heard about Children of the Nations for the first time and decided to sponsor because her friend shared one of our campaign Facebook posts.

At the end of the whole campaign we brought in 286 new sponsors, compared to 217 in July and August of 2012. Our last email was a big thank-you with a link to a blog post with many of the new sponsors’ photos and testimonies.

I’d say it was a success. It was, at the very least, fun—for both me and our partners.

Cassia Burke is a staff writer with Children of the Nations. She feels very privileged to be a small part of this organization’s incredible mission by doing what she loves best—writing and constantly learning new things.