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How Nonprofits Can Compete and Win in the Sharing Economy

Giving isn’t what it used to be.

Like hotels and taxi companies, nonprofits are feeling the weight of the sharing economy. If Airbnb made travel more authentic, GoFundMe is making giving more personal. Who wouldn’t prefer to support causes that hit close to home: your cousin’s fight against cancer or your neighbors’ efforts to rebuild after a hurricane? Contributing to a big, anonymous charity pales in comparison.

Today, many traditional nonprofits are facing fundraising shortfalls as donors bypass larger organizations in favor of online platforms like GoFundMe.

According to a report last year by the Pew Research Center , roughly one in five Americans (22%) have contributed to a crowdsourced online fundraising project. Of those surveyed, “87% of donors believe that these platforms help contributors feel more connected to the projects they support,” and 84% said they are “a good way to highlight causes that might not get much attention otherwise,” according to Pew.

For nonprofits, the challenge is this: adopt a marketing strategy that aligns with a more-personalized approach to giving or risk losing a substantial chunk of support. The urgency will only grow in the years ahead as millennials—who account for the bulk of online givers—make up a bigger portion of the donor base.

Here are several tips to help nonprofits compete and win in the sharing economy.

Tell a Story

Want a surefire way to stand out from your competitors? Skip the dry facts and statistics and tell a story. People choose how to give based on their own experiences and how they connect to the cause. By focusing on storytelling, nonprofits will forge deeper connections with their stakeholders because we react to stories a lot like our own lived experiences. Stories literally bring people together. That’s the name of the game for nonprofits.

Narrow the Focus

It’s difficult for people to wrap their arms around big, complex problems like climate change or peace in the Middle East. But if you narrow the lens to a single detail or component, the challenge suddenly seems more approachable. That’s why donors are instinctively drawn to support ONE person’s battle with a disease or feed a single family in need. Even traditional nonprofits recognize the wisdom of this strategy. ASPCA sends every donor a photo of an animal they helped save. Going small, focusing on one element of the issue rather than an intractable problem, can help nonprofits raise big bucks.

Related: 3 Ways to Make Social Media Less Depressing

Think Digitally

Nonprofits shouldn’t underestimate the importance of digital. It all begins and ends online: fundraising, brand awareness, competitive differentiation. That’s true for both newcomers and century-old nonprofits. One of the best ways to build a digitally savvy campaign is to invest in video, which is valuable both as a marketing tool and as a centerpiece asset for an integrated communications campaign. What’s more, nonprofits can stretch their marketing dollars by editing and repurposing videos to make the most of these valuable assets.

The sharing economy is shaking up how we live and give. Nonprofits that steal a page from the digital playbook will thrive. Those that don’t will be left behind.