How to Stretch and Syndicate Your Nonprofit Stories to Maximize Impact
Every nonprofit has a story to tell. Whether a tale of transformation or a mission to change the world, your narrative is the piece that connects your organization to its supporters, donors, and beneficiaries.
At Classy, we’ve seen the transformative power of storytelling firsthand. We’ve watched a single narrative activate a movement and create a foundation for impact and change. Now, we want to help you take full advantage of this nonnegotiable branding element.
Maximizing Impact with Limited Resources
Nonprofits often function on limited budgets and resources, which means maximizing every asset you have. Stretching your storytelling, which we define below, helps your nonprofit expand its reach and influence without committing additional funds. It empowers you to breathe life and longevity into your narratives, creating deeper connections with your donors (and beneficiaries) and driving action in the form of donations, advocacy, and volunteerism.
This guide provides actionable strategies and best practices to ensure your stories are told, retold, and echoed across platforms. We show you practical ways to slice, dice, and syndicate your narrative to ensure your story isn’t just heard—it’s felt and acted upon.
And what better place to start than a story?
What Do We Mean by Stretch?
In the arid terrains of Uganda, where every drop of water is a luxury, lived a woman named Helen Apio. Helen believed she was “too ugly to be loved,” a sentiment born from the stark reality of her daily ordeal to fetch water. For years, she trudged miles, bearing the weight of hefty jerricans to secure a day’s worth of dirty water.
Everything changed when charity: water stepped into her world, bringing with them more than fresh wells but a cascade of hope, dignity, and unexpected beauty. Helen’s story transformed from one of pain to one of joy, from weary walks to jubilant strides beside clean, accessible water. Her narrative, shared with the world by charity: water, became a story of hope and a testament to the transformative power of clean water.
“Now, I am beautiful,” Helen said.
By sharing Helen’s journey, charity: water invites listeners to step into her world, feel the weight of the jerricans, and experience a part of her transformation. But not just that. The nonprofit gives followers a chance to become a part of the story by making a donation.
“This is the art and power of storytelling.
Your nonprofit’s mission is to bring your cause to life in a relatable and human way that demonstrates the direct impact donations have on real people’s lives. When done right, it brings about the virality and change synonymous with charity: water.
The term stretch in this setting involves amplifying a single narrative across time, language, and mediums. It’s about taking a story (like Helen’s) and extending its reach into every possible platform and format, ensuring its impact isn’t just seen but deeply felt and echoed across audiences.
When charity: water shared Helen’s story, the nonprofit’s team didn’t confine it to a single post or a solitary webpage. They stretched it, allowing it to permeate various platforms and formats: emotional videos, written content, social media posts, email campaigns, and event speeches.
They stretched the narrative to showcase the problem and the solution and highlight the tangible impact of contributions, fueling their mission of providing clean water to everyone on the planet.
That’s what we mean by stretching your nonprofit storytelling. We want to help maximize your story’s reach, resonance, and impact.
The Value of Stretching Your Nonprofit Stories
Stories matter—and are intrinsically part of our DNA as humans. A report from Headstream found some illuminating insights¹:
- 79% of respondents want to hear brands tell stories
- 44% of respondents will share a brand story they love
- 33% of respondents want story-based content from brands (more than updates, product reviews, tips, and how-to guides)
- 57% of respondents want stories based on real people and events
People are asking for more stories. Yes, they want organizational updates and event promotions, but they’re hungry for more narratives about everyday people in your content and marketing materials.
The Principle of Repetition in Communication
Messages are more likely to be absorbed and remembered when repeated. Repetition enhances recall and recognition, embedding the message firmly in your audience’s memory.
However, repetition is more than parroting the same message in the same way. It involves revisiting your core narrative, themes, and statements across various platforms and formats. It includes telling your story in a different way to retain its impact while remaining fresh and relevant for your audience.
Tell your story once on Facebook, and an average of 1.1% to 2.2% of your following will see it.² You can imagine similar results on other channels and mediums.
Repetition gives your story an opportunity to reach new audiences. It gives you additional chances to interact with your followers (and would-be followers), whether they noticed your initial message and ignored it or never saw it. Furthermore, it provides opportunities to re-engage existing supporters, reminding them of the impact of their contributions and motivating them to continue their support.
