Wikicauses – 100 Digital Online Cause-Building Tips

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Here are 100 quick-hitter tips for online cause building, no need to execute everyone of them, but 70 would suffice:


#1 Digital Priority – ensure that digital fundraising is captured in your business plan/strategy commensurate with the level of attention it requires

#2 Update your senior management each month on progress, challenges and key metrics

#3 Be realistic on what you can achieve with resourcing available

#4 Upfront, be very clear about three things with your digital effort – what is the scale/size of impact we want to achieve, what is the exclusivity of membership and what is the depth of collaboration we’re expecting form our contributors

#5 Build a visual manifesto of what your guiding mission is to bring to life with employees, donors and followers

#6 Evangelism – With an objective viewpoint, ask the question, will my efforts result in recommending your cause to a friend or colleague (see net promoter score)

#7 Have an enthusiastic executive team sponsor/champion with clear accountability for digital performance

#8 Focus on the “why” first – what is the motivating cause-related reason for your organization or digital efforts existence – then and only then consider the “how” and “what” – see Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

#9 Never take shortcuts – over the last decade we’ve learned that occasionally you can get lucky but real, sustainable web performance happens through ongoing effort, incremental passion, trial and error, learning and unlearning and sweat equity

#10 Establish focus before technology – although it’s easy to fall in love with new technology and software and what they can do, without a plan – many of these efforts never get used

#11 Customer first – unlike the real world where customers might need to shop with you because of distance from store, or perhaps you are the only option around – on the web, there are very few hurdles for people to ignore your stuff – you need to put their real-life needs and wants at the heart of your planning, perhaps even leaning on a customer advisory group to co-develop your direction.


#12 Think REHAHAS – the universal tone of the open web – Reciprocal, Ethical, Human, Awesome, Helpful, AuthenticSocial

#13 Speak in human-ease – make it sound like a one-on-one conversation with a donor, nobody ever repeats a press release

#14 Put it on Video – short snippets of video are preferred to long posts, in fact by 2015, 90% of the world’s internet traffic will be internet based

#15 Visualize your cause – start building a sexy array of photos and infographics to

#16 Curate a wall of stories that speak to the real life impact of your causes – tag and categorize them by interest, geography, name and result

#17 Test email subject lines – send out different lines to different audiences and look for result differences, more than anything else, subject lines impact email performance

#18 Build an editorial calendar that provides clarity for the next 6 months on when things are due, do things need to be pre-approved, what other things do we need to post the update/article, who is authoring it, what type of post is it (ensuring you have enough breadth of content)

#19 Ask for the action – sometimes people need the bullhorn – use active words – please share, tell your friends, let your network know, donate now

#20 Tap into your event enthusiasm – livestream the proceedings, have event-related hashtags and  erect video Twitter walls

#21 Context is Everything – embed your message into the more relevant topics of the day – the news cycle is about 3 hours now – try to spin, creatively spoof and act nimbly in riding the coattails of the attention given to key trending topics and headlines

#22 Give away content for free – use webinars, case studies, research papers, white papers, online books and articles to establish your leadership and new connections

#23 Share many testimonials – if people love you, share as many testimonials as you can (not just the handpicked three you love) with real names and lcoations, tag and categorize them well for searchability

#24 Awesomeness – for truly awesome, viral-potential content usually starts with the question “wouldn’t it be cool if…?” and ends with “you have to check this out”.


#25 Be a First Mover (or at least a fast follower)  – The Web Rewards Causes that Try Things First

#26 Look for SUCCESS ideas – is your big idea simple, unexpected, credible, concrete, emotional, story-based and shareable ?

#27 Focus on your donor/member values and  aspirations not your own features and details

#28 Remember the Mom Test – can you tell your Mom the idea in a few seconds, have her repeat it back to you and tell others without the risk of “broken telephone”

#29 Does your Front Page Translate – 99% of people spend less than 4 seconds on a webpage – is your big idea translating visually, architecturally and in words on your key digital points of entry

#30 Idea Categories – there are 6 key reasons why we talk from the beginning of time we talk to connect, survive, make sense of the world, reduce risk/uncertainty, provide economic benefit or relieve tension – mine one of them


#31 Provide Instant Gratification for a Desired Not-for-Profit Activity

#32 Stoke people’s intrinsic (“feel good”) needs – top three activities – Fun & enjoyment. Expression of creativity, Group effort/achievement

