As more and more nonprofits harness the power of content marketing, it’s exciting to see that many are beginning to understand and utilize the power of storytelling. After all, a story that resonates with your audience inspires and sticks in a way that other forms of marketing cannot.
So how can you weave stories into your communications? There are lots of ways you can implement storytelling in your nonprofit’s communication efforts. To get the wheels turning, we’ve collected five awesome examples of nonprofit storytelling.
E-mail Your Hook
Spinning an email appeal into a story is a great way to capture readers’ interest and elicit engagement. For example, LiNK sends out an email series dedicated to sharing stories about the North Koreans they rescue. Check this one out:
This email immediately grabs your attention because a narrative is set up through the introduction of a main character: Donna. You’ll want to read on to find out about Donna and what happened to her. Then, Donna takes over to tell her story and how her life has been changed by the organization’s work, highlighting supporters’ impact on individual lives.
To sustain the reader’s attention, the email includes lots of photos woven between very short blocks of texts. And, by framing this appeal as an example of the organization’s fundraising community’s success, the call to action invites launch a campaign and “help more North Korean refugees find freedom and reach success.”
Try It Yourself:
Hook ‘em in through email: Because e-mail is a great way to engage supporters who might not regularly visit your website, you can use it to hook supporters into your story and prompt further action, without it feeling like you’re asking for donations at every point of communication. Use e-mail as an opportunity to invite readers to be the hero of your organization’s mission.
Layer in visuals: With the average person’s attention span maxing out at 8 seconds, you can’t afford to deliver a novel to people’s inboxes. Instead, think of your story as a short picture book. This email is such a great example because it injects an image after every couple sentences. Break up blocks of text with visuals to keep readers engaged and keep your copy clear, simple and concise.
Document a Work-in-Progress
A few community leaders finishing installing a well in the Oyoko community of Ghana that now serves 250 people. pic.twitter.com/65vmrY20PE
— Generosity.org (@generosityorg) October 22, 2014
You don’t necessarily have to wait until your organization completes a project to tell its story. Here, Generosity.org, an organization dedicated to bringing clean water to developing countries, invites followers into their narrative as it still takes place on the ground. In doing so, this tweet proves the organization’s promised approach to their projects – to empower community leaders and members to manage their own water project during construction. And by sharing the project’s overall impact (it serves 250 people), supporters can connect the dots between funding a project and the results it generates.
Try It Yourself:
Share your story as it takes place: If you’re working on an extended project, don’t wait until you’ve wrapped up to tell the story. Consider the time between start and finish of your project as an opportunity to share real-time updates with supporters that make them feel a part of all the action on the ground. Broadcast your impact story as it unfolds! Not only does this offer proof of your work, but creating a live feed of content will also create a richer experience for your followers and compel them to be more engaged with your work.
Barbells for Boobs, an organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for the early detection of breast cancer, launched their fourth annual Pink Bra Tour to interface with supporters and their partner Crossfit communities across the country. While on their trek, the organization documented supporters’ personal stories through their social channels, allowing their online fundraising community to witness each other’s strength and passion for the cause. In this Instagram photo, Barbells for Boobs spotlights an event participant and her story, demonstrating just how committed and inspiring their supporters really are.
Try It Yourself:
Spotlight supporters: As you document your event or project, turn the spotlight on your participants and volunteers. Share their testimonials on your social networks. Not only is it a great way to show gratitude for their support, but it also makes the support of a larger community more tangible to your followers.
Leverage Multiple Platforms
I love Medium. I love how the storytelling platform weaves text and image together in a way that brings a story to life. So when I saw Team Rubicon, the disaster relief organization, leverage the platform to bring readers deeper into their organization’s story, I was thrilled.
Oftentimes, Team Rubicon’s veteran volunteers will also share their voices on Medium, writing about the organization’s impact on their lives. In this example, the disaster relief organization shares the story of how Team Rubicon came to be. The longer format and vivid photographs reveal the raw, intimate experiences that sparked a passionate pursuit to give veterans purpose.
To get the word out about this story, they cross-promoted it on Twitter. Cleverly, the tweet reveals one of the story’s characters to encourage readers to click-through to the Medium post.
— Team Rubicon (@TeamRubicon) September 18, 2014
Try It Yourself:
Explore Medium: We’ve written before about why nonprofits should share their story on this platform, but it’s worth saying again. First, it can act as an inbound marketing tool that compels readers to visit your site and take action. Second, it’s a place where you can reflect on what triggered your connection to the cause in the first place. Sharing this story reveals your core values and why you are a part of your organization’s mission, and that alone can be extremely inspiring to readers.
Link pieces of your story together: Connect and cross-promote pieces of your story across varied platforms to engage a larger audience. Remember that each platform is conducive to different types of storytelling, so build out your content in a way that targets specific audiences across networks.
Share Their Story
In order to move people to action, you must first connect them the problem your organization is trying to solve. Why is it so important that people act now and become supporters of your organization?
That’s what EB Research Partnership aims to do with their “Cause the Wave” campaign video. Dedicated to advancing treatments and finding a cure for children with Epidermoysis Bullosa, a debilitating and life-threatening skin disease, EBRP created this video to bring viewers up close and personal with three individuals living with EB. Their personalities shine through the video, creating a powerful emotional connection with viewers. Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, an EBRP board member, also shares his own story of how and why he adopted the cause as his own.
Try It Yourself:
Put a face to your cause: Telling stories that revolve around specific individuals is one of the most effective ways to connect emotionally with your audience. Even as you educate supporters about the issue and your cause, weave in stories and personalities that bring your work – and the need for your services – to life. Collecting beneficiaries’ testimonials is an excellent way to achieve this.
Tip: Ask a board or staff member to share their own history with your organization. What first activated him or her to become deeply engaged with your mission? What keeps him or her motivated? Why do they believe in your cause? Your team member’s answers can form a compelling, visceral experience that can touch supporters and challenge them to take action.
With a twist of creativity, every nonprofit can use storytelling to amplify their marketing efforts and create a meaningful connection with their supporters. Different communications channels can deliver stories in a way that prompts readers to take action and unlock next chapters.
Now it’s back to the drawing board. What are some ways that you’ve woven stories into your communications? What tools and strategies have you used to incite engagement? Answer in the comments section and let’s get a discussion going!