4 Give the People What They Want

How to Get More Attention than Cat Videos

You’re working so hard for a cause you believe in.  You wonder: Why aren’t more people paying attention?

cute cat
Can your communications compete with this cat?

You’re not alone.  In the internet age, nonprofits and businesses are all in the same boat.

We’re not only competing with each other for people’s time and interest.  We’re also competing with online games, viral videos, and cute cat photos.

What did you do the last time a commercial appeared on your TV screen?  Chances are, you muted the volume or changed the channel…if you weren’t already using a tool to “zap” the commercials right out of what you were watching.

The people your nonprofit is trying to reach are just like you.  The ways that nonprofits usually try to reach people are even easier to ignore than commercials.  It’s so easy to delete your email, ignore your press release, toss that annual report or printed newsletter or appeal letter into the recycling bin.


Most people will do just that–IF they see your outreach as just another claim upon their time. But what if they saw you as an answer to their prayers instead?


Giving People What They Want

People don’t like to be interrupted.  They like to be helped.  If you want to be heard, you have to give people something they want, so that they are actually grateful to hear from you.  The term for this approach that puts the audience at the center is content marketing.

Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.

(Substitute “nonprofits” for “businesses” and “supporters” for “customers, prospects, buyers.”  The strategy is the same: give people information that matters to them and you will draw them closer to your cause.)


What Do People Want?

To attract people’s attention, interest, and ultimately support, you must know what they want.  Not just guess: know.  Not just a general idea: you must know them in depth and in detail, like you know a good friend.  If you don’t know that yet, stop reading this blog and go find out.

Let’s say you have done your homework and you do really know your audience.  Here are a few ways you can give them information that will make them keep coming back to you.

  • Online tools.  Give your supporters a way to do something they couldn’t do before.  If you’re an organization for low-income families, you might give potential donors and partners a way to calculate the minimum a family needs to get by in a specific town.  [What will your supporters use?]
  • Blogging. In a personal voice, tell stories and give behind-the-scenes information about something you know they care about.  [Will your readers quote you in conversations with friends?]
  • Training.  Be a guest speaker.  Hold workshops.  Do webinars.  Post the information on social media. Teach other people what you know that they want to learn, and gain their loyalty and respect.  [What does your organization know better than anyone else that other people would line up to learn?]
  • Curation.  This is the current term for finding useful content that other people have produced and sharing it with your supporters–through mail, email, or social media (including Youtube for sharing video).  The key is that it has to be useful to them.  [What will they put into practice right away?  What will they find valuable enough that they will forward, post, retweet, pin, or otherwise share it with others?]

You don’t have to use all of these content marketing tactics.  Certainly not at the start.  Perhaps not ever.  You are who you are, and your supporters are who they are, and maybe there’s another approach that makes them sit up and pay attention.

What you have to do is to find that approach.  When you do find it, you’ll have lots of things to post on social media. Until you find it, the cat videos win.





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