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How to Get People to Care About Your Cause

We believe every person, at heart, has the desire to improve the world. It could be to improve their own life, their children’s future, or just because they feel it’s the right thing to do. The problem is an individual’s desire to create change is often low on a list of daily priorities. School, work, family and socialising quickly get in the way. For the everyday person running their life is difficult enough, let alone leaving enough time to think and act on causes they care about.

The challenge for every organisation is to cut through the daily grind and garner the support of even the busiest of people. We know this is no easy task. People are fickle and one approach won’t work for everyone. We’ve listed 5 approaches you can take when trying to get people to support and act for your cause.

Approach 1 – Storytelling: The Power To Activate Empathy

Human beings are social creatures by nature. We work best in communities, achieving more through cohesion and collaboration. One part of being social creatures is experiencing the emotion of empathy. Feeling another person or creature’s plight as though it is our own. As this RSA video explains, humans are hard-wired for empathy because it helps us build better societies. So how is this relevant for your cause? Using storytelling as a strategy for action, you can create an empathetic reaction that motivates a person to act.

Looking for a great example? We challenge you to watch this video on elderly loneliness without getting a bit misty eyed, or feeling the need to do something to change the situation. By viewing another’s distress, we in turn feel distress, compelling us to take action to resolve the feeling.

Every cause has a story behind it, someone it affects. While you might not have sobbing elderly folk to put on screen, if you can tell a compelling story using real people and real emotion, you can create an urgency to act within the viewer.

Approach 2 – Make It Relevant: This Will Affect You

The easiest way for a person to feel detached from a cause is failing to see the relevance to their own life. Sometimes this is wilful ignorance, such as ignoring the proven health effects of smoking. Sometimes it is a genuine lack of knowledge, such as a complex issue like the Tran-Pacific Partnership. What about the scenario when the cause really won’t affect the person directly? Try and communicate how it could affect someone they care about.

Cigarette ads are the poster child for trying to get people to move past wilful ignorance. If adverts about cancer ridden organs aren’t getting through, getting people to understand how their actions will significantly impact others might do the trick. This advert ran for a long time in Australia, and highlighted what the smoker will miss out on in their children’s life. This advert used an upset young child to highlight a life without the parent.

When creating communications about the cause, try different strategies for making that link. Keep in mind that inaction happens for a range of reasons, and might be a genuine lack of knowledge as to how an issue can affect an individual or those they care about.

Approach 3 – Egoism: Feel Good Giving

In a perfect world, people would act charitably because it’s the right thing to do. All actions would be altruistic in nature, and come from a place of selflessness. Truth be told, we don’t live in such a world. Pretending we do only limits the approaches you can take towards growing your supporter base.

In the age of Facebook and Instagram, ego has evolved. We can now put forward a carefully curated version of our lives. Being seen as ‘do-gooder’ is often part of this curated life.

There are two great approaches towards leveraging peoples’ social image when trying to motivate. The first is placing the viewer at the centre of the communication, and making the cause about them, and what they can do. This WSPA advert states “These animals need people who care, are you with us?”. This type of action validates the viewer, and insinuates to not act is to not care.

The second approach is creating self-validating material for users who have contributed to the cause. Make sure to loudly put forward any achievements your organisation has accomplished, with affirmation that even the smallest contribution helped the outcome.

Craft socially shareable content, such this thank you video by AYCC. It shows accomplishments, thanks those involved, and puts the contributions of the individual at the centre of the cause’s achievement.

This type of content is easily shared by those involved without appearing egotistical, yet still allows the person to showcase their contribution to the cause.

Approach 4 – Rationalise It: Stats, Facts And Figures

For potential supporters who see the world in black and white, getting your facts and figures in order is the best way to win them over. Preparing communications of this nature gives you the opportunity to delve into the nitty gritty figures of why your cause makes economic and statistical sense for the individual and wider community.

The difficulty with presenting information of this nature is that it is often quite dry. Communications based around facts and figures can be difficult to weave into engaging content, but it can be done.

Get Up’s attempt to present the basics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a great example of using motion graphics to engage an audience with dry content. Additionally, they also created a humorous version of relaying the information; both creative approaches of getting dry content to resonate with people.

Creating video content isn’t the only way to engage people with information, there are more cost effective methods like infographics. Whichever way you communicate the information, ensure it allows the individual to seek more details if they wish too, like linking to a content rich post on your website.

