Nonprofit Storytelling: Your Most Valuable Marketing and Fundraising Tool

Learn how including nonprofit storytelling in your organization's fundraising strategy will boost engagement and increase donations.
Nonprofit storytelling
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Video transcript ↓

Hey everybody, welcome back to the channel. Today, we’re going to talk about nonprofit storytelling.

Even though the concept of using storytelling as a marketing tactic was a hot trend several years ago, the truth is that when it comes to marketing, story has always played a key role.

I think the reason for this is because storytelling is central to the human experience. It lets us share information in a way that creates an emotional connection.

And through this connection, we gain a deeper understanding of our purpose, people’s experiences, and the world we live in. 

But in a world where companies and organizations are constantly reaching for someone's attention, creating engaging stories that stick can be quite the challenge.

So in this video, we’ll explore what makes a good story, the best practices, and some nonprofits who are doing a great job of storytelling. 

All right. I’m Joseph with Anedot, and let’s jump right in!

What is nonprofit storytelling?

What is nonprofit storytelling?

As mentioned before, storytelling isn’t just reserved for moments around the campfire, for authors who are writing a novel, or for friends who want to recall a specific memory.

Storytelling is also for organizations to communicate ideas that have the potential to connect and inspire.

This is especially true for nonprofits.

They can present a factual and honest narrative that’s woven with details and emotion that capture the heart of your audience and win them to your mission.

This can be done via written content, images, video, or other media. The possibilities for storytelling are limitless.

With effective nonprofit storytelling, it can inform, educate, and activate empathy.

It can also communicate the goals and work of your organization, while compelling listeners toward action and generosity, bringing them on board to help your cause.

Now, let’s talk about what makes a good nonprofit story.

What makes a good nonprofit story?

What makes a good nonprofit story?

A compelling nonprofit story requires more than a casual retelling of events.

Successful and effective nonprofit storytelling requires thoughtful planning and execution.

Let's talk through the four most important components of your nonprofit story.

1. A strong central character

A strong central character for nonprofit storytelling

First off, there needs to be a strong central character. 

While there is certainly a time and place for statistics, your storytelling initiatives should center around the story of just one person –– or one person within a family or community you are serving.

Analytical thinking is essential for fundraising and marketing strategy, but you will capture your audience with a single strong character at the heart of your story. 

This is because your donors connect with a person: their face, their smile, and even their plight.

When it comes to charitable giving, emotions –– not necessarily reason or logic –– drive donor decisions. Group success stories are less compelling than the narrative of an individual.

And even though every nonprofit benefits and serves groups of people, your donors resonate with an individual’s success and ability to thrive. 

Most of the time, your central character will be the protagonist, an individual your audience is rooting for. In other cases, the character in your story will be a villain: someone or something to fight.

Depending on your goals, you can structure your story to focus on one or the other.

Change your central character to create a fresh perspective that stirs your audience to give.

2. Clear narrative structure

Clear narrative structure for nonprofit storytelling

Second, a clear narrative structure.

Every story requires an intentional and clear narrative structure.

Organizing your story structure empowers you to communicate effectively while connecting your donors to the heart of your cause. 

All good narratives share a similar structure:

  1. Introduction or set up
  2. Incident
  3. The struggle to overcome adversity
  4. Climax
  5. Resolution

Apply this tried-and-true structure to your nonprofit storytelling.

Following a clear plan helps you communicate a story that keeps donors interested and engaged from beginning to end.

Sticking to your plan also ensures you don’t forget important details of the narrative.  

3. Compelling visuals

Compelling visuals for nonprofit storytelling

Third, compelling visuals.

We are visual learners, and research shows that our brains process images at incredible speed –– much faster than we process auditory stimuli.

Adding compelling visuals to your storytelling presentations impresses an enduring memory in your donors’ minds.

Photographs have the unique ability to immerse your audience in your mission and bring them on a journey. Curate a series of images that support your storytelling.

