Empathy, experts, and a dash of escapism – engaging supporters in the days of Coronavirus

Jo Young By Jo Young

We’re all having to think a bit harder about how we can adapt our normal routines for the time ahead. And for many charities, that means adapting their supporter journeys, rethinking the content they use and stories they tell.

Photoshoots and film shoots are out – at least for the time being. But with a little creativity, you can do a lot, keeping your supporters engaged and entertained – and your cause relevant – when so much else is going on in their lives.

So, support your supporters…

There is a place right now for big bold calls to action – for heartfelt pleas for funds. But we need to be especially sensitive to how those calls land, and the emotional impact they have.

For some regular supporters, financial difficulties may mean they’ve had to shave off unnecessary spending. We shouldn’t make them feel guilty if a charity doesn’t make the cut.

Instead, we should reach out and offer them hope and connection. Here are a few ideas how.

Be a hub in the community

Reach out to your audiences – and make sure everyone’s doing ok. People support charities because they trust that they care – so show supporters that kindness goes beyond your specific cause.

Give them personal stories and experiences. Be candid, open – and don’t worry if your communications look a little rough around the edges. Everybody’s do right now!

Now’s also a good time to look at your product portfolio with fresh eyes. Are there any products – or content – that speak to people’s current concerns?

Remember that a lot of people have more time on their hands at the moment; perhaps that regular giving product or virtual fundraiser that didn’t quite take off last year can find a more responsive audience in the current climate.

Speaking of rough around the edges…

Now’s the time to experiment. Hold Q&As and provide video content – get your experts talking – and speak to ambassadors to see how they can creatively engage your audiences. Make it relatable. Make it present. Make it relevant.

So, think about how your cause could offer relevant perspectives on things like eating well, connecting with family, exercise in the home, or looking after your mental health. Whatever your charity does, you have an expertise that can help people cope.

And if that involves experimenting with your brand, perhaps now’s the time. Commercial brands like Morrison’s and Nike have repositioned themselves to respond appropriately to the crisis – responsive charities should be looking to do the same.

Make people smile

Seriousness can be exhausting, so when your experts are finished talking, provide some escapism – and put a smile on supporters’ faces.

Find the funny stories in your archives and provide some relief in your comms – take inspiration from recent viral stories like goats running riot in Welsh villages, and animals taking over the zoo.

Finally, don’t be afraid to search even further back for inspiration. If your charity has been around for a long time, find the old ads and the black and white pictures, the funny haircuts and the fashion faux pas. There’s power in longevity, and when so much is uncertain, a window into the past can create a reassuring sense of stability.

So, reach out to your supporters. Show them that they matter and that you care about how they’re coping, irrespective of whether they can give right now. Express kindness and share your expertise. 

We all have a part to play – and now more than ever, empathy is the first principle.

Jo Young

Jo Young

Junior Copywriter We love having Jo in the copy team – she’s a fiercely intelligent and strikingly creative junior writer, and she’s already stunning us with her big ideas. Jo is passionate about the charity sector which, combined with her impressive knowledge of the education world, makes her the perfect creative for so many of our clients.