August 18, 2015

How To Drive Real Change, Not Just Virtual Momentum

Sarah Beauchemin • Guest Blogger

Times, they are a-changin. Technology has given us the incredible ability to widely connect with one another, but it’s also given us an easy out from having to personally interface. We’re delighted to get a text or email, but stare at our phones in horror when they actually ring (“Who is this person calling me?! Why didn’t they just text or email? Has there been a terrible accident?!!”).

This isn’t always a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong — a strong online presence is crucial to the success of any organization. Social media is a powerful driver of attention to issues and creates lots of virtual momentum. Consider the raging success of last year’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, for example. It gained enormous traction with Facebook shares and Retweets out the wazoo. The challenge raised millions for a worthy cause.

But few, if any, of those participants will become lifelong devotees committed to ending ALS. This isn’t because they don’t care, but because real change happens when people are personally involved with a cause, thus forming a deep connection.

Your cause is important. You work tirelessly to give it your all. And your organization deserves the success it’s worked so hard to achieve. This begins with virtual momentum, but ends with implementing in real life (IRL) change. So here’s your guide to making this happen:

Follow Up IRL with Crowdfunding Participants

One of the most important parts of bringing about real change isn’t the crowdfunding event itself, but what you do after it’s over. These folks supported your project because something about your work speaks to them on a personal level — a critical factor for driving real change. Engage with that personal connection, and they’ll be more likely to become involved long-term and implement change into their own lives.

Your post-campaign IRL strategy should include:

  1. Regular updates about the project’s progress, and make sure that milestones are tied to an in-person event. For example, if you’re building a new cafeteria for an after-school kids’ program, invite your supporters to a mini ceremony celebrating the completion of Phase I construction
  2. Host an event to personally thank all of your supporters; the local ones, at least, will be able to attend. This needn’t be anything extravagant. But it gives you the opportunity to speak to the heart of your message and extend a personal call to action
Form IRL Relationships with your Social Media Contacts

There’s truly nothing like the virtual momentum and ability to reach wide audiences created by social media. But in order for real change to occur, your best bet is to form IRL relationships. Otherwise, you’re still an abstract name on a screen.

Hubspot suggests strategies such as:

  1. maintaining relationships with people you frequently Tweet with,
  2. establishing a relationship with a stranger you’re already connected with, and
  3. getting the attention of influencers
Break the Problem Down Into IRL Actionable Chunks

Who wouldn’t want to end hunger, save the rainforests, or help victims of domestic violence? They’re all noble causes.

The problem is that broad goals like these can seem overwhelming. People don’t know where or how to begin to tackle an issue so abstract, and thus they usually end up donating a bit of cash online and then moving on.

Help them get involved with your cause long-term by breaking your issue down into clear, actionable chunks that show step-by-step how people can affect change in their local communities and personal lives. Once the problem seems personally relatable, people will be excited by their direct ability to help drive change.

Teach People to Become Change-Makers IRL

It’s true that knowledge is power, but that’s only half the equation. Teaching people how to be change-makers is equally important. This FastCompany article explains that “compared to traditional fields like entrepreneurship, where there are plentiful resources for training . . . much of the art of change making involves soft skills that we absorb from others that model or demonstrate change making behaviors.” In other words, the clearest way to ensure IRL change happens is by engaging face-to-face with others.

One excellent way to do this is to contact local schools (focusing on grades 6-12), as well as universities and ask about the possibility of giving a workshop or presentation to engage students in change-making behaviors.

Form IRL Partnerships with Businesses You’re Virtually Connected With

Any businesses you’re connected with online who support your organization – local or not – should be personally contacted about partnership possibilities. It’s awesome if a prominent business is sharing your organization’s posts with their many followers on Facebook or Twitter. That’s the momentum part.

But to really light the fire, your best bet is to partner with these businesses in some way. Ask if they’re willing to participate in an upcoming campaign by either donating a percentage of sales, allowing you to use their space to host a community event, or even if they would hold one of their events at your venue.

Whenever you’re trying to drive real change, think of it like this: what is the real life counterpart to the virtual action I’m taking? Thinking about virtual and IRL activities in the context of how one informs the other, rather than them being two disparate parts, will help you see real change happening a lot faster than you might have imagined.


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