One Story: Multiple Lives, Endless Impact
A single anecdote can be dissected, explored from various angles, and told through different lenses—each iteration providing fresh insights, evoking new emotions, and inspiring diverse actions.
Additionally, a single story can be adapted to different formats: videos, blogs, social media posts, email campaigns, and event speeches. Each format offers new life to the story and connects with different segments of the audience.
Marketing vs. Fundraising: What’s the Difference?
In sustaining and propelling your mission, two functions often stand out: nonprofit marketing and fundraising. While seemingly operating in parallel lanes, understanding the differences and crossovers lets you maximize impact:
- Marketing: These are strategies and activities aimed at promoting your organization, raising awareness about your cause, and engaging audiences. Marketing is about branding, storytelling, and building relationships with the community to create a robust online (and offline) presence.
- Fundraising: These are strategies and activities aimed at generating financial support for your nonprofit. Fundraising is about rallying resources, engaging donors, organizing campaigns, and ensuring your organization has the financial means to bring its vision to life.
Integrating Your Marketing and Fundraising
While marketing focuses on broad engagement and awareness, and fundraising zeroes in on generating financial support, the lines between them aren’t rigid. Intrinsically intertwined, each feeds into and amplifies the other. Here’s how to do it right:
- Unified storytelling: Create consistent narratives across promotional and fundraising platforms to enhance your story.
- Community experience: Improve stakeholder trust and deepen their connection with your organization with a unified message.
- Resource allocation: Employ integration for strategic repurposing and adaptive use of content across nonprofit marketing and fundraising activities.
- Data-driven strategies: Leverage data from both marketing and fundraising activities to help you develop tailored, targeted, and practical strategies across both functions.
The Content Marketing Approach to Fundraising
Adopting a content marketing approach to fundraising can be a game changer, combining compelling narratives with strategic promotion to boost your impact. It’s about asking for support by providing valuable content that informs, engages, entertains, and inspires your audience—building relationships that eventually translate into donations.
In that sense, it’s about giving before taking.
Here are a few concepts to keep in mind as you approach content marketing for your nonprofit:
- Syndication: Content syndication involves taking content created for one platform and redistributing it to various other platforms and channels. For example, a blog post created for your nonprofit website can be syndicated on platforms like Medium or LinkedIn or adapted into guest posts for other relevant blogs. This helps you take advantage of each asset for all that it’s worth without requiring additional investment and resources.
- Cross-promotion: Cross-promotion involves leveraging multiple channels to promote the same content. For example, a fundraising campaign might be promoted across various social media platforms, through email newsletters, on your organization’s website, and through partnerships with other organizations or nonprofit influencers. Each channel reinforces the others and amplifies the campaign’s reach and impact.
- Community building: Content marketing isn’t just about broadcasting your message. It involves engaging with your audience and fostering a community of supporters invested in your cause. For example, sharing stories, listening to your supporters’ experiences, engaging in conversations, and building a community.
Slicing and Dicing Stories: Methods and Platforms
The work doesn’t stop once you’ve created and published your story.
Take an 80/20 approach to your content: spend 20% of your time creating original content and 80% (the vast majority) promoting it.³ Here, we’ll show you how to stretch your story by slicing and dicing content.
Create It Once, Promote It a Thousand Ways
Every story you tell should be promoted in various formats. For example, if you write a blog post, consider turning that content into an infographic, video, webinar, podcast, or social media post.
That doesn’t just involve copying and pasting your story from one platform to the next. You’ll need to adapt each piece to tailor it to each platform’s unique nuances and audiences.
Consider spotlighting specific moments in your story and building narratives around it. With Helen’s example, we might focus on multiple impacts from her single story:
- How detrimental the effects of dirty water are
- What it’s like not to have clean water readily available
- How we can take such a simple, beautiful thing for granted
- How a donation can change a life
- What impact clean water can make on a person and their community
Through one narrative, we’ve pulled out a handful of stories. Each can be sliced and diced further across different mediums and audiences.
How to Leverage Platforms for Promotion
Let’s look at a few ways you can use common digital platforms to stretch your content and distribute its reach:
- Social media: Use diverse formats (such as posts, stories, reels, and live sessions) to keep your story alive and resonant on social platforms.
