What would your organization be able to accomplish if drumming up donations was no longer a problem? How would things change for your nonprofit if convincing people to drop what they’re doing and give you money was as easy as waking up and enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee on your day off?
It’s no secret that the nonprofit world has its haves and have-nots. But the difference between these two groups isn’t necessarily money or luck. It’s the ability to tell engaging stories. If you can perfect the art of crafting the nonprofit version of a page-turning thriller, not only will you be able to relax when it comes to pounding the pavement — you’ll never have to beg for media attention or donations ever again!
So how can you generate the kind of engagement that makes other nonprofit marketers look at your work and say, “How the hell are you pulling that off?”? What can you do to translate that interest into the type of financial support that can sustain your nonprofit organization for years to come?
You’ll want to sit down with your favourite beverage and a notebook for this one because we’re about to spill the beans on nonprofit storytelling. Read on for the goods.
Table of Contents
Why Nonprofit Organizations Need to Tell Compelling Stories
1. Storytelling Encourages Open Mindedness
If you’ve just been introduced to someone at a party, it would be weird to start off the conversation by saying, “Nice to meet you. Can you give me some money?”. Of course, people have different expectations of nonprofit organizations. And so a charity asking for money isn’t necessarily committing a social faux pas. But even so, the way you introduce your organization to people matters.
We live in a world where Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for Me Lately?” could be the soundtrack of many people’s lives. You have to think very seriously as a leadership team about how to get past those knee-jerk feelings of, “What does this nonprofit mean when they talk about their cause?”
Harvard Business Learning talks about how stories can connect people and ideas. For nonprofits, compelling stories are a great way to build and establish trust.
2. You Can Humanize Your Cause
Statistics and Charity 201 lectures that answer questions like “What is a nonprofit?” and “How do nonprofits make money?” can be useful. But you know what really grabs people’s attention? Being able to attach a human face to a cause.
Unless your audience has been living under a rock, it’s impossible for them to not know about the insane amounts of injustice going on in the world. And in the face of these overwhelming societal problems, there’s only so much that one person can do. But when you’re able to take data points like “Over 10 million American kids live in poverty.” and turn them into “You can support children like Billy with your donation.”, you just might be surprised at how much easier it is to find and secure funding.
3. Your Organization Can Frame Donors as the Superheroes They Are
Have you ever had a nosy or pushy relative corner you at a get-together? They say that one of the easiest ways to dodge unwanted questions is to get people talking about their favourite subject:
That’s right. Themselves.
In marketing, it’s not uncommon for nonprofits and businesses alike to spend way too much time talking about all the things they do and offer. If this sounds like your organization’s marketing materials, you could be losing donors before you even get to the “This is how you can donate” part of the brochure.
At the end of the day, most folks see themselves as regular people. Not many folks get pats on the back for being at work on time or for being awesome friends, partners, and coworkers. Your nonprofit can use storytelling to help would-be donors see themselves as the heroes of your cause.
Nonprofit organizations often put a lot of time and effort into figuring out how to attract donors. When you combine a story that says, “Not all heroes wear capes.” with a top-notch social media strategy, the momentum you achieve might surprise you.
This Nonprofit Storytelling Formula Will Make You a Fundraising Wizard Overnight
Have you ever wondered why some novelists take years to publish while others seem to release a new book every other month? In many cases, it’s because the prolific folks have a template or a writing formula they use to keep producing at an astonishing clip.
Believe it or not, you can write tons of compelling stories on behalf of your organization without breaking a sweat. How? Just use the setup, confrontation, resolution formula that was used by Steve Jobs himself.
Want to see this in action? We’ve got your back.
So let’s say that your organization focuses on improving childhood literacy and that one of the kids you’ve helped has gone on to win an important award. Here’s how you could use this formula to do a quick social media writeup:
1. The Setup
The setup is best described as the circumstances that led the kid to your nonprofit. What was the catalyst that led the kid’s parents to give you a call?
2. The Confrontation
Depending on who you talk to, some people would argue that the conflict, or confrontation, is the story. After all, a movie where Indiana Jones takes a leisurely stroll around the Temple of Walk in the Park wouldn’t have much in the way of suspense.
At this stage of your storytelling exercise, you should be looking for the points of conflict. What challenges did this kid face? What problems were you originally trying to solve? These are the types of questions that you’ll be answering.
3. The Resolution
In fiction and in nonprofit storytelling, nobody likes a cliffhanger ending. As such, you’ll have to make sure that your story has an emotionally satisfying payoff. During the resolution, you’ll want to tie up loose ends, explain how things ended, and then quickly get off the stage.
Putting It All Together
At this stage, you’ve asked the right questions and plugged in the formula. Using the same example, a short blurb that uses the formula might look something like this:
- The Setup: Jake (not his real name) came to us two years ago when his parents discovered that he had fallen behind in his studies.
- The Confrontation: He was struggling with his eyesight and his reading comprehension. His family had immigrated here recently and because he lived on the other side of town, we had to work very hard to come up with a schedule that worked for all sides.
- The Resolution: After going through our after-school tutoring program and buying a new pair of glasses, Jake was able to turn things around. His grades improved, he was more confident at school, and he even joined a book club. Today, he’s this year’s recipient of the Young Readers Award.
See how easy that was? All you have to do is plug in the formula and boom. Now you’ve got an interesting story that makes potential donors think, “Hm. Maybe I should make a few more nonprofit donations this year.”.
Positioning Your Storytelling for Maximum Impact
The cool thing about managing a nonprofit is that you never run out of stories to tell. Whether you’re sharing your origin story or you’re updating people on the work you’re doing, however, you want to get as much mileage as you can out of every story.
Some of the methods you can use to amplify your storytelling include telling a variety of stories or exploring the use of high-engagement mediums like Instagram video ads.
If you’d like to go over your options, we can totally help! We’re just an email away.
Use Engaging Stories to Raise More Funds
Many nonprofit organizations are caught up in a funding catch-22. On the one hand, you want to help as many people as you can. But at the same time, you can only do so much when you don’t have money.
So how do you escape this financial treadmill? You tell engaging stories that resonate with people.
That being said, putting together compelling stories and then doing the work of promoting them isn’t easy. It often takes an experienced team to plan and execute a sustained nonprofit marketing strategy that drives results. And if your website isn’t ready for prime time, there’s a real chance that you could miss out on all those fundraising opportunities.
Are you ready to make storytelling a part of your nonprofit organization’s marketing strategy?
We can take your marketing game to the next level. Book an appointment with us today!