#33 Stoke people’s extrinsic (“look good”) needs – top three activities – recognition by company, access to exclusive resources and ability to join VIP circle

#34 Satisfy people’s explicit (“get something” needs – top three activities (beyond freebies which tend not to sustain interest) – invitation to events, 3rd party incentives , Customized/personalized treatment

#35 Establish Leaderboards – provide a friendly competitive aspect to fundraising, people love seeing their names recognized for merit by their community

#36 Gamification – wonder why online gaming is so popular? There are embedded alogoithms and tools that psychologically make people want to play more. Use badges, levels, points, progress bars, virtual currencies and group[ achievement to get people to do more for your cause


#37 Email is the action driver – make it easy for people to sign up, but get their email

#38 Categorize and customize your CRM database- know who your new, lapsed, frequent, biggest and connected donors and volunteers are

#39 Find out who your strongest digital influencers are – generally (Klout), locally (Twitaholic), within your network (, by topic (Listorious and Twitter lists), bloggers (Alltop and Technorati)  and by professional recognition (LinkedIn endorsements )

#40 Identify who the top 1% more interested people are in your database and social networks – build an official ambassadorship designation that recognizes their affiliation

#41 Focus on niche, perhaps overlooked,  target audiences and demonstrate kinship, shared values and relevant content to these groups

#42 Understand who are mayors of your venue(s) on Foursquare – invite them to lunch

#43 Sometimes other things are just as good as money – volunteer time, user-generated content, an influential retweet, an event appearance, becoming a team captain, making a wish, taking a pic, sign a petition

#44 Create concise, relevant and action-driven emails – keep emails short, user-driven and with a clear primary appeal to act

#45 Understand their influence skills – people tend to influential online from 4 different power bases – their reach, their exposure, their credibility and suasion powers, what does your effort call for?

#46 Involve your influencers early and deeply  – influencers need to feel respected and rewarded for their time – getting involved before the mainstream or intimate with company decision makers on your next big thing are key affinity drivers for these digital VIPs.


#47 Author a set of rules that your employees and donors can follow – use the Goldilocks Rule – not too strict and not too loose

#48 Certify your official spokespeople and broadcast their status online

#49 Have multiple administrators on your key digital and social areas – always have the master usernames and passwords in a safe place known by more than one relevant person

#50 Invite external experts in to test scenario roleplays and desired responses BEFORE they happen

#51 Ensure there are clear lines of communication and responsibility between functions on online crisis management and customer service needs and response

#52 Remember the four types of rules that govern digital – employee policies and guidelines, experience and user facilitation, security and privacy, legal and ethical terms and agreements and ownership.

#53 Digital communities love rituals too – establish interesting or funny rules for how you initiate people, how you interact with people, how you moderate forums, key myths and lingo, things that mark rites of passage or anniversaries, a set of oaths members might take, nicknames for different types of donors and members


#54 Make Your Donation Button Be the Most Prominent Feature of Your Page

#55 Integrate and Embed your own Social Media and a Curated Social Media content into your website

#56 Have local chapter sites look like they came from the same parent

#57 Play with theme and button colours – they have been found to have as much as 20% change of impact on donation

#58 Ensure that your platform is mobile friendly – soon 50% of interaction will be mobile-drivenb to your website, you need to fish where the fish are with no hiccups

#59 Get donors to pledge socially with their action – ensure key website and fundraising action can link to people’s social profiles

#60 Create landing pages for new visitors – distinguish between regular visitors and first-time visitors and what there needs are

#61 Ensure dynamic/latest content lands on your front page – show that your cause is fast-moving with many interesting facets


#62 Test out different types of content, time of day  and multimedia formats on Facebook

#63 Establish bare minimum presence on Facebook, Twitter and Blogging – Facebook 1 post per day, Twitter – 3 posts per day and Blogging – 1 post per week

#64 Don’t splinter your social media efforts (multiple networks, multiple pages) unless you can support them with minimum content and community-building attention

#65 Ensure at least half your posts on Twitter are replies or recognition for individual members, donors, followers or fans

#66 Highlight links and content from peer not-for-profits – remember top donors often donate to more than 20 charities – they like to see their charities “playing well in the sandbox with each other”

#67 Build common Twitter hashtags for your cause that everybody uses, establish multiple ones for distinctly different interests

