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Taking Action: How to Develop a Measurable Social Impact Campaign

Women for Women International’s Mary O’Connor gives three tips to create a campaign unique to your organization.

As DC Communicators panelist Mary O’Connor would tell it, she began her career in event-based fundraising way before the digital age of marketing flourished. However, her work in major gifts is exactly what allowed her to understand the true magic of philanthropy. “It’s about impact and engagement,” she tells us, “through multiple channels.” As the digital world expanded, Ms. O’Connor had to explore new, innovative ways to communicate with donors.

In her current role, Ms. O’Connor serves as the Vice President of Marketing, Development, and Communications for Women for Women International, an organization that directly supports marginalized women in conflict-affected countries. During her time with Women for Women International, O’Connor has leveraged fundraising through the alignment of the organization’s communications and marketing/development departments. It is through this alignment that Women for Women International has been able to effectively develop strategies that both engage the audience and encourage action. 

“Every organization is a snowflake,” says Ms. O’Connor. “The same strategies that work at one, don’t necessarily work at the next one because there’s a history, the way their donor file has grown, their e-file and marketing and partnership. All those things inform the fundraising strategy that will work best for that organization.”

Ms. O’Connor took some time out of her day to speak to us recently and gave some key tips on how to develop a measurable social impact campaign:

1. Focus on your goals and ensure your campaign has a clear call to action.

Many social impact campaigns are designed to primarily raise awareness on a specific issue. However, with so much white noise and overflow of information, raising awareness is difficult to achieve without an action-based goal to spearhead your campaign. Think about what you want to achieve and how you can get your audience to help you achieve it. Does your organization want to generate social media growth? Expand your e-file? Increase your market shares? A measurable social impact campaign relies on one action as its foundation. 

“How do you pierce the consciousness of somebody? You can’t do that if you’re just giving them information,” says O’Connor. “We see more information in a single day than we did 25 years ago in an entire year. You should be doing nothing without a specific call to action. It’s really important to be action-based.”

2. Align your campaign goals with the appropriate audience.

Once you know and understand what goals you wish to accomplish during the campaign, you can identify the appropriate audience. A social impact campaign should have a specific ask: what do you want your audience to do, and how do you tailor that ask to fit your audience? O’Connor uses the current advocacy campaign Women for Women International is developing to generate more money for women and girls as an example. 

“If it’s a grassroots [campaign], we want to apply pressure upwards to get the government to make a commitment, to get philanthropists to put their money behind women and girls,” says O’Connor. “So that call to action may be pressure to ‘hey, show me the money.’ But if your target within that campaign is the thinkers, the doers, the checkwriters, you may have a very different ask that’s more specific.”

3. Give your audience the appropriate channels.

You can’t properly engage with your audience if you don’t give them the correct resources. Carefully consider your options and your audience demographic when choosing your channels. An individual in their fifties is more likely to engage on Facebook than on Snapchat, for example. 

Women for Women International explores multiple channels each year with their International Women’s Day engagement campaign. The campaign #MessageToMySister allows people to send letters to women in the organization’s program, through online submission or old-fashioned postcards. These letters enable individuals to develop a connection with women they would otherwise never meet, through both traditional and digital approaches. 

This campaign continues to grow each year as digital becomes a more crucial component of Women for Women International’s annual fundraising efforts. The future of fundraising marketing is even more digital, and O’Connor recommends organizations ask three questions when developing a fundraising strategy: what to keep, what to kill, and what to grow. 

“In this new world with so many channels and opportunities, you can’t be everything to everyone, What can you achieve, and what do you need to do to achieve your goal? That’s what we’re always asking ourselves here. That’s the number one thing,” says O’Connor.

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In her more than 20 years of experience, Ms. O’Connor has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for organizations in conservation, environment, women’s health, and women’s rights. Hear more on O’Connor’s innovative approach to nonprofit marketing, fundraising, and communications during the next DC Communicators event – Measuring the Magic: How to Effectively Measure and Communicate Social Impact. She alongside her expert panelists will explore the importance of effectively (and ethically!) measuring and communicating social impact. Learn more here.

Megan Cahalan

Megan Cahalan

While at Proof, Megan is excited to expand her knowledge of public relations by working with clients in sectors she has never worked in before. Her passion for writing is what drives her love for communications and representing clients who do good for their community.

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