May 9, 2018

5 ways to show progress toward your nonprofit’s mission

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Photo by Daniel Funes Fuentes on Unsplash.

By Nancy Ryerson

Chances are, your nonprofit has a bold goal, whether it’s eradicating poverty or curing a disease. Your organization helps make progress toward that goal every day, but of course, complex problems have complicated solutions that can take a long time to achieve.

Unfortunately, slow progress, even if it’s impactful, doesn’t always make for the most inspiring message for supporters. We put together five strategies that you can use on your nonprofit’s blog, on social media, in email marketing, and other outlets to help maintain momentum as you work to achieve your mission.

Compile a timeline that demonstrates how far you’ve come. When you care deeply about a cause, nothing other than a cure for the disease your loved one lives with, or an end to childhood hunger, feels satisfying. But showing key milestones you’ve hit along the way can help create a sense that your organization is moving closer to your goal. For example, if you’re involved in research, your timeline can begin when the first treatment appeared for the condition and track new therapy options from there. Timelines can help demonstrate that even if progress may feel slow, positive updates have moved your cause forward. Everytown for Gun Safety, for example, has a timeline on their website that combines legislative successes alongside the organization’s history and development. Teach for America shares a timeline of the organization’s history along with the progress they made along the way toward improving educational outcomes for low-income students.

Show how patients can make an impact beyond donating. Donation campaigns are important, but sharing other ways community members can get involved is one way to help supporters feel more engaged with your cause, and understand the steps involved in getting closer to your goal. Use your website content and blog to share ways supporters can help your organization move past roadblocks and reach solutions faster. For example, lack of participants in clinical trials slows the research process. JDRF shares information on how to sign up for clinical trials to help move research forward by using Antidote’s clinical trial search tool to help community members find type 1 diabetes trials for which they may qualify.

For other organizations, political challenges may create significant barriers. Sharing with supporters how to get involved in calling representatives and attending rallies can be another way to engage your community. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, for one, has a section on their website about getting involved in policy issues around CFF, such as medical research funding.

Create evergreen content explaining the mechanics of the work you do. Help your community better understand the complexities surrounding your particular mission. For example, if you fund medical research, outline the steps involved in how a new drug is approved for patients, starting with the process of research discovery. You can also detail the work your organization does in support of your larger cause, beyond what your supporters might think of initially. For example, Feeding America notes that the work of foodbanks goes beyond distributing food: they also provide programs for families to help them make healthy choices for their families, maintain a food budget, and other skills to help reduce hunger.

Use numbers to show that you’re making progress. Even if you haven’t reached your organization’s most significant goal, highlighting promising statistics, whether in a blog post or in an infographic, can help demonstrate the progress you have made in a concrete way. UNICEF, for example, creates infographics that show promising changes in specific areas related to their cause, such as number of school-aged children currently out of school. The Michael J. Fox Foundation offers a page on new Parkinson’s drugs in the development pipeline that the Foundation has funding, noting how close the treatments are to reaching patients.

Share stories from people who can offer a perspective on the progress your organization has made over time. Personal stories are some of the most powerful ways to tell the story of the progress your organization has made along the way. Try to find stories about problems your organization has helped solve for someone. Volunteer stories can work here, too, particularly if they highlight that participating made the volunteer feel more hopeful. Charity Water does a great job of highlighting stories from beneficiaries of their clean water programs who share how having access to water has changed their communities.

The path toward your goal may be long, but by sharing milestones and how supporters can get involved along the way, you can keep your community engaged throughout your organization’s journey. If you have other suggestions for keeping supporters engaged when your mission hits a roadblock, please share them in the comments below.

Nancy Ryerson is a digital communicator with experience in content, marketing, and social media in the healthcare space. She currently writes for clinical researchers, nonprofits and patients at Antidote, a digital health startup that connects patients to research through an innovative clinical trial search tool. Prior to joining Antidote, she spent three years at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, where she communicated research updates and advice on living well with Parkinson’s to the Foundation’s social media community of 750,000+ followers.



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