#68 Use Slideshare as a key tool for thought leadership – posting relevant presentations and documents

#69 Bring digital to real life through QR codes, mobile near field communication and programmable digital signage

#70 On Youtube – use links, call to actions and video annotations for drive back to donor pages and websites

#71 Have a good “away” game – ensure you are interacting on social fundraising portals, crowdsourcing platforms, commenting forums, influential bloggers commenting areas, communities of interest pages and other non-corporately owned  but influential digital hotspots

#72 Use Pinterest and Instagram as your visual gallery of splendid things – not only are they the fastest growing networks in 2013 but they also drive a lot of clickable action vs. other social networks

#73 Many people really do dislike email – for your key collaborators, set up a collaborative environment like Dropbox or Basecamp to keep all files, documents and to-do lists in one place


#74 Tie your measures back to business, brand and fundraising objectives

#75 Start using Google Analytics each week – spend 30 minutes each week monitoring traffic, discovering what other sites are driving traffic and finding valuable  keywords

#76 Time spent > page clicks – in a dynamic world of the new web, more important than any other website measure is how much time did website visitors spend with me

#77 Conversations generated > simple likes – content that is shared, mashup-ed or commented on is far more important than simple likes or retweets

#78 Bottomline and topline  – many organizations are finding the benefits of digital media not just in new users, more revenue/fundraising and better perception but cost savings in finding answers quickly, reducing marketing spend, getting better customer service and surfacing great unpaid content from fans

#79 Analyze Facebook content and activity with their Insights and Ad performance tools

#80 Data is not Measurement – we are drowning in data but precious little to show for it – ensure your digital functions are spending a third of their time and money accessing data, a thrid of their time producing insight from that data and a third of that time on foresight and what actions will change because of your overall measurement effort.

Internalizing Success

#81 Get your boards and executive present and producing content and ambassadorship online

#82 Celebrate online and fundraising milestones (e.g. 10,000th Twitter follower, $100,000 raised online)

#83 Get your employees mingling with external audiences – start building forums for exchanging and sharing learning, intelligence and opportunity

#84 Measure employees on their engagement – studies have proven that employees that are engaged on internal and external networks on behalf of their company are more enthusiastic, top performing and longer serving members of your workforce, incent that behaviour.


#85 Use the full range of online listening tools to know what your peer charities are doing

#86 Respond quickly to donor/member concerns – 4 hours is a lifetime on the web, importantly who is monitoring on the weekend

#87 Set up Google Alerts and Twitter search terms for fast moving issues

#88 Show people that you have listened as well – just as important as knowing what’s being said, is ensuring your fans, donors and users know you’ve heard it as well – summarize periodically what you’ve learned form your audiences

Life Stage Management

#89 Plan your web initiatives for a 2-3 year lifespan that covers development, launch, sustainability and learnings

#90 Monitor performance and small shifts in approach each month

#91 Experiment quarterly – use a small portion of your budget and resources to experiment 4 times in the year with no explicit objective of return on investment but instead to demonstrate leadership and learning opportunity

Community Management

#92 Hire a community manager – recognize that they must be talented in: Communication Content Creation , Company/brand evangelism, Member/Customer support

#93 Use a social dashboard tool like Hootsuite of Sysomos to curate and broadcast community activities all from one place and shared by employees

#94 Create a sense of urgency in your community efforts – key campaigns rarely maintain interest over a full year – have special days and mini-campaigns to stem interests

#95 Invite guest contributions – involve your community by getting them to post content, tell stories or describe their personal experiences with your cause

#96 Ask really good questions of your audience – there is a reason why it’s called the interactive space

#97 Post the real names/pictures of everybody involved in your digital efforts

#98 Build purposeful relationships and bigger digital footprints by retweeting, reposting, recognizing other partners and joining discussions, Twitter chats and live events


#99 Expose Your Entire Company Staff on your About Us Page – show links and why they are excited to be involved in your cause

#100 Host Ideastorms – get your full company invested in digital through one-day workshops and collaborations

#101 Socialize your internal communications – use tools like Yammer (Twitter for business) , internal blogs and other enterprise-tools that bring to life important or just-breaking news

#102 Be Authentic/Transparent – invite stakeholders, fans and partners into your internal meetings, post online the values you live by and how you operate.

Now how about you, what are your cause-building tips of the trade


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