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How NGOs Can Effectively Communicate Their Missions in 2017

By 3p Contributor

By Daphne Stanford

You know the climate crisis is bad when over 600 businesses and investors are more concerned about fighting climate change than their relationship with America's president. This would seem to be the case by the look of the recent letter written to President Donald Trump urging him to fight climate change.  It’s not encouraging that the person nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is a climate change denier.  

The businesses behind said letter aren’t not-for-profit lightweights, either: The list of companies includes Levi Strauss, Monsanto and Staples.  And the plea isn’t simply for additional carbon taxes, but rather for investment in low-carbon energy sources like solar and wind power, which could provide a potential boost for the economy.  

Not only would investment in renewable energy provide new jobs, but there is also evidence that the companies that manage and plan for climate change receive an 18 percent higher return on investment than companies that don’t disclose their carbon emissions, according to a 2014 study by CDP.  This may be due to the value that consumers and investors now assign to transparency and a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy.  

Enter the need for environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  Their work toward supporting and preserving wildlife and the environment directly supports businesses and helps them become more environmentally sustainable.  

Let’s take one NGO as an example: Rare works with local individuals and organizations to effect change. The group trains individuals in those organizations to run marketing campaigns to educate and inspire the local community to act in the interest of their own natural resources — often promoting biodiversity in local species that make up part of the native diet or lifestyle.  

Because Rare recruits local community members to get involved in the effort themselves, the education is more effective and long-lasting.  For example, in Brazil, Rare is working with government entities and organizations to reach out to local fishing communities to curb overfishing and preserve biodiversity in Brazil’s oceans.  

Because of CSR’s new desirability, NGOs now have an even greater chance of attracting new talent to their ranks.  While it used to be the case that working to save the environment was exclusively the work of NGOs and not-for-profit organizations, large corporations now regularly seek out sustainability managers, due in no small part to consumer concern and existing environmental regulations.  

Moreover, large corporations are beginning to implement policies like paid time off for community volunteering and field work in conjunction with social enterprises and nonprofits.  In this way, they are supporting the efforts of nonprofits and NGOs — albeit indirectly.

Although NGOs perform quite a bit of hands-on work to help businesses develop sustainable practices, their work needs to be optimized for life in the year 2017.  

Part of this optimization includes being aware of current Internet marketing trends.  Whether or not they adopt the best practices for organizations could make the difference between being seen and noticed and not even making it onto the proverbial radar: These best practices include mobile optimization, social conversion, automation, new payment methods and content marketing.  

Take marketing automation, for example: Ideally, the information that is automatically sent out, email-wise, is also strategic.  Rather than blasting an anonymous list of sales leads with your company’s latest promotion, be strategic about what you choose to send as well as the recipient list — which may grow smaller the farther you get down the sales funnel.  

For example, rather than simply linking to product pages on your site, send recipients a white paper with a download that is trackable, in terms of the number of times it gets downloaded.  That way, your follow-up emails only go out to those on your list who decided to download the resource, and your outreach becomes more targeted — hence more likely to help your company’s bottom line.

In addition to ensuring that information is adequately shared with investors and customers, NGOs should share their assets with other NGOs -- enhancing collaboration across systems and scales.  In this way, organizations will work smarter, rather than harder.  

Because of this focus on engagement, there has been an increasing need for knowledge brokering and intermediary roles.  Part of the content that is marketed on NGO sites, therefore, should ideally tie in to improving education and raising awareness of the issues at hand.  Because of this, the target audience is likely to be like-minded—so think of your content as preaching to the choir, so to speak.  

That being said, Forbes recommends anticipating four different types of ‘moments’ that an online audience is likely to experience: I-want-to-know moments; I-want-to-go moments; I-want-to-do moments; and I-want-to-buy moments.  Though the audience to a nonprofit organization’s website is less likely to be interested in the fourth type of moment, literally-speaking, there’s still something they are likely to want to ‘buy,’ in terms of a long-term objective or goal.  As Forbes’ Jayson Demers writes, “That content then needs to be available instantly, in bite-sized pieces—so users can easily find and use it while on the go.”  

This goal is mostly likely to feel palpable if the website presents an ideal situation in the form of images and descriptions of said situation — so as to illustrate the dream scenario for the online audience.  

Of course, there will likely be an easy way to support the effort via a “Donate Now” button or some other method of helping to ‘buy’ the organization one step closer to the dream.  In this case, graphic design and content marketing can go a long way in helping an audience feel transported to an oasis of hope that allows them to more easily imagine a more idyllic future.

So there you have it: a few pointers, both general and specific, about how NGOs can best communicate their missions and be successful in their objectives, in 2017.  If you’re involved with an NGO, share a few tips or issues of concern in the comments section, below.

Image Source: Paulisson Miura

Daphne Stanford hosts “The Poetry Show!” on KRBX, her local community radio station, every Sunday at 5 p.m. A writer of poetry, nonfiction, and lyric essays, her favorite pastimes include hiking, bicycling, and good conversation with friends and family.  Follow her on Twitter @TPS_on_KRBX.

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