This is a guest post by Katrina Boratko, the communications manager at Mama Hope.
Whether you’re working in service of an NGO, a B-corp, a cause, a school, or a grassroots movement, you probably do it because you connected to its story. We act because a story moves us to action, and we do our best work when our organization’s mission aligns with our personal mission. In turn, organizations draw in dedicated donors, volunteers, partners, and supporters by fostering that sense of deep connection through shared stories.
At Mama Hope, one of the best ways we’ve found to build our network is through high-impact storytelling that centers around connection, potential, and hope. We work with 18 communities in eight countries, and each of our partners has innumerable unique and compelling stories behind their impact in the areas of agriculture, women’s rights, education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship.
We also run a nine-month international development fellowship called the Global Advocate Program, with which we aim to train the next generation of empathetic leaders. Our Global Advocates spend four months living and working in partnership with community leaders, so we have a built-in community of passionate and well-trained fellows who are available to receive and share stories in real time.
Recently, as we’ve begun to grow by building more diverse partnerships with a wider array of inspiring communities, we encountered one big problem: as a small organization with limited funding, how can we position our stories to break through and engage new audiences?
Social media platforms are wonderful tools for sharing stories with an already-engaged community of followers, but without a large budget available for promoted posts and ads, it can be hard to cut through the noise. It’s not something organizations like to talk about, but it’s true—spending thousands on a social media budget can be a hard sell for donors or a board.
As we grappled with this challenge, we began to explore the idea of content partnerships. Instead of just asking the question, “How do we grow our audience?” we also started asking, “Who already has the audience we want? And how can we partner with them?”
We used the following three questions to guide our search.
1. Who are your dream partners?
We researched industry blogs, online publications, email newsletters, podcasts, and popular social media pages. We surveyed our staff, partners, and our Global Advocate Alumni about which websites they frequent and where the content they see shared the most comes from.
Then, we narrowed it down and identified a list of potential strategic content partners. For Mama Hope, Global Citizen was at the top. Global Citizen is “a social action platform for a global generation that wants to solve the world’s biggest challenges.” Global Citizen has over 1.1 million followers on Facebook and 286,000 followers on Twitter, and they’ve inspired millions around the world to take action for social change.
2. What are your assets?
What stories do you have to share? Who do you work with that can help craft content? This can be a volunteer, someone on your team, or a community partner. In our case, Global Advocates were perfectly positioned for this opportunity. Each Advocate builds close relationships with our community partners, and they are trained by our staff in blogging, marketing, and storytelling.
3. How can your assets add value to your prospective partner’s mission?
We saw that Global Citizen’s mission was to activate the next generation of global changemakers—a goal Mama Hope shares. We believe that our community partners and Global Advocates are an ultimate expression of what it means to be “global citizens,” people from completely different backgrounds coming together to help solve big problems by implementing community-based solutions. We knew that sharing the stories of our partner’s work and the progress made by local communities and Global Advocates working together could inspire the Global Citizen audience.
Through this collaboration, Mama Hope has been able to put the stories of our community partners on a much bigger platform that we could have ever paid for. As a result of this partnership, hip-hop artist French Montana visited the Suubi Health Center, a maternal clinic in rural Uganda founded by our partner Bernard Mukisa and his family.
Montana was so inspired by this work that he dedicated his viral #Unforgettable Dance Challenge to Suubi, raising funds and awareness to expand the small clinic into a hospital. Now thousands have danced, donated, and become part of the Mama Hope family, including artists like The Weeknd and Diddy. Last month, we had the incredible joy of Denis, Bernard’s son and one of Suubi’s founders, onstage at the 2017 Global Citizen Festival, telling his family’s story to an audience of thousands in Central Park.
A year ago, we could have never anticipated any of this. If this journey has shown us one thing, it’s that small opportunities can open the door to big wins.
Learn more about Mama Hope’s work with Denis and the #Unforgettable campaign.