The concept of engagement is never far from the minds of those who run non-profits.  But what does the term mean, and what practical steps can we take to achieve it?  When one talks about an engaging person, style, manner, or sense of humor, it seems one is talking about drawing one in, making one want to, well, engage.  Using this definition is probably right on as far as looking at the reaction you’re going for.

Yet, it’s also important to look at engagement in the active sense, what the community member does when he or she engages.  When a community member reads one of your posts, visits any page on your website, etc., he or she is engaging.  The key is to turn what is technically engagement into true, rich, prolonged engagement.

The way to do this is with material that is engaging as described above: in a style that draws people in.

Useful Material

Call it content marketing or whatever you like.  But it’s actually very simple—useful information will forge rich engagement on the part of your audience.  Useful info is timely, pertinent to the focus of your non-profit, well-organized, and not to be found just everywhere.  It can’t be information for the sake of information but should involve finding, packaging, and/or creating fresh new info.

This can involve video, infographics, photos, etc.

Some Appeal to Emotion

The cause your non-profit is working for lends itself to some emotional appeal.  All sorts of visual materials can come into play here, and they are most likely to be shared.  Shareable material is key—this section could just as likely be called “shareable material.” Do you share material that doesn’t touch you emotionally?


There’s the content marketing side to your marketing, but then there’s all the other information on your website.  Again, by landing on any part of your website, the community member is engaging.  The idea is to turn this into more, deeper engagement.

You’ve gotten the community member to your site—think of the site and its design as a way of thanking the member for getting there.  This means an Intuit, easy, user-friendly design.

Here are some pointers for getting there:

  • If possible, have a professional team build the website, and hire only a team whose sample sites are user-friendly and intuitive.
  • Tweak the design from time to time, taking clues from which pages get the most hits, etc. (pages with few hits may be hard to find) and from what information your users seem to be lacking.
  • Have meetings or workshops at which you go through the website looking for possible problems.

Single-message pages

People respond to concrete information and simple, streamlined information has been proven most useful.  Rather than having blurbs that are confusing and unfocused, separate your material, with single pages devoted to information on one particular project.  This allows a reader to clearly learn about that particular project in a way that is concrete, not abstract, and you may have a clear call to action at the end.

While some of this information may seem self-evident, these are all common mistakes, and you should take stock of your web material, being ready to be duly critical as necessary.

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