United Way is engaged in nearly 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories worldwide. As the largest privately-funded nonprofit in the world, United Way creates solutions that build stronger communities. United Ways are improving education, strengthening financial stability and making communities healthier. But they don’t do it alone. Nearly 2.6 million volunteers and 9.6 million donors are engaged with United Ways across the world to advance community-based and community-led solutions.
In 2017, United Way Worldwide’s (UWW) Innovation Team worked with a group of eight United Ways to pioneer and test crowdsourcing to engage individuals digitally in a new and innovative way (especially Millennials) using IdeaScale and they learned a lot along the way. Here, in their own words, the United Way shares their thirteen things to know about crowdsourcing for other United Ways and nonprofits using crowdsourcing for the first time.
- A culture and organizational structure of support for innovation is a prerequisite. Successful crowdsourcing is grounded in a strong desire and commitment to innovate. This commitment includes a readiness to learn from shortcomings or failure.
- Give yourself plenty of time – three-six months – to plan your crowdsourcing campaign.
- Dedicate a staff person who has the time to really devote to the work.
- Involve everyone who has a stake or should know about it in your United Way. Get internal buy-in first, especially if you need to rely on other teams to communicate the campaign. You’ll need staff commitment to be involved and help get the word out about the crowdsourcing information.
- Build the internal team and get them on board so that coming up with your challenges is well supported and that the ideas coming out will be tested and implemented.
- Have clear, defined goals for your crowdsourcing effort, and a plan to achieve those goals. Crowdsourcing can stand alone on its own, but if you already have other ongoing engagement efforts, incorporate it into that comprehensive engagement plan.
- Crowdsourcing requires a great question. Take time to develop and test crowdsourcing questions, or challenges, before settling on one for the campaign. But it doesn’t stop there; multi-modal and consistent engagement/moderation is key.
- Use multiple channels to make people aware of your crowdsourcing campaign. Just email is not enough. Along with an email and social media plan, use word of mouth and in-person meetings to promote your campaign.
- Be sure to have a communications plan that is well supported by your marketing and communications team. It should be part of their schedule – not an add on.
- Manage expectations up front about what will happen to people’s ideas.
- Don’t be afraid if your crowdsourcing campaign doesn’t yield results immediately or in line with your expectations or hopes. Try it – at the least you will gain new knowledge of this important tool. Be courageous and willing to learn from the crowd.
- Make sure you set up the feedback loop to people who submit ideas. Let them know what’s happening and what will happen with everyone’s ideas. Let them know their time and ideas are not a waste of their energy.
- Big participation numbers are great. But remember – it’s the quality of the experience that will build relationships.
You can learn more about the United Way crowdsourcing initiative in the full case study here.