January’s charity content highlights

Come out from underneath your desk / duvet and catch up with some of the latest creative charity content.

L-R Dave the Parkinsons Worm, contactless giving Zurich Insurance post, Street Support video, National Lottery gif

Innovation

Cancer Research are continuing their trend of using World Cancer Day (this Saturday – 4 February) to launch new uses for contactless fundraising. Ten ‘smart benches’ across two London boroughs will take ÂŁ2 donations.

Are you planning to look in to contactless fundraising in 2017? NSPCC recently announced impressive results of their contactless fundraising and many other organisations are using it too. I gathered some examples of contactless giving in my blog post for Zurich Insurance and spoke to Haven House Children’s Hospice who are running trials at the moment.

Not sure what the technical term for this is but the National Lottery did a very smart bit of Twittering by launching this 7second video and inviting people to RT it ‘for a surprise’. The surprise was a personalised video, with the RTers’ Twitter profile image in a gold frame, with the words ‘National Treasure’ underneath. Nice! This was similar to a thanks reply from Save the Children I got in December.

National Lottery video of interesting doors / walls

Today it is Time to Talk Day (#timetotalk). Why not use Time to Change’s template to make your own graphic?

Time to Change's interactive graphic maker

Good reads

If you get a moment, don’t forget to fill in the Charity Digital Skills Survey which is open until 17 February.

And follow #smex17 on Monday if you are not going to the Social Media Exchange in person.

Re-brands / new websites / charity content

Action for Children's error message - cheeky boy with magnifying glass

To brighten your day

Meme of badly drawn pictures 'pasted' on top of a video of Donald Trump's policy signings

What have you seen?

What have been your charity content highlights from January? Do share! I’d love to hear from you.

Nonprofit digital advent calendars – tips and examples

Digital advent calendars can be a great way to drive engagement during December. If you have 24 pieces of content, why not package them up? You don’t have to produce a slick clickable website, an image shared on social media is perfect. Think about how to use your existing digital assets and a theme to give your followers a treat every day. It’s been a hard year and we all need cheering up afterall.

Examples from WCHP, MS Society, Royal Marsden, New Mills Food Bank, Bliss, Bookstart, Family Holiday Association

If you are thinking about doing an online advent calendar, here are some questions you should ask.

Does an advent calendar fit with your brand?

How will your supporters respond to a daily offering? Do you get much interaction from your every-day communications? Look at your stats and find out what type of content works best. A daily treat could inspire interaction if there hasn’t been any or could attract new audiences. Or could do annoy people.

An advent calendar might be too flippant for your cause. This depends to some extent on your tone of voice. If you have a serious cause, it is possible. See this example from Bliss who are sharing stories via their calendar (see also #blissadvent on Twitter).

Can you sustain it?

24 days is a long time to do one thing.

How can you maintain momentum over 24 days? Avoid a slump in the middle by planning your content carefully. What existing content could you use and what would you need to produce from scratch? Can you link in with other big days in December?

Do you have the resources to publish and respond to comments over a whole month including weekends and into the holidays? You can schedule posts via publishing tools such as Hootsuite but will need to keep an eye on responses.

If you don’t the energy or resources to cover 24 days, you could scale down to use the 12 days of Christmas instead? See this from the Imperial War Museum.

Should you have a theme or goal?

It can be useful to have a theme to focus your activities. Themes nonprofits have used include:

  • inspirational quotes
  • thank you’s to supporters
  • competitions and special offers
  • fundraising stories and tips
  • successes over the year
  • awareness raising / messages / campaigns.

Think about what will be interesting to your supporters.

Museums, galleries and cultural organisations in particular make good use of digital advent calendars to share gems from their collections. Take a look at the Horniman Museum’s calendar on instagram or National Library of Scotland’s #cartogradvent.

Some council’s are doing calendars too. This comms2point0 post from Merton Council explains how they are using their collection.

How technical should you go?

A simple approach is to just share an image on each new day via social media. This method works well if you are an organisation who has beautiful or inspiring images or a collection to showcase. Or have used Canva or equivalent to illustrate quotes.

There have been many more gif-based calendars this year. See this example from Community Christmas.

Video-based calendars and interactive websites are rarer. Even more unusual is the offline calendar. See Folkstone’s Living Advent Calendar.

Top tips

To build traction over the period, include a short specific hashtag such as AbbreviationOfYourOrgNameXmas16 so #THxmas16 or #BlissAdvent as above. This means people can explore previous days as the month progresses.

Include a link so people can find out more or take an action. If not done, this creates a dead-end. The calendar becomes a nice-to-have thing rather than something which drives traffic or action. People are likely to share these types of images so you have the potential to reach new audiences who might not know about you.