Approach 5 – Keep Organised: Who Cares About What?

Once you have a supporter base, it’s a good idea to start sorting, organising and planning. When the numbers grow, basic software like an Excel spreadsheet just won’t cut it for keeping track. You want to be able to use the information you have about supporters and turn it into useful data you can act on.

A CRM stands for customer/constituent relationship manager, and for many NFPs, political, and advocacy groups, it’s the cornerstone of their operations. Our CRM of choice, NationBuilder, allows you to create detailed profiles for each person in your database. You can include contact information, log interactions, set goals, and record their interests.

Being able to look at a supporter’s profile before contacting them can be enormously valuable. If you’re conducting a day of canvasing, then you can use an app like FieldEdge to access NationBuilder and view information before interacting with people. It’s nice to know if a person is for or against a cause before discussing it.

CRM’s also allow you to easily segment your database for EDM communications. Want to email all the people who have already donated? It’s as simple as creating a filter. Being able to reach the right people with the right communication allows you to increase the chances of meeting the objectives of your cause.

No Excuses, Get Moving!

The best part about each of these strategies? Any organisation, on any budget can start implementing them immediately. While those with bigger budgets will have the edge on creating content and choosing a CRM, there’s nothing stopping a one person operation starting a blog and opening social media accounts.

New Humans of Australia is a perfect example of a single person wanting to make a difference, and using the resources available to them to do so. Nicola Gray decided to use a similar model to that of HONY to share the inspiring and heart breaking stories of refugees and migrants who have come to call Australia home.

Nicola’s effort started only four months ago, yet New Humans of Australia already boasts a fan base of over 60,000 likes. Once a cause gets momentum, it starts to grow.

If one person and a collection of stories can grow to have such an effect, there’s no reason your own cause can’t build the same way. Get out there and make a change.

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Hack Time Online to Streamline Your Organisation

Sean Connery looking at watch

Change Your Perception of Time

Time is just as important as money when it comes operating an organisation. Saved time directly translates into dollars when you can see efficiencies stretching from hours into days, and days into weeks.

In this article, I’m going to discuss two digital time saving measures that your not-for-profit or political organisation should consider. They go outside the realm of simply expecting employees to put in longer hours, with the aim of getting you to think about the importance of saving time, or ensuring it’s being spent the right way.

Your Organisation’s Website

The number of poorly constructed sites on the web proves that there are a significant number of organisations that don’t understand or appreciate exactly how much time a website can save their employees. Those who aren’t particularly tech orientated often have a very shallow understanding of a website’s potential, thinking of it as just pages containing information. They don’t understand just how much planning, skill and energy goes into an effective website, nor the enormous benefits it can provide an organisation, especially when it comes to saving time.

As a not for profit or political organisation, there is vital information you want to convey to your supporters. Organisations that interact heavily with the public have the most to gain from investing in an effective website. A well designed website can easily communicate policy, events, contact information, and encourage a potential supporter to get on board with the cause.

Take Barack Obama’s website as an example. If you’re wanting to join an event in your area, you don’t have to speak to anyone. It’s all there, and incredibly user friendly, right on his website. The page starts off with a very simple instruction, with very minimal input from the user.

Barack Obama website screenshot

All you have to do is give the page your ZIP code and how far you’re willing to drive, and it tells you which events you can attend, in chronological order. Easy!

Barack Obama screenshot

If that person had needed to call someone, or email them to find that out, it could easily take the staff member 10 minutes to service the enquiry. If they got just 50 enquiries about events per week, that would total 433 hours per year to service those enquiries.

The following form is a simple example of an organisation’s website contact form that has too much friction, and will result in many potential enquiries not being made (lost conversations).

The above form has too many fields, which results in what is known as form-fatigue. Many of the fields are unnecessary for the purposes of making an enquiry. I’ve designed a simplified version below, following practices for optimising form completion. Much less daunting, agreed?

better form

When trying to determine what your website is missing, there are a few actions you can take:

Look at similar organisations to get ideas about functions or elements that are working well for them, and think about whether it would work for you. If you can immediately understand their main points, or easily navigate through different sections, there might be some great examples of user experience you can pick up.