In the same way that you should build stories with a clear narrative structure, organize your images as a visual aid to your verbal communication.

Use your images to create context, then get personal by highlighting individuals positively affected by your nonprofit.

Photographs allow your audience to see the people supported by their giving: their faces, smiles, and hope –– compelling elements of your storytelling.  

Visual storytelling connects people with your nonprofit. Photos intersect fact with emotion, which inspire audiences to act.

Impactful visuals are essential components of storytelling that boost your nonprofit fundraising efforts and help you reach your goals.

4. Connection to the larger goal

Connection to the larger goal for nonprofit storytelling

Fourth, a connection to the larger goal. 

Your organization prioritizes storytelling to engage with donors and potential donors. But it’s about more than engagement.

Effective nonprofit storytelling connects the narrative you’re presenting to the larger goal of your organization.

What is your nonprofit trying to accomplish? Having clearly defined objectives drives your organization’s priorities.

Strategically shaping your storytelling allows you to communicate the importance of your goals and influence your audience to contribute to your cause.

As you organize stories for your marketing or fundraising campaigns, remember to connect those stories to the larger goal of your nonprofit.

Throughout the narrative, remind your donors that their contributions make real impact that allows these stories to be told.

All right, now let’s go over some best practices for nonprofit storytelling.

→ Reach your audience and meet your fundraising goals with these 6 strategies for social media for nonprofits!

Best practices for nonprofit storytelling

Best practices for nonprofit storytelling

Curating a compelling story takes time and intentionality. To craft a story that boosts your fundraising and marketing efforts, follow these three best practices:

1. Create a process for gathering stories

Great stories won’t magically appear in your inbox. Your team must seek them out.

Create a system that captures, records, and organizes stories that you can use.

This can be done by something as simple as a shared Google Doc, or you can assign someone within your organization to be responsible for collecting stories.

2. Humanize the story

Tell your stories in a way that communicates the dignity and worth of the subjects. Nonprofits can fall into the trap of exploitative storytelling.

Carefully evaluate the narrative and the visuals and ask, “What story is this telling?”

Compelling nonprofit storytelling is compassionate, and it grants the respect due to the real people in it.

3. Repurpose your content

Story and content creation requires time and energy: precious resources many nonprofits find in short supply.

Repurpose your content to make it work for multiple channels.

Your stories –– and all the content that you’ve crafted to support them –– can be edited for use on your socials, in email marketing campaigns, on your site, and, of course, for your fundraising events.

→ Learn how to plan a fundraising gala, boost attendance, find volunteers, and more from our interview with Michael Swetz.

Examples of great nonprofit storytelling

nonprofit-storytelling-8

There are three organizations that do a great job of storytelling. Allow these organizations to inspire you to tell stories that move your audience.

1. UNICEF

UNICEF knows that impactful stories earn results.

You’ll find that many of their articles focus on individual children and give them a voice in the narrative.

2. World Bicycle Relief

World Bicycle Relief’s storytelling is visually stunning with site design that impresses.

The front-and-center photographs immediately connect readers with the beneficiaries and with the mission of the org.

3. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

St. Jude makes giving personal by framing stories as “meeting” their patients.

Each story details a child’s unique St. Jude journey, connecting readers with those their donations directly affect.

→ Learn four nonprofit fundraising tactics that you can implement right away to drive people to action!

Closing thoughts

Closing thoughts on nonprofit storytelling

Your nonprofit relies on the generosity of donors to accomplish your mission.

With effective storytelling, you can connect with your audience and propel them toward action and giving.

Anedot is the nonprofit’s solution to fundraising and donation collection. We have a suite of powerful fundraising tools that make giving and collection simple.

Connect with us today, and we’ll walk you through the tools and resources that will help your nonprofit thrive. Also, be sure to check us out on social media.

I’m Joseph with Anedot, and we’ll see you next time!

→ To learn more about how our solutions can help your nonprofit thrive, click here!

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