Ideas for next year

Get some inspiration for next year. Take a look at my collections of beautiful nonprofit advent calendars – Storify from 2016 and Storify from Christmas 2015.

Your tips

Spotted any good nonprofit advent calendars? Have you run one yourself? Was it worth the effort? Do you have any top tips? I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks to UK Fundraising for featuring my Storify in their article about charities’ digital advent calendars 2016.

Saying thank you on #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday started in the UK in 2014. Charities use it in all sorts of different ways. Some ask for money or time. Others ask for action. (See Do something good this Giving Tuesday by Kirsty Marrins for some examples).

Others just say thank you. Here are some of the creative and lovely thank you’s I have seen today.

Videos

Mind’s staff read out messages from people who have been helped by Mind. At the end it says ‘We can’t thank you enough for helping us to give people a place to turn and a way forward’.

Mind's staff reading out thank you messages

The Trussell Trust have been tweeting very short thank you messages covering all aspects of how people support them. There is one long one (37s!) on YouTube.

Trussell Trust's staff hold up thank you signs

The Donkey Sanctuary said thank you to their supporters with lots of lovely pictures of donkeys.

Video of still photos of donkeys

Images

War Child UK shared a thank you photo with children holding up letters and waving.

Children hold up letters spelling out 'Thank You'

Refugee Action shared ‘thanks to you’ numbers showing how many people they had been able to help.

Refugee Action - 'this year, you've helped us to...

Marie Curie have been using lots of different ways to say thank you. Here they share statistics showing the impact of their work. Other tweets show them writing thank you letters. Members of staff talked about this on their personal twitter accounts too. And they made fab personal doodles.

Marie Curie - a supporter says thanks for the fun thank you

Personal thanks

Rethink Mental Illness also called supporters to say thank you. In total they contacted 221 people!

Rethink Mental Illlness contacted 221 people to say thank you

Breast Cancer Care started a #ChainOfThanks.

Debbie's thanks to her best friend as part of BCC's ChainOfThanks

The British Heart Foundation thanked their 68,000 event fundraisers and also tweeted a special thanks to the Marathon runners. They also tweeted personal thank you’s using gifs and red and white images to certain supporters. And the CEO Simon Gillespie tweeted his thanks to staff and volunteers.

BHF: 'you ran the miles, you made it count'

Dogs Trust thanked their corporate partners, saying they were ‘wagtastic’.

Dog's Trust sending personal thanks

How do you say thanks?

It is easy but important to say thank you. How do you do it?

A general thank you works well with an image or video to attract attention. These images, videos and actions are low cost and reasonably low-effort. You don’t need a big budget to say thank you well using social media.

Have you seen any other creative thanks today? Please do share them in the comments.

Thanks for reading 🙂

See also GivingTuesday’s Twitter Moments showing some of the UK charity activity and how brands got involved.

Social media and charity content – recent highlights

Catch up with this week’s news, hashtags and creative content.

Cathy Come Home, RNIB's Mannequin Challenge, #OurDay and Innocent's #handmadetweets

In the news

This week it was 50 years since Cathy Come Home was broadcast. It inspired charities such as Crisis to be set up. It is currently available to watch on iplayer until the start of December. It is also worth listening to After Cathy which was on Radio 4, sharing stories of people experiencing different types of homelessness now.

John Lewis released its advert of bouncing animals. This year they are working with the Wildlife Trusts, although you wouldn’t know it from the advert. Sainbury’s and Aldi’s adverts at least had the charity logos showing at the end. In contrast Pret didn’t make a swanky, tear-jerking ad but produced a film showing their work around homelessness.

A CAF poll says that #FirstFiver generated an amazing ÂŁ12.5m in donations. Did you see this note sent to Age UK?

The list of top #SocialCEOs was announced this week. The full list is on Zoe’s SocialCEOs blog post and tips were published on the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network. I liked the stars used to congratulate the individual winners.

Spcial CEOs - naming and congratulating individual winners.

Over the last 18 months I have been working with the British Society for Haematology and helped them to transform from this to this. Their new website and brand launched last week.

BSH before and after

Events

If you missed them, catch up with recent conferences and events:

Great content

The biggest piece of content I have been looking at this week is JRF’s mighty manifesto to solve UK poverty. Amazing piece of work.

JRF's ending poverty roadmap

Coming soon

Am looking forward to taking a closer look at Christmas campaigns. In the meantime, here are some digital advent calendars from last year.

Feels like it has been a full-on week, especially in the lead-up to Christmas. What were your highlights this week? Please do share via the comments box.

Have a good weekend.

