Charities are working as hard as ever to connect with their supporters at the moment. I wanted to share just one example that I think is great, which is the virtual advent calendar made by an excellent charity called Mousetrap Theatre Projects.
Mousetrap Theatre Projects is a theatre education charity which helps young people to enjoy, learn and benefit from live theatre, irrespective of their cultural, social or economic background.
They’ve offered supporters the chance to receive an email every day of December leading up to Christmas. When you click on the link each day, it reveals a short film of a Christmassy performance that puts a smile on your face.
If you’re tempted to see for yourself, I recommend it! Here’s the link.
The films have been made by the charity’s volunteers, patrons, young people they work with, staff, and other parts of the charity family. Yesterday’s one was a beautiful rendition of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’; and on Day 1 we were treated to the actress Alison Steadman reading a lovely poem called Listening to Christmas.
Each film also gives you the chance to donate, but this is not the main message.
Seeing these films reminded me of some insightful advice offered at an event last year for members of the Bright Spot Members Club by the marketing expert and best-selling author Grant Leboff. One of the key points he impressed upon our audience of fundraisers was that in the age of the smart phone, as everyone’s attention is now distracted by so many different stimuli, gaining your audience’s attention is more important than it’s ever been. And unless we are creating content which is intrinsically interesting, we are unlikely to hold our supporter’s attention for long. But if we can add more value, by meeting their needs in positive, interesting ways, we have every chance of engaging people who care, and inspiring them to want to support.
There are lots of great ideas I got from seeing this project, but here are just three lessons I took from it. I hope they are helpful food for thought:
It’s not about the advent calendar
Of course, for your charity, a virtual advent calendar may not be right tactic. And it’s too late for this year now anyway. Rather, the more important thing to notice is the mindset and approach of a charity that is doing its best to meet the needs of its supporters more broadly than only communicating in order to invite a donation. Your way of doing this will be different, as you have a different strategy, resources and brand values etc.
But if you have been thinking of doing something interesting to reach out and engage your supporters this year, for instance, sharing impact / thank you stories or some other content that is in and of itself interesting, perhaps seeing this example will inspire you to find a way to make your idea happen, in spite of the obstacles you’ll probably have to overcome.
Or if not, perhaps it will inspire you to take some risks in 2021 to add more value / build deeper relationships with your supporters, in addition to the times you give them the opportunity to donate.
Make a start
One of the most powerful things I took from my interview with Max Newton from Shelter for Episode 44 of my podcast, in which he explains techniques for achieving impossible-seeming challenges, (both in his ultra-marathon running and in fundraising) is the power of somehow taking a deep breath and getting yourself to ‘make the leap’.
We talk about how courage is not the absence of fear, but rather, finding a way to take that crucial step of committing to doing something new in spite of the fear and uncertainty as to whether it’s going to work. This applies to personal acts of courage as well as to an organisation that gets good at trying new things, being willing to innovate.
I think it’s interesting that twelve months ago, in December 2019, Mousetrap took a leap and created a brilliantly joyful short film of a Christmas song, made up of clips of staff, young people, volunteers and other stakeholders singing and dancing, wearing Christmas jumpers. They sent it out to stakeholders, wishing them a merry Christmas. There was no financial ask, it was just a lovely, warm-hearted film they took the trouble to make and send to the whole family.
Apparently they received lots of positive feedback! What they’ve done this year has gone up many notches in scale and execution, but the key point I’d make here is that the momentum to create this years’ whole set of films in this advent calendar project must have been far stronger because they took a leap last year with that simpler version.
So if you feel like you have a long way to go in terms of creating great experiences for your supporters, in this more digital, virtual world we now live in, that doesn’t matter. Each new step you take can only help you build momentum for more ambitious activity in the future. And given that digital communication has become more important than ever now, these steps seem to me to be valuable ones. Good luck!
Of course, it can take time and effort to create films or interactive webinars / virtual project visits or stories of impact for your supporters, from the front line of your charity. And this is hard when your resources are probably sorely stretched.
But be aware that each time you create one really good piece of content for your supporters, you can usually squeeze lots more value from that film. The author Amy Woods points out in her book Content 10X and her podcast, there are so many ways you can get more value from your initial recording.
For instance, you can potentially turn that film into a blog to post on your website and, for instance, as an article on Linked In. Note, you could make the creation of this blog relatively easy by getting the film transcribed first, and then polishing up the transcript. (There are even several free transcribing services if you have no budget).
And you can create short film clips for social media; and create longer highlight film clips to share with supporters by email. Knowing these options from the start can make it easier to justify the effort of creating the great stories and films in the first place.
If you found this article helpful, please share it so that other charities can benefit.
And if you enjoyed this article, then check out Episode 45 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast, in which I explore with Richard Turner a range of ideas and examples of charities creating great experiences for supporters.
To get your copy of my free e-book Power Through The Pandemic – seven ways to raise funds with major donors, corporates and trusts, even now follow this link.