Ask a friend or family member who isn’t familiar with your cause or organisation to visit the site. Ask them a range of questions such as what they think your cause is, what are the main points you’re trying to communicate, do they have trouble navigating to particular areas. This can give you a general idea of what’s not getting through.

How to approach it:

If you are concerned that your organisation is not currently making the most of its online presence, there are a few ways you can approach speaking to your manager about it. Firstly, speak to those in the organisation who regularly interact with the public enquiries. Are there questions they feel like they answer again and again?

Secondly, have a chat with your direct manager. Ask them what they think of the current website, and gauge their level of understanding concerning how important it is. Do they realise a lot of great websites involve multiple specialised individuals in creation, not just one person who knows code and a little bit of Photoshop? The reality is that a fantastic website needs:

  • Good graphic design
  • Clean programming
  • Marketing strategy
  • Conversion optimising
  • Engaging copy writing
  • User-experience/user-interface design

While chatting with your manager express there are some things you think could be done differently to save the organisation time, and in turn money. Once you monetise an idea, it can quickly get more traction. If there are good examples of simple queries that interrupt staff on a regular basis, make sure you mention them, as giving solid examples to back up your points can make them seem a lot more credible.

The second approach can be speaking to a digital agency. Many medium sized NFP’s and political organisations don’t have the resources to employ a full-time digital marketing team. Agencies exist so you can access highly skilled teams when necessary, and not have to employ them on an ongoing basis. Most agencies will be happy to quickly point out the improvements you could implement as part of a quoting process, and these will often have time-saving or monetary benefits.

Implementing a Customer Relationship Manager

A Customer Relationship Manager (CRM), is a software platform that allows you to interact with your supporters and volunteers in a more personalised and time efficient manner. For advocacy and political groups, being able to quickly and easily personalise communication with a number of stakeholders is an enormous time saver, and goes a long way towards keeping them interested in your cause, and in a similar vein allowing your cause to move forward.

For example, you may have held an event last month, and you would like to email your volunteers to say “Thank you! Would like to volunteer again next month?”. Without a CRM you would need to manage a list of volunteers, find their contact details, double check who attended, then craft an email to send to these individuals, among other laborious things. It doesn’t sound particularly time consuming when written out, but we all know how much of a nightmare it is trying to find information that hasn’t been properly stored. A good CRM should allow you to easily pull up this information within a minute, along with a history about each person, allowing you to contact these and similar people efficiently.

If you’re thinking about using a CRM to manage your organisation, there are a few you could choose from, which require various levels of integration and technical wrangling. One of the most complete and easy-to-use CRMs (created specifically for organisations), is NationBuilder. I’ll be focusing on for the purposes of this article.

NationBuilder People CRM screenshot

In NationBuilder, each supporter of your cause is added into your database or “Nation”.  A supporter doesn’t need to be a person actively supporting your cause, but might be any person who has interacted with your website, such as using an enquiry form. Once their profile is created, it will try pull details from their publically available Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin accounts, creating a snapshot of the person automatically. Within their profile, there are a diverse number of fields you can enter, allowing you to create a comprehensive snapshot of who they are and what is important to them.

The point of having all of this detail is to be able to easily customise and automate communication based on detailed personal criteria. Let’s say you added a tag of “volunteer 2015” to each person who volunteered at all 2015 events. When you want to email that group, it’s as easy as creating a 30 second filter.

In addition to incredibly detailed profiles, a decent CRM will allow you to log all contact you have had with a supporter in their profile. For example, last time one of your volunteers reached out to someone in your organisation, they made it clear they were against a park redevelopment in the area. This information is now sitting in a log against their profile, ready to be seen at a moment’s notice. The benefit of this is that no matter which individual in your organisation talks to that supporter next, they can immediately be updated on the position of the individual, and perhaps not asked if they would like to sign a petition for the park redevelopment.

Whether it’s customised email communication or talking to supporters, a decent CRM will allow you to quickly sort those in your database based on relevant criteria, or give you a snapshot of where they last stood in relation to a particular issue. Saving time and being more relevant to your supporters is vital, and a good CRM will allow you to do both.


If you’re committed to using technology to increase your internal efficiencies, it is always a good idea to approach it thoroughly and thoughtfully.

With that, allow me to leave you with two quotes on productivity and efficiency.

Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity. – Jacques Ellul

Improved productivity means less human sweat, not more. – Henry Ford