Anthony Nolan’s Facebook content strategy

A content strategy can be used to look at the overall publishing messages and processes for an organisation. Or it can be focussed to one particular channel or element of delivery. In this post we look at the brilliant Anthony Nolan’s Facebook content strategy and see how they went from mainly ‘housekeeping’ type posts / sharing news stories, to using first-person, authentic storytelling with dramatic results.

L-R Before and after the content strategy

About Anthony Nolan

Anthony Nolan is a national charity who match people “willing to donate their blood stem cells or bone marrow to people with blood cancer and blood disorders who desperately need lifesaving transplants”.

The small digital team had built up a healthy following on their social media channels. Inspired by the NHS Blood Donation’s approach to storytelling and some successful trials, they wanted to refocus their Facebook comms.

August 2015

  • 45 Facebook posts to 50,000 followers.
  • 30 posts were niche or transactional ie ones requested internally to promote an event or news item or fundraising activity.
  • 15 posts were story-led about stem cell donation, transplants or blood cancer. These performed better.
  • Average of 279 engagements per post.

The team recognised how powerful stories could be but there was no overall direction or resources to find stories. They also identified that there was internal pressure to promote department-specific needs.

The change

The team had been watching how NHS Blood Donation used Facebook to celebrate and inspire donors.

In January their own patient appeal (#Match4Lara) flourished on social media leading to copycat appeals from other families. Previous campaigns had been press-media focussed. Their approach needed to change to be able to respond to and support donor searches using social media.

A myth busing campaign (#DonatingIsntScary) in October 2015 used first-hand donation stories on social media. This worked well and encouraged the team to trial new processes to encourage donors to share, which they did.

This helped to prove that storytelling should be the main focus on Facebook. The team analysed their stories and did lots of thinking about the roles and goals of stories. This included looking at Joseph Campbell’s The Hero and Age UK’s use of positive storytelling.

The strategy

They developed their own profile for stories which would support the goals of the organisation.

Anthony Nolan strategy

This documented four types of story (pillars) and their purposes:

  1. The hunt (urgent) – (someone needs to find a donor). The story raises awareness and educates a cold audience about matching. This is a real, human story that inspires people to help.
  2. The hero (informative) – (someone amazing is donating their stem cells). The story demonstrates how donation works and reassures potential donors about the process. It creates positivity and shows donors are heroes.
  3. The happy ending (celebratory) – (a donor and recipient meet or exchange letters or a recipient or family member reflects on their life since the transplant). The story underlines the positive impact a transplant can have and demonstrates the amazing relationship that can develop between a recipient and donor.
  4. The heartbeat (informative) – (stories about AN’s heritage or about new research breakthrough).

To support the guide, they developed three basic content principles to put the strategy into action:

  • the four pillars should form the foundation of daily Facebook content
  • stories should be varied
  • pillars should be the majority in comparison with niche posts, at least 1:1.

Stories are repurposed or re-shared from posts shared by the community.

They launched the strategy with a series of internal comms including:

  • lunchtime workshop explaining about Facebook’s algorithms, showing that it was everyone’s responsibility to come up with engaging content
  • working with colleagues to create posts which combined niche calls to action with storytelling. These were used to inspire and encourage other colleagues when these did well.
  • communication and compromise. They spent time working with colleagues to think about which channels could be used as an alternative when their posts wouldn’t work on Facebook.

Results

  • In the second week of September 2016 there were 5 posts, each used one of the pillars (all four were covered).
  • Each post got more than 3000 engagements.
  • The posts reached over 1 million people organically.
  • There were 16.2k engagements. The team were excited to benchmark this against NHS Blood Donation who got 16.3k in the same week.
  • The average number of engagements in August was 1267. This was a 450% increase on August 2015.

Why it works

AN post showing a donor

Take a look at Anthony Nolan’s Facebook. It is brilliant because it is all about people rather than ‘the charity’. The organisation is the facilitator, unifying the message but it is the people who are doing inspiring things or the ones needing help from others.

The pictures are not stock images, but of people doing something, a picture capturing a moment.

The stories are from the people rather than about them.

And AN do a great job of responding to questions and explaining things. They are part of the community, not owners of it. The five people working on social media are seen to provide customer service (there are also three in the digital team).

The stories are written in an immediately engaging way. Just look at the first lines of a few posts:

  • “I told her she wasn’t going to hospital and she asked why. So I had to tell her she didn’t have a hero any more.”
  • Robert Duff really is an extraordinary human being.
  • This is just heartbreaking
  • “The day I got the email was very exciting. A few blood tests to confirm and the ball started rolling!”

