What Can Your Older Members Do To Support You In Addition To Donating Money?

One of the questions I am often asked by non-profits when we're discussing membership engagement beyond donating money is how to reach out to members (typically older) who they think are not using tools like Facebook and Twitter. Since the Facebook 55+ audience grew a whopping 922.7% in 2009 (source: 2010 istrategylabs report), I answer that it's becoming more and more likely that older members will have a Facebook account. Twitter? Maybe not so much. Why and how non-profits should gather accurate data on their constituents and not rely on anecdotal evidence is a whole separate conversation (and a different blog post).

For the sake of this discussion, let's assume your members don't have a Facebook account. Three-quarters of the United States population is using the internet and, according to this AARP article, a recent survey indicates that senior citizens in the U.S. regularly go online for a variety of reasons, including using email, and reading news. So it's fairly safe to assume they are surfing the web at some point during their day or week. Encourage them to use some of this time to spread the word about your work. It's a way to make change that doesn’t cost any money at all. Here's two ways to do it that are quick, easy and free, yet cumulatively can make a big impact.

1. Comment on newspaper stories
Even if Twitter and Facebook is lost on them, many of your members get their news on the web from online newspapers, websites and blogs. The internet was born as an interactive medium and has facilitated chats, discussion groups and blogs for years. Recently, the largest newspaper sites have enabled readers to comment directly on their stories.

Whenever they read a mission-related article in any of the major local, regional or national newspapers online, your members can take some time to comment on the article in the "comments section" (usually found below the article). Depending on the publication, they may have to create an account to do so. While commenting, they should always paste in your organization's website address as part of the comments and let people know why they should be aware of, and support your organization.

How It Helps
  • It lets the publisher/writer know real people, like your members, read the story and that the issue is an important one.
  • It adds dimension to the story and creates further discussion.
  • It drives traffic to your organization's website and eventually other media outposts to produce more page views and ultimately more members.
  • It shows the world that your organization's membership is active and engaged in the issues.

Be sure to warn your members, comments are not always pretty. In fact, for many stories about politically charged issues, it can sometimes get downright ugly. But it can also be constructive and energize your most passionate members to enjoy a level of engagement with the issues and others who hold opposing views they may never have had before.

Once they’ve commented, it's important that they check back on the story for additional comments from others. As in any conversation, once they’ve stated their point, someone may respond to their comment and they might feel the need to reply.

2. Pass it on.
Encourage your members to send URLs of articles they're reading and commenting on to their friends and colleagues so that they can add their comments to the article too. 

Here's a few tips for the best way for them to do this: 
  1. They should send the email to themselves only and blindcopy their friends so they're not giving out friends’ email addresses without their consent.
  2. Send only URLs – no attachments– so people don't feel they are being spammed. Plus, it’s easier to read an email and click on a link from a smart phone than open an attachment.
How It Helps
  • It creates a groundswell of opinion and support. Elected officials and large corporations typically invest a lot of time and money in their “spin machines” and have the lobbying power and access to the halls of power that a small non-profit will never be able to match. Encouraging members to voice their opinion lets those who are monitoring the stories (such as elected officials’ staffers who like to take the citizenry's pulse on many issues, and the PR professionals on corporations payrolls)know the public is aware of and cares about the issues.
  • It improves SEO for your organization as comments that show up in search engine results.
It's good practice to encourage all of your members, regardless of their level of internet savvy to engage in this kind of viral activity.

Image Source

No comments: