User-Generated Content for Nonprofits

Posted on September 9th, 2022

User-generated content (UGC) for nonprofits is content created by the community and provided to the nonprofit that is then used in various forms of marketing. We suggest that user-generated content stay as close to its original form as possible but more on that later.

Sometimes, this might be called community-generated content when specifically dealing with nonprofits. For this article, we will just call it user-generated content, or UGC for short. Let’s determine what user-generated content works for nonprofits as well as what doesn’t work. Then, let’s review ways nonprofits can collect user-generated content and what to do once the content has been collected.

Should Nonprofits Ask for Reviews?

No. Absolutely not. Nonprofits do not benefit from having their nonprofit reviewed. Nonprofits do not benefit from a star rating directly or from an SEO standpoint in regard to awareness. A star rating does nothing for a potential donor, volunteer, or beneficiary and people are not searching the internet for nonprofits in that way anyways. Often times nonprofits suffer from negative reviews left by former employees or staff that had a negative experience and do not know any other way to communicate that experience so it is left as a review.

For-profit companies have the luxury of using reviews as social proof. When placing reviews next to products others can determine whether or not their products or services are worth buying. In most cases, nonprofits do not have that same luxury. Ratings do not actually prove that a nonprofit is making an impact. A 4.2 rating does not compel someone to donate like a review would compel someone to purchase one Amazon product over another one.

The Difference Between Reviews and Stories for Nonprofits

Review: (noun) a formal assessment or examination of something with the possibility or intention of instituting change if necessary.

Testimonial: (noun) a formal statement testifying to someone’s character and qualifications.

Story: (noun) an account of past events in someone’s life or in the evolution of something.

As you can see, what nonprofits need and want are stories. Nonprofits should consider user-generated content as stories and not testimonials or reviews. Testimonials tend to take on a questionnaire style of question/answer and again what nonprofits want is a story that is relatable to others. If your nonprofit is looking for a score of sorts or net promoter score then a testimonial can be utilized but stories should be requested prior and the testimonial or survey presented as a follow-up engagement (view engagement routes).

How to Collect User-Generated Content (Stories) for Nonprofits

Social proof for nonprofits happens when authentic community stories are collected and leveraged correctly. User-generated content can be difficult for most nonprofits to systemize so start with the basics. In its simplest form, story collection should be transactional and focused on the story. Again, we do not want to build out a questionnaire. We do not want to build out a survey when what we want is a story. Story collection should capture the following items:

  1. Storyteller name
  2. Storyteller email
  3. Storyteller story

Proofpact actually starts with a more conversational approach in asking if the experience was positive or negative. We do this so that we can help nonprofits categorize the stories as well as determine the type of storyteller engagement that will be provided after a story is left. The way we do it does not add complexity to the form or experience and sets the stage for the storyteller appropriately. However, if you are attempting to roll your own solution, we would strongly suggest keeping the inputs to a minimum as well.

When Should Nonprofits Collect Stories?

Stories should be collected in a timely and transactional manner. The word transactional might sound devoid of emotion but in this case, it actually improves user experience and is not a communication out of left field weeks or months after an interaction (which does feel cold and non-personalized). While you can send an email blast to your entire database and ask for stories, just consider how many of those supporters and community members actually interacted with your organization within the last week or month, or year. Although it is tempting to see how many you can get out of the gate, the best approach is a transactional one. What should happen is, the nonprofit should provide the story collection form after digital interaction is had or after certain in-person events are completed. Here are just a few examples of ways a nonprofit can transactionally collect stories:

  • Collect stories on a donation thank you page (donor stories)
  • Collect stories after volunteering (volunteer stories)
  • Collect stories X days after the member signs up (member stories)
  • Collect stories X hours after an event (event participant stories)

This process requires the creation of a form and likely a page or two on your website. In some of the examples, it would require adding a form to certain pages of your website where users are redirected after they have just completed some sort of interaction with your organization online. There are many other ways to request stories be told about your nonprofit including social, QR codes or posters on the front door, or even staff with lanyards and QR codes at events! There is no limit to creativity here but rest assured that a timely request will yield far more results than sporadically requesting stories once or twice a year.

Nonprofit Storytelling & Engagement Software

Just So You Know…

Proofpact provides both free and paid tools for nonprofits to easily collect stories, engage storytellers, and socialize stories as proof of impact. We offer a suite of tools for story collection including embeddable forms, custom branded story collection pages, QR codes, shortened URLs, and more!

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How to Leverage User-Generated Content (Stories) for Nonprofits

When someone shares their story with your organization, your nonprofit can now take that story and utilize it in various ways. We would suggest using the story, as is, in its original form. There has been a trend lately for nonprofits especially to produce finely tuned and edited stories where the original message is diluted with the nonprofit’s brand and nonprofit voice. Let your community’s authentic voice shine through your brand. Other types of storytelling are important as it pertains to digital marketing but when a story is shared, in most cases, it is best to use it as it is.

Some nonprofits have built storytelling around their mission and for instance, might take in stories and then help publish and share them digitally so that others can pledge donations. Most nonprofits, however, do not have such a deeply rooted storytelling model and quite honestly can not ever get there. What most nonprofits can do though, is ensure that their community feels included in the mission. Be the guide and facilitator. We encourage nonprofits to be inclusive of their community’s authentic voice. It benefits both the nonprofit and the community.

Let’s take a look at some actual ways to share stories about your nonprofit online. In this example, we will use a donor story but nonprofits have to consider other constituents and supporter types – they are just as important to your organization as donors. Think about it this way, volunteers, members, and even previous beneficiaries can be donors too. Those stories should be just as much a focal point as donor stories.

After a donor submits their story you can encourage them to share that story on social or you could invite them to a donor appreciation event. When done correctly, you can provide this donor with the right content and the appropriate content after they have shared their story. Then, you as the nonprofit can share that story on social and really lift up that donor. Saving the best for last, you can utilize that story to encourage other donors to donate. There is no better way to get others to take action than to show that someone else has done so before them and provide “the why”.

Donor stories are just one type of story your nonprofit should be collecting. Donors and other supporters want to tell their stories and they want to be heard. 99% of the troubles nonprofits have with user-generated content can be solved by not asking for reviews and providing story collection to potential storytellers while emotions are still fresh.

If you are interested in ways your nonprofit can request stories, take a look at some of our other content in the blog, or contact us! We would love to discuss user-generated content strategy with you regarding your nonprofit.

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