Posts are concise but engaging. They are written in a warm, urgent, persuasive way. People want to comment / like / share. Anthony Nolan have inspired their community to be one which doesn’t simply passively read but are connected and active.

These stories do everything to link people who are going through similar experiences. They help people who are going through horrible times to feel that they are not alone. They also inspire people to become donor heroes. The community thanks donors and the donors feel loved. Which makes more people want to donate.

By being brave and strategically refocussing their Facebook content they have created a community which is supportive and content generating. Their work on Facebook is helping to deliver the goals of the organisation.

Is this replicable?

It can be a brave thing to make a significant change like this. Clearly for Anthony Nolan, the instinctive change to focus on storytelling has proved to be one which has significantly increased engagement and awareness.

I don’t think this approach would work for everyone. It works for Anthony Nolan because they were able to distill their key messages down to four types of stories. It also works because their audience of donors and patients (plus their family, friends and supporters) wants to share and read and react to these stories because they reflect their own experiences. As as story the search for a match works, as there is an urgency and potentially a solution which anyone could contribute to. Finally the community is lively and active and AN have nurtured it with their own engagement by thanking, sharing and recognising contributions.

Most organisations don’t have the capacity to find stories to share in this way. And there will be many causes where there are sensitivities which mean that stories have to be anonymised or people don’t want to or can’t tell their own stories via Facebook. Setting a target for user-generated stories for these causes or for organisations without a super-engaged community is unrealistic.

Saying that, many organisations just use Facebook for housekeeping / noticeboard comms (eg fundraising / news / #mondaymotivation etc). It is hard to reach people when posts don’t get the organic traffic generated by the likes / shares / comments etc. So in order to use Facebook to its potential, posts should always be engaging. Stories are one way to do this. Many charities could do with a think about how to use the channel to be inspiring and supportive, seeing it as a service rather than broadcast.

Content strategy

Is your organisation ready to make a drastic change to the way it writes, produces or shares content? Does one of your channels need a re-think?

Doing content strategy work is an opportunity to ask questions about whether your approach does need a refresh. Messages get stale, audience needs evolve and the popularity and usefulness of channels ebbs and flows. Charity comms also go through trends. Storytelling and video are big now, but live streaming or Virtual Reality might become the next big thing.

Any process looking at content strategy (whether org-wide or channel specific) would start by looking at the organisational strategy and analysing how content should support this – messages first with channels and delivery methods after. Ideas for change would be tested by looking at the processes, impact and audience for the content.

To get the most out of your content, it is a process worth doing.

Your experience

Have you made a similar change? Have you done a large or small-scale content strategy? What impact did it have?

What do you think of Anthony Nolan’s use of Facebook? Why does it work? What can you learn from it?

Please do share in the comments.

Credits and links

With big thanks to Jon Ware who shared Anthony Nolan’s journey with me.

I will be presenting this case study as part of my workshop on Content Strategy at the Charity Writing Communications conference on 25 October 2016.

Read more about Content Strategy and various posts about storytelling.

Oh and find out about the 8 ways you could save a life.

#firstfiver – a democratic viral fundraiser

Selection of #firstfiver images from twitter

I have been watching the spread of the #firstfiver campaign since it started just under two weeks ago. It has been great to see how many organisations have joined in with this very simple idea.

Unlike other viral fundraisers (such as #nomakeupselfie which I have blogged about before) this was not connected to a particular cause. It also didn’t feature a complicated or strenuous ask (such as the Ice Bucket Challenge or the current #22PushUpChallenge).

Instead it was simple and easy to ask. And simple and easy for supporters to join in with.

Examples

If you haven’t come across it yet, look at my storify showing the spread of the campaign and how different charities have responded.

It includes examples from small charities such as Trinity Hosice, Harrogate Easier Living Project (HELP), The UK Sepsis Trust, Freedom from Torture and Make Lunch. And large ones including War Child UK, the Children’s Society and Sue Ryder.

Images, videos, thank yous and shopping lists showing the difference a ÂŁ5 donation could make, all help to make a request stand out.

#firstfiver Storify – showing tips and examples

Get involved

If your organisation hasn’t joined in yet, it is not too late. The hashtag is still going strong and many people still haven’t had a new ÂŁ5 note yet.

Share your views

Have you seen any good examples that I have missed? Any particularly humourous or creative or persuasive posts?

Has your organisation had (m)any donations? How easy was it for your organisation to join in with this campaign?

Have you made a donation yourself?

Please do comment, I’d love to hear from you.

Empathy and the power of stories

We laughed, we cried, we empathised. Yesterday’s Being the Story event, curated and organised by Jude Habib of SoundDelivery was a showcase for stories.

