Medium for Nonprofits

Five use cases to engage new audiences

My job at Medium involves working with nonprofits of all shapes and sizes to help them tell stories on Medium. In early conversations, I find it useful to lay out a few top-level use cases for how organizations can engage on the platform. Here they are.

#1 Engage in thought leadership

This is the lightest touch way to engage, so might be a good way to dip your toe in. Medium is an influencer-heavy platform, making it a natural place for your CEO or ED or celebrity spokesperson to engage and promote the work of your organization.

Tips for thought leadership:

  • Make sure the author is publishing from their own Medium profile.
  • Connect their Twitter account so that, when they hit publish, their piece will appear in the feeds of Medium users that follow them on Twitter.
  • Make it a dialogue, not a monologue. Encourage responses, have the author recommend and write back to the best ones, and reach out to others within the Medium community who are writing about similar topics.

For further reading, my colleague Jeff wrote this excellent piece on how to use Medium as a thought leader.

#2 Highlight voices from the field

Whether you have field offices abroad, send people out to the streets of your city, or work with partners or grantees that do so, many of you are collecting important, empathy-building stories from underrepresented voices. Medium is a great place to share those stories. The best way to do that is to create a publication for your organization and publish them from individual accounts into your publication.

You might collect multiple stories in one piece, do a listicle about what refugees take with them in their bags, or use imagery for a visually stunning profile.

Tips:

  • When possible, publish from personal accounts, not organizational ones (idea: have the interviewer transcribe the text and publish from their account, like Hannah did).
  • Use compelling visuals.
  • Look for interesting new angles on widely-covered topics.

#3 Curate a conversation

Think of this one as leveling up from individual thought leadership. It involves starting a publication on a topic and encouraging contributions from inside and outside your organization. This can be done by soliciting pieces from partner organizations, board members, and volunteers; it can also be accomplished by outreach to Medium users that you find already writing on your topic.

Right now on Medium, independent publishers have taken the lead. Some of them are supported by foundations — like Bright and The Development Set — but operate with editorial independence. I would love to see more organizations going down this route.

What’s in it for you, you ask? A chance to be seen at the forefront of an issue and to convene a dynamic conversation on a platform where there are engaged, informed readers with a diversity of perspectives.

Tips:

  • Encourage a diversity of voices to participate in the conversation.
  • Request to add already-published pieces to your publication (less content creation work for you, so it’s a win-win!).
  • Make use of writing prompts to guide the discussion.

#4 Extend the reach of events & reports

Many organizations release annual reports as downloadable PDF documents. This year, why not consider putting it on Medium as well? It can be seen by new audiences, and will give those audiences a chance to engage with it in an interactive setting. I advise creating a sub-section of your publication with a tag to release the report, as TMI Strategy did.

For reports that are a combination of all the work your organization has done over the past year, think about chopping it up into thematic pieces so that they can be shared and interacted with by the relevant communities. An excellent case study here is the White House’s use of a publication to release the President’s 2016 budget document.

Medium is also a great place to extend the reach of any conferences or events you’re throwing. The Aspen Institute has speakers at its annual Ideas Festival publish their remarks on Medium into the Institute’s publication. This means great content for the publication and an opportunity for people to who weren’t able to attend the festival to engage with the ideas presented there.

Tips:

  • Publish your report as a tagged section within your publication so as not to dilute your following.
  • Craft each section of the report or event as a standalone article as well as a piece of the larger series.
  • Make sure each piece has compelling titles and images that will entice Medium users to click.

#5 Host your blog on Medium

Some organizations, like the Malala Fund, the New America Foundation, and DoSomething.org, have opted to migrate their blogs to Medium. This means that Medium is now the CMS powering their content websites. The benefits of this are twofold: The tools are free and beautifully designed so you don’t have to worry about tech or design, and everything you publish will be automatically networked into the Medium ecosystem, and immediately discoverable. It also means that your community can interact with anything you publish via highlights, recommends, and responses. If you’re thinking about this step but not ready to take the plunge, email me and we’ll talk.

Tips:


The three cardinal rules to remember, regardless of which of these use cases you’re employing, are:

  1. Write as people, not as brands.
  2. Craft high-quality, engaging content with compelling packaging.
  3. Use the network. The more you interact with others on Medium, the more traffic it will drive to your content.

These five use cases are just a start. As more and more organizations join the platform, I look forward to seeing innovative new use cases popping up. And as always, I’m here to help.

Here are a few of the organizations that are already using Medium. Join us!