Fundraising campaigns can be tricky. Many of our nonprofit clients will struggle to answer the question: “How can we convey ourselves accurately and engagingly enough to convince someone to part with their hard-earned cash?” After all, the nonprofit space operates on a deep and complex level that requires a nuanced understanding of problem areas and populations. These agencies provide a targeted network of services and support to address society’s most entrenched problems -- with often the most limited resources. Being able to communicate the extent and gravity of what your organization can accomplish (whether it be providing hope where it was previously lost, a renewed opportunity, protection and advocacy for those oppressed) is simply hard to do succinctly and effectively.
For our clients that struggle to encapsulate the breadth of their impact into the bite-sized messaging necessary for a successful campaign, we offer storytelling as the solution. The brain is hard-wired to respond to and engage with stories much more than concepts in the abstract. Stories are the units by which we as humans break down and associate with the world around us; they are what allow us to translate the complexity of the world into relatable segments.
In this way, the message really is in the medium, and narratives as a vehicle for engaging and eliciting support from your audience is incredibly powerful. Whether incorporated into copy, video, or in-person events, storytelling should be the backbone of your public voice. As you consider this narrative modality for your next campaign, use the following guidelines to ensure your story both resonates and serves your larger campaign goals.
1) Choosing the right story
Finding a story that exemplifies the sum total of your nonprofit is not without its difficulties. For this we encourage our clients to look close to home: Your staff, donors, stakeholders, clients, and service providers are often your best assets. The idea behind this approach is to draw a correlation between the impact your organization has made on an individual with the impact it makes in the aggregate.
It is best to drive the story arc with conflict: A single mother was priced out of her apartment and needs a secure place to make a home for her children. A staff member was discouraged with the inadequacy of publicly available healthcare. A donor’s parent passed away from the ravages of an as-of-yet-incurable disease. This inevitably sets up your organization as the resolution: The single mother now has a safe and stable living environment and can go back to school. That staff member has been acting as head of programming for a local clinic to the benefit of thousands of patients during her tenure. The donor now chairs the committee to fund research for a groundbreaking cure.
Alternatively, it is sometimes preferable to construct a fictional story borrowing from parts and pieces of many person’s experiences within a given organization. For a recent project with Denver Hospice, we were able to portray an amalgamation of individual clients’ stories into one compelling narrative that truly expressed the significant emotional support an end-of-life-care organization can give.
2) Call to Action
After you have identified the story that will allow your audience to understand the full weight of your
organization’s impact, it is time to fit the narrative within your primary motivation of the campaign itself. Having your main character speak to what next steps the viewer or reader can take to further the story. If your intention is to fundraise, have the single mother talk about the donors that allow her a stable home so she can pursue a better life. If the campaign goal is to increase awareness, have the Program Manager encourage everyone watching/reading to join the conversation about public health by signing up for the newsletter. By inserting the call to action within a human-scale story, the audience can then view themselves by extension of the logical next act. As the storyteller, it is your job to give them that direction.
3) Context is Key
Similar to orienting your storytelling content to the support the campaign’s end goal, the context in which
the story is presented should be strategically aligned. If a client story video is going to be screened at a fundraising luncheon, have the main character deliver the ask from the podium immediately afterwards. Make sure the story-driven article has embedded links that route to your social media and/or webpage. Even if you are repurposing the same content for different platforms, consider optimizing each version to the specific platform or format.
By following these three tips, we’ve seen tremendous results with our clients. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with communicating your vast service areas or overall mission, just come back to the personal side of your work. When you tell these genuine and authentic stories to your target audience, a meaningful response is bound to follow.
To learn more about our mission and clients or to schedule your free consultation, visit us at 6162productions.com