Four images from the Being The Story event

It wasn’t a traditional charity conference. There was no mention of digital comms channels, no talk of impact measurement. We shimmyed our pom poms, we boxed, we walked in other people’s shoes and sang. But most of all we heard people’s stories, told first hand. It was moving and powerful and upsetting and inspiring. It was all about the experience.

The stories

Each speaker shared their story in their own way. The common thread was how the speakers had used their own experiences to do something amazing. I can’t even start to represent the power of the stories which were shared. So here is a very brief summary, with links to more information on the BeingTheStory website. We heard from:

  • Pastor and community campaigner Lorraine Jones whose son Dwayne Simpson was fatally stabbed in Brixton in 2014 and set up Dwaynamics to help young people develop life skills through boxing and fitness
  • Sam Smith whose own troubled start in life inspired him to support young people
  • Jodie Clark whose own experience of disability discrimination by employers led her to become an advocate
  • Solicitor Sue James who tells the stories of the people she represents in Hammersmith and Fulham Law Centre
  • Mandy Thomas‘ who told the harrowing story of domestic violence
  • The Empathy Museum’s project of ‘A Mile in My Shoes’ which was recently used at the NHS Conference to help health professions understand the experience of patients
  • Brititte Aphrodite who shared sections from her punk poetry show about her depression
  • Naveed and Samiya Parvez who created Andiamo to fit and 3D print orthotics after their experience with their son – “we realised that we’d always had healthcare done to us, not with us”
  • Emma Lawton who shared how her diagnosis of Parkinson’s at 29 changed her life in a positive way
  • Hassan Akkad who shared his 87 day journey to the UK from Syria
  • Photographer Giles Duley who shares the stories of the people he photographs via his humanitarian projects
  • The Micro Rainbow International Interfaith Choir.

How stories are told

The stories they told were amazing. But more than that, it was how they were told. Hearing directly from someone in the same room, is very powerful.

In some cases the delivery was a performance. Watching Emma Lawton peg visual representations of the things that had happened to her, then cut the piece of string held by her parents was one of the most moving things I have seen. It brought the house down.

First-hand storytelling

First-hand stories are powerful. You might think you are doing this already through your case studies. But it is not the same.

This is about creating a platform and a culture where people want to share their stories for you. They are the ambassadors for your cause, not your charity. They help people to understand and empathise about the condition / experience which helps to inspire someone to help do something about it (through donating / volunteering etc).

How to harness this is crucial. The strongest channel must be the in-person delivery. The top of the comms pyramid is the opportunity to be listened to for 20 minutes with no distractions. How could you not be affected?

There are other examples which come close. The audio / shoe experience from the Empathy Museum connects sound with something physical. The WeAreHere installation in June bought the stories of WW1 soldiers to life.  There must also be examples of individual storytelling using Virtual Reality. These are all about intimacy and experience. By sharing an experience we can feel empathy.

Can this be done in other ways? Watching a video of that person is good but not the same as in-person delivery. You have to be so engaging that the hovering swipping finger stays still until the end. Can you distill someone’s story into 140 characters, a written case study or blog post? It is of course possible but is it enough? Maybe it depends on the complexity of the story?

Text with quote from the event ""One of my clients could only afford 1 light bulb & had to move it from room to room.""

There are some organisations doing this. For example SeeMeScotland’s recent #myunfilteredlife campaign where people have been sharing images on instagram with many saying ‘I don’t usually join in with social media shared like this’. An intimate picture and powerful words, directly from the person helps us to share the experience.

SeeMe Scotland

Start with empathy

There are organisations who have expert ambassadors who publicly talk, for example CoppaFeel’s founder Kris Hallenga who was the highlight of one Media Trust conference and the Expert Citizens programme. Emma Lawton is herself an ambassador for Parkinson’s UK. And many organisations have beneficiaries who speak to the media.

SoundDelivery’s mission has been to help organisations collect and use the stories of the people they work with. They understand the power of putting on a pair of headphones, listening to someone speak and sharing someone’s world.

The question for us all as charity comms people is how to find and share the authentic voices. Whether you take inspiration from Emma Lawton’s performance or ideas from the Empathy Museum, now is the time to be creative. Now is the time to find ways to put empathy rather than sympathy at the heart of your comms.

More from #BeingTheStory

Do look at the BeingTheStory storify to get a sense of the day (as well as the hashtag from the event). Lots of people have also written blogs, sharing their thoughts:

Spotted any first-hand stories? Do share them in the comments. This week I read this story in the Metro Online for World Alzheimer’s Day – My nan’s dementia and me.

(Images with thanks to @magnetogaby @katiecubbage and @sushi_juggapah. )