You want your content to grip your supporters and leave them feeling motivated, ready to join forces and help champion your cause. What if the key to that content has been staring you in the face this whole time? The benefits of user-generated content for nonprofits can be immense, as it has the power to inspire and demonstrate impact.
Your supporters are inspiring people, and you know that better than anyone. Why not let them help you spread the love? After all, people are more likely to trust their peers than they are an organization with an agenda, no matter how good your intentions are.
What Is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content is any content created by your supporters that your organization uses in its marketing. It could be:
- Social media posts
- Blog posts
- Essay submissions
- Answers to a specific question
Any form of content that you can think of has the potential to be user-generated. Just make sure you’re giving ample credit and have permission to use the content in the way you’re planning.
Benefits of User-Generated Content
The power of user-generated content lies in its potential to be incredibly emotional. You telling the story of someone’s life doesn’t pack near as much punch as that person sharing their own story. These real people and stories humanize your nonprofit and emphasize your impact.
There are plenty of benefits of user-generated content on your nonprofit website as well as on your social media channels:
- Free Content – Aside from the time it takes you to put together your strategy for collecting this content, it’s not necessary to give the chosen creator anything more than recognition.
- Strengthen Your Community – Using your supporters’ content helps connect people through similar experiences. A connected community is a strong community.
- Build Trust – People trust their peers more than they trust an organization promoting themselves. Having real people show your impact is an asset that builds legitimacy.
- Further Engagement – Contributing content can make people feel more involved in your cause and more likely to help in other areas as well.
- Increase Your Reach – If you’re sharing user-generated content on social media, there’s a good chance that the user it came from will also share your post with all of their friends and followers.
- Aide SEO – User-generated content makes up 25% of search results for the World’s Top 20 largest brands. And even a small nonprofit can take advantage of the uptick in online popularity that user-generated content can provide.
- Get to Know Your Audience Better – You’ll gain lots of insight on your supporters based on the content they contribute. Take notes, and beef up your target audience personas!
Sharing user generated content can make a splash in your marketing strategy and inspire supporters to be more trusting and more generous. You can tell them the impact you have on your cause all day long, but, until they hear it from a real person they trust, they’re less likely to believe it.
User-Generated Content Ideas
Ready to get started? Now that you know the benefits of user-generated content, try out one (or more) of the following ideas in your marketing strategy.
Social media is the giant hub of user generated content. The ease with which you can find and share posts and communicate with followers makes it a natural platform for collecting and publishing content from your supporters.
You can use and search for hashtags on most of the popular social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram. Create a hashtag to go with your request for content and collect all of the responses using that specific hashtag. You can even advertise your chosen hashtag on other platforms or across multiple social media channels. Although as far as collection goes, it’s easier to have supporters use one specific social media site. The content will be all in one place, and you can simply search for your hashtag.
The Habitat for Humanity East Bay and Silicon Valley ReStores use #habitatebsvrestore to encourage shoppers to post photos of their ReStore finds on Instagram.
Hold a contest asking for personal stories or photos and post the winner and honorable mentions on your social media channels. And get creative with it! You can hold a contest on Instagram asking followers to post a photo of what your nonprofit means to them, or a Twitter contest asking followers to caption a photo, or a Facebook contest where followers post videos of themselves paying it forward.
Every week, the St. Louis Zoo selects an Instagram post by a visitor who uses their hashtag #StlZooDay and re-posts the photo on their Instagram account. They encourage submissions with the promise of a $100 gift card.
Let a supporter or a celebrity connection run one of your social media accounts for a day. Takeovers give a different perspective of your organization and carry promotional value as well, especially when done by a big-name celebrity or someone with a lot of followers that match your target audience. However, even without celebrity connections, enthusiastic and social media savvy volunteers can bring some pizazz to a social media channel for a day.
When one of the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasia’s supporters decided to raise money for the organization by riding his bike across Virginia, the organization posted daily updates and photos from his journey on Facebook.
Social media makes gathering user-generated content easy, but it’s not the only way to collect and share content from your supporters. You can also ask for and share user-generated content directly on your website.
Share Your Story
One common way that nonprofits do this is through a “Share Your Story” page. Planned Parenthood uses their Share Your Story page to collect inspirational stories from those who use and advocate for their reproductive healthcare services. They post the stories on their website and social media accounts, creating touching and engaging content for their supporters.
Quotes and Testimonials
Including powerful quotes and testimonials, both from supporters and those that you’ve supported, is a great way to ease into user generated content on your website. They demonstrate your impact by putting the focus on the lives you’ve changed. In the example below, Conservation International uses telling quotes on their Our Impact page to draw visitors into each of their projects.
Social Media Feed
If your nonprofit’s community is active on social media, why not let your social media and website content work in tandem? A feed pulling in your hashtag for user-generated content can unite the two efforts and allow both to reap the benefits.
Fight Colorectal Cancer uses the hashtag #StrongArmSelfie to collect photos from individuals fighting colorectal cancer and their loved ones. They then publish all of that user-generated content through a feed on their website.
Your supporters probably have some awesome photos from their time volunteering, attending events and living your nonprofit’s mission day-to-day. You’ll need explicit permission from the photographer(s), but including these photos on your website (and on social media too, for that matter) can help further demonstrate the power of your impact and the strength of your community.
The #OurLand Project from The Trust for Public Land collects photos and captions from supporters and showcases them collage-style on their website.
How does your nonprofit collect and distribute user-generated content? Any other benefits of user-generated content or ideas to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.