Yesterday Katya Andresen wrote a very short, but powerful post called What’s Your Progress Bar? It’s so short, I’m going to copy the whole thing here:
“When we download something, we see a progress bar inching toward an outcome.
What is your cause’s progress bar? Which events, stories, or experiences can make a donor feel that she’s walking a road with you, toward a destination that is near? I’ve always wished I could give to a community cause online, know that Gail from the accounting department logged my donation, watch Jane add another family to their community outreach plan because of my support, and then see the difference I made in someone’s life.
People expect tangibility, so give it to them.”
I think this is a natural fit with three concepts I’ve been talking a lot about lately: editorial calendars, the communications arc, and storytelling. (Nelson Layag did a great job explaining how editorial calendars and the communications arc work for CompassPoint Nonprofit Services in our video interview.)
Think about it. You might not be able to create the kind of progress bar that Katya dreams about (at least not quite yet), but you can definitely create it over the course of several weeks or even months for your supporters.
1. Pick some aspect of your work that includes several interesting people and stories, but is still relatively well defined. You can’t use your organization as a whole. Let’s say it’s a new group of volunteers.
2. Using the idea of the communications arc, map out several potential touch points. For example, the volunteers connect with you in several different ways. They attend an orientation together. They do their first assignments. Some have life-changing experiences. You start to see some of the results of their work. Some volunteers move on; others renew their commitment. There’s a beginning, middle, and end to the arc.
3. Think of different ways to tell stories along that arc, hitting on the major touch points. Keep in mind that many of the real details will probably change as events actually occur. That’s OK. Sketch out the arc and the stories on it the best you can for now. For example, maybe you choose to follow three of the ten new volunteers more closely to get their back stories and to interview them more intensely during their time with you.
4. Schedule when you can tell these stories into your various communications channels on your editorial calendar. Think about the best ways to share these stories over the weeks or months in your e-newsletter, on your blog or website, and on Facebook, for example. Do you put one volunteer in each channel, or mix up their experiences? Think about how you will maintain the arc, and give readers enough information to get them hooked, and waiting for the next update from you.
5. Deliver the content. Adjusting your plan as needed, share your real stories. Be sure your supporters know where and when to get that update! And link back to previous “episodes” of the story so those who join in mid-stream can easily catch up.
Can you share one of your communications arcs? Leave a note in the comments.
We’ll talk more about communications arcs during Wednesday’s webinar, Taming Your Editorial Calendar and Content Creation Process, on May 18, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. ET and during Creating Awesome Content: Ideas for Nonprofit Writers on May 25.