Originally posted on the Net Squared blog.

Sending out yet another email to your members can be painful sometimes when you really want to say the same thing you’ve already tried to tell them countless times. We’ve all been there, either on the sending or receiving end of those messages. But, making something fun that delivers the message means you get to make something new and interesting, your members get to enjoy what you’ve created and the message is in there without any more of the boring blah blah blah. But, how do you do that?

Earth Day Networks’ Lesson in Making the Message Fun

Lesson learned: engage your members first, and actions (both service and donations) will come more naturally.

EDN sent out an email message announcing the new ecological footprint calculator. It doesn’t talk about any other programs nor does it ask for anything other than checking out the tool. (To see the original email, see file below.) With five links back, the messages says:

Earth Day Network has just released its newest tool to combat climate change: The new, updated, and much more fun Ecological Footprint Calculator.

In this new tool created by Global Footprint Network, you can create a three-dimensional avatar of your choosing, and tour your virtual neighborhood. Then you will be asked a series of questions about your food consumption, energy use, favorite mode of transportation, type of residence, recycling commitment, and spending habits. You can even choose to take a long version or a short version of the quiz!

The Footprint Calculator will tell you how many “planets” would be necessary to sustain human life- if everyone lived just like you, and how many acres of land and tons of carbon necessary to sustain your lifestyle. You can even revisit your quiz to see where she “went wrong”, and find out how to reduce your carbon footprint.

If you are a teacher or professor, encourage your students to take the quiz and experiment with the answers. An interesting, engaging and highly educational way to teach sustainability and inspire change.

The message isn’t the most important part of the package, though it is important (and anyone who has tried to write copy for an email announcement knows how true that is). What is important to consider here is what you can do when you click through to the calculator. In a Second Life-like way, visitors create a virtual-self (choose hair, skin, and clothes colors) that walks through a virtual land. As the virtual-self walks down the street, questions pop up asking about consumption, travel and housing. The answers determine what kinds of structures are built up and factor into the carbon footprint calculation. I’ve never had so much fun facing the reality of carbon usage!

After answering all of the questions and determining a score, visitors are provided with a few options, including editing the footprint questions, exploring scenarios to change the footprint in real-life, learning more, taking action, and joining the network. These are all great options for further engaging a now more-knowledgeable visitor, and further building a relationship based not only on the organization’s mission/work, but on what he or she can get out of the relationship with the organization that further supports that mission/work (more of the changing the world business!). Engaging with new (and return) visitors first is the key to building a lasting relationship with members/funders online.

Check out the Earth Day Network’s Footprint Calculator!

What unique techniques have you or your organization used in sending out a message in a new way? Is there an organization you think does this well?

Leave a comment on the Net Squared blog, too!

Make your messaging fun!
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