How to Optimize Your Nonprofit’s Storytelling Skills for Marketing Success

Telling a good cause story: It can be the biggest difference between you and your competitors. Storytelling can help set you apart in a field of similar charities and nonprofits, and it all comes down to how strong your strategies are. It isn’t enough to simply have your mission laid out on your website – and with so many avenues and creative outlets online, why would you even want to stop there?

The truth is, adept storytelling can do a number of things: It can help position your nonprofit as being both sympathetic and dynamic; it can bring in new donors while retaining current ones; it can expand your reach and establish your brand digitally. It’s the foundation of cause marketing for good reason.

Here are five ways you can strengthen your storytelling skills to help your nonprofit’s marketing:

  1. Play to your potential donors emotions

One of the best ways to reaffirm your nonprofit’s vision is by creating a solid emotional connection between you and your potential donors. Appeal to the soft side of your audience by crafting a story that hinges around how donations can end suffering, provide help, or make the impossible possible – just think about how well those humanitarian aid commercials go right for your heart. For example, the Animal Humane Society put out a video designed to tug on the heartstrings of anyone watching – it’s easy to get caught up in the humanized voices of the animals and their pleas.

Also, don’t forget to keep up with those emotional appeals once you’ve got a solid donor base! Now that you have regular donors, keep them updated with stories of how their contributions are helping you help others. Check out the storytelling episode on the Asking For More podcast for more great ideas.

  1. Social media is key to communicate your nonprofit’s story

Storytelling is vital in today’s attention economy. Social media values stories, and you, as a nonprofit, clearly have plenty of amazing stories to tell – whether they’re about the goals you’re striving towards, the projects you’ve completed, or the ongoing help you’re providing to the community. You’re making a significant impact on the lives of others, and there’s no better way to communicate this than through social media.

Social media tools are the perfect avenues to share these stories and to get instant feedback, validation and confirmation of the important work you’re doing. Set up accounts on the most popular social networks – Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are good places to start – and have a set schedule for posting fresh content. Nonprofits like Doctors Without Borders use Instagram to show photos of their on-the-ground relief efforts, and the American Heart Association on Twitter utilizes its own hashtags to start conversations.

  1. Try real-time communications

Your nonprofit’s storytelling efforts don’t need to be static; in fact, if they’re happening in the moment, they’re more likely to engage more people. Think about the telethons of old – people would tune in to watch variety shows and celebrities work the phone lines as nonprofits and charities called for pledges. It’s about the in-the-moment participation with demonstrable results – and it’s easy to bring this type of strategy into modern-day marketing.

A fantastic example Keeping Up With The Kattarshians livestream video from Iceland. Broadcasting company Nutiminn capitalized on the Internet’s love for all things feline and set up a live webcam to continuously broadcast the antics of some very cute kittens (all available for adoption!). Not only are they jumping on the reality TV train for a good cause, they’re demonstrating a strong awareness of what can catch fire with online audiences.

  1. Involve your donors in problem solving

Storytelling tactics are often very effective at bringing out emotion. Why not try something as simple as laying out a problem and presenting the solution your donors can be a part of? Your nonprofit can use this outline as an exercise in an appeal letter, a social media post, or an email.

Your outline should look something like this:

  • Begin with a sharp introduction to get the reader involved, with a clear example to create a mental visual.
  • Keep sentences short to help develop a sense of urgency, and repeat pronouns like “we” to make the story more personal and help the reader feel directly involved.
  • State the problem and your nonprofit’s goal in human and visual terms, making it very relatable, while referring directly to the reader, who feels like they are now a part of the story.
  • Last, be sure to offer your  nonprofit’s thanks and reinforce your message.
  1. Have a sense of humor

Last but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to present your nonprofit’s story with a touch of humor. It’s possible that going too grim or dark could turn off potential donors, so consider your cause and how you might be able to lighten things up a bit. Take this commercial for Furkids Animal Rescue and Shelter – the Huffington Post called it a “low-budget masterpiece,” and it still holds up today. (Bonus: sometimes the funniest content is low on cost!)

It may seem like an extra use of resources, but trust us when we say that creative forms of storytelling can be the secret weapon you need to get even more attention for your nonprofit. Keep building on these strategies to spread the word about your cause – and before long, you might start seeing an organic increase in those who believe in you.

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