5 Story-Driven Marketing Tips for Nonprofits
Storytelling is an integral part of sharing your nonprofit’s mission. What spurred passion in you to devote your time to serving this mission? Likely, helping a person in need or hearing an emotive story is what spurred your emotional connection to join or start the foundation.
Humans of New York is a masterclass in storytelling. New York City has 8.5 million inhabitants. That number makes it easy for people to feel lonely and for deep connections to be hard to seek out.
Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the blog, simply shares portraits of various people in New York with a small paragraph exploring a seminal moment or thought in the subject’s life. His work has created numerous connections between people and humanized a lot of unsightly social ills, like homelessness, drug addiction and income inequality.
He’s utilized his notoriety to fundraise millions of dollars for low-income school children, refugees and other causes. That’s the power of a good storyteller.
Here are five ways you can do the same for your nonprofit organization.
1. Find a Strong Protagonist
Who have you met through your foundation that made you feel that all the late nights, tough times fundraising and harrowing days were worth it? They likely have a compelling story to tell about their life and how your organization improved their circumstances.
Choose a story that moves you, so that you can relay that passion unfiltered to your audience, like how Mercy Corps highlights Syrian farmers, Jordan refugees and children in Guatemala as protagonists that reflect their cause.
2. Use Imagery
Crafting words that give a vivid picture of your audience will help them to empathize more emotionally with your project. Pair these words with actual images of your nonprofits aid efforts.
Juxtaposing before and after photos is an effective way to convey a message, especially if telling a story of how your project helped a single individual or small community. Donors will be electrified to visualize how their contribution has striking effects.
This technique also works well with environmental nonprofits. Did your organization stop that forest from becoming overly developed? Show a picture of what the land would look like stripped from its resources, and then show how it looks thanks to your conservation efforts.
Images translate well on social media channels. Besides before and after photos, images are a great way to keep your donors feeling a part of the process.
Video can create an even stronger connection. Invisible People, a project concerned with homeless people’s rights, features an interview with a young homeless woman named Natasha in 2012. The video had almost one million views and spurred the awareness of Invisible People.
This viral video translated to increase in funding for the program, which means increased aid for the homeless. Natasha is currently off the streets, working three jobs and caring for a new baby.
3. Leverage Social Media
Social media gets a bad reputation, but its original purpose—to connect people from across the globe—is a crucial tool for nonprofit storytelling.
YouTube and Vimeo are platforms to host and share videos. Invisible People was able to share Natasha’s story by utilizing YouTube.
Instagram is the best place to share a snapshot of a community you serve. Use the platform to entice potential donors to click through to your site for the whole picture.
Facebook is where you can share long stories and multiple images. Facebook is one of the most likely places your nonprofit's story will go viral since the demographic is older and they can share entire posts. Sharing entire posts is more thorough compared to an Instagram snapshot or a quick Twitter blurb.
Partners In Health utilize their Instagram account to share stories of communities they serve and also to connect with other nonprofits. It's not a competition—nonprofits can build each other up and create greater brand awareness through increased exposure.
4. Go In-Depth
Devote a good chunk of your time to finding the true experience of people you are helping. Don’t write off storytelling as a formulaic biography. Humans of New York is successful because Stanton has a knack for drawing out deeply personal details that resonate with his audience. Devote resources to learning your nonprofit’s emotional and multifaceted impact on the communities you help.
If you aren't a wordsmith and don't have the budget to hire one, consider using video as a medium. Also, remember that a well-taken photograph can convey boundless thoughts without a word. Get creative, and let your storytelling style showcase your nonprofit's personality. Authenticity is infectious.
5. Use Statistics as Supporting Evidence
Viewers want both an emotional connection and supporting evidence to act upon a call-to-action. If you were to read an engrossing story online, you'd want some evidence supporting that your emotional connection is genuine.
Your statistics can also highlight how your work is not just a moral gain, but how the organization helps the global population as a whole. Perhaps your conservation efforts have increased oxygen levels in a certain area, or your help with the homeless has lowered cases of sexual assault in your city. Donors want to know they are making a positive impact.
Storytelling is a great way to share your infectious enthusiasm with potential patrons, with these story-driven tactics proving successful in engaging an audience.
Kayla Matthews writes about AI, the cloud and retail technology. You can also find her work on The Week, WIRED, Digital Trends, MarketingDive and Contently, or check out her personal tech blog.