nonprofit's audience

Now that you have set some priorities in your strategic planning and are building your sustainability, let’s focus on capturing the attention of your nonprofit’s audience online. We all know that there is a lot of information shared through digital content, but it is important to understand how best to use online platforms for the benefit of your organizations.

Why do you need to capture the attention of your nonprofit’s audience online? 

Your real question might be why capturing your audience’s attention online should be part of your organization’s safety net. The organizations that had their audience’s attention online before the global pandemic, civil unrest, shrinking economy, partisan politics, and environmental disasters of 2020 were able to communicate quickly with their audiences, helping them pivot faster with each new challenge. These organizations already had some extra built-in support of their online audience. 

Who is your audience? 

Your audience is anyone you need/want to communicate with. 

  • Clients
  • Partners
  • Staff 
  • Stakeholders
  • Supporters
  • Volunteers

It is important to keep these groups in mind as you develop your messaging as you will probably have different information to communicate to each group. 

What is your communication plan?  

Consistency is key to capturing your audience’s attention online. In planning strategically, you create a grant calendar, event calendar, fundraising plan, etc. Have you created a communication plan or a content calendar? 

1. Decide what online communication channels you will use. This includes more than just your organization’s social media accounts. Do not try to be on everything. To get started, pick one or two that your audience (see “Who is your audience?” section above) are already using and do those well. 

  • Email Newsletters
  • Text Marketing (SMS)
  • Social Media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest, etc. 
  • Chats/Forums
  • Website – blog 
  • Instant Messenger

2. Create an annual calendar (paper planner, calendar app, post-its on the wall, however you like to build a calendar) of

  • Fundraisers and Giving Days
  • Holidays
  • Special days related to your services (World Water Day, National Teacher’s Day, Grandparents Day, Banned Book Week)
  • Times your office is closed
  • Your events and services 

You will use this calendar to help you know what you need to communicate with your audiences. Do you have an event coming up? Have a giving campaign going on? Offices will be closed? Tell the appropriate audiences. 

3. Establish a timeline for communicating with your audiences. Decide when and how often you need to communicate. It would probably be pretty overwhelming to try to plan a whole year’s worth of content or even quarterly, especially during a global pandemic, so try planning a week at a time and then maybe a month. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour every week where you can plan and prepare content. Be sure you use the appropriate communication channel for the audience(s) you are trying to reach. 

Example: You will send your supporters, volunteers, and clients a monthly email newsletter with information on what is going on in the next month. You will create a Facebook event for an upcoming virtual luncheon you are hosting two weeks before the event. 

4. Create and schedule your content. We highly recommend using a scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite. If you only have one social media account, see if it has a scheduling tool (Facebook and Twitter do. If your Facebook and Instagram accounts are linked, you can schedule Instagram posts on Facebook.)

Ideas on content to share with your audiences: 

  • Client success stories
  • Statistics
  • Advocacy
  • Quotes from clients, supporters, volunteers
  • Program details/Services offered
  • Anything on your annual calendar (see step 2)

5. Include a visual (picture, video, graphic) with your online communication picture or video with any of your communication. Visuals will help your audience see and engage with your communication. 

Like with strategic planning, spending time planning your online communication will save you time in the end and help capture your audience’s attention online. 

In the last blog post in this series, we will explore building your board of directors. What will be your next step to create a more robust online presence?

Bethany Planton, GPC, SMS, LSM
Bethany Planton, GPC, SMS, LSM is the Founder and CEO of bmpconsulting, a grant consulting firm located in Louisville, Kentucky. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications Studies from Ball State University, Bethany got her start in the grant field as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in 2011. Bethany has worked with many different organizations such as arts and culture, after-school youth programming, historic preservation, healthcare, and community centers to secure more than five million dollars in federal, state, and foundation funds. Bethany earned a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Administration from Western Kentucky University in 2015, the Grant Professionals Certification from the Grant Professionals Certification Institute in 2016, the Social Media Strategist certification from the National Institute for Social Media, and the Licensed Scrum Master certification from Scrum, Inc. in 2020. Bethany is a member of the Grant Professionals Association, Fund Raising Executives of Metro Louisville, and Young Professionals Association of Louisville. She serves as the Communications Coordinator for the Kentucky Chapter of the Grant Professionals Association. Bethany loves reading, traveling (anywhere and everywhere), eating ice cream, and cheering on The Ohio State Buckeyes.
Bethany Planton, GPC, SMS, LSM

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