- Email blasts: Deliver tailored, story-driven email content that engages and motivates different audience segments.
- Website banners: Use attention-grabbing banners on your website to feature your story and direct visitors to your campaign.
- Blog posts: Provide detailed narratives and engage readers through blog posts, encouraging sharing and interaction.
- Landing pages: Develop optimized landing pages that cohesively tell your story and drive desired actions.
- Videos: Create engaging video marketing content that visually narrates your story and share it across platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and your website.
- Podcasts: Develop podcast episodes that delve into various aspects of your story, providing in-depth insights and personal narratives.
Best Practices for Multiplatform Storytelling
Multiplatform storytelling takes a bit more work than duplicating your original content into different formats. It’ll take strategy and intentionality to make your story impactful and relevant for various audiences. Here are a few best practices to help you get this part right:
Maintain Consistency in Messaging Across Platforms
Maintaining a consistent core narrative across all platforms is crucial to solidify brand and campaign recognition. While the format and presentation might vary from one medium to another, your story’s essence, values, and key messages should remain the same.
Create a comprehensive messaging guide that outlines your goals, voice, and narrative arcs. Content creators can reference this guide to ensure every piece of content aligns with these foundational elements.
Tailor Content for Platform-Specific Audiences
You’ll need to slightly shift and adapt your content to meet the unique characteristics of each platform and its respective audience. For example, your nonprofit Instagram posts won’t look quite like your TikTok reels but should still communicate the same message and values.
Perform platform-specific audience research to understand each platform’s preferences, challenges, and engagement patterns. Use these insights to shape how your story appears on each platform.
Create Engaging Visual and Written Content
Visuals should evoke emotions and make abstract concepts tangible, while text should provide depth and drive action. Getting this right creates rich storytelling that’s consumable and memorable.
Look for ways to combine these elements. When you write a blog post, think of what videos or images could drive home your story—and when you create a video, think of how you might tell the narrative in a written format.
Update Stories with Fresh Data, Testimonials, and Outcomes
Establish a regular review and update cycle for your storytelling content. Then, refresh them with the latest data, stories, and testimonials to keep your audience engaged and invested in the unfolding narrative.
Show (Instead of Tell) Your Story
(1) Hero headline: Leverage the hero headline in email subject lines and social media posts to immediately capture attention, inspire donors to take advantage of this window to show their support, and convey the essence of your campaign.
(2) Background image: Use the background image across platforms as a recognizable visual anchor, ensuring consistency and immediate recognition of your campaign mentions.
(3) Donation progress: Share regular updates on donation progress through social media stories and email updates, celebrating milestones and encouraging further contributions to reach the goal.
(4) Call to action (CTA): Incorporate the CTAs into other pieces of communication, from email sign-offs to social media post captions, to create a clear and consistent invitation to act.
(5) Video: Extract snippets or key moments from the campaign video to create engaging social media posts or ads, driving traffic back to the full video on your donation page.
(6) Images: Repurpose campaign images in newsletters, social media posts, and partner websites, providing visual continuity and recognition across all platforms.
(7) Descriptive copy: Transform bullet points into visually engaging infographics for social media or utilize them as talking points in podcast discussions, blog content, or interviews.
(8) Impact blocks: Feature impact blocks individually on platforms like Instagram, creating a carousel ad or a series of posts highlighting each donation tier’s tangible impact.
Fundraise through Content with Classy
Your nonprofit storytelling is as crucial as the platform you use to deliver it. Classy’s fundraising platform empowers nonprofits to tell rich, impactful stories that drive engagement and donations. Here’s how:
- Custom fundraising sites: Create immersive storytelling by integrating videos, images, impact statistics, progress bars, and donation buttons.
- Social sharing: Extend your story into the social realm with integrations like Classy for Facebook.
- Marketing integrations: Launch your campaigns with a narrative that consistently reaches the eyes, ears, and inboxes of those who matter.
- Real-time analytics: Use real-time insights to adapt your storytelling and campaigns to resonate with your audience.
- Zapier nonprofit integration: Connect to all the tools you love and use with Classy’s easy-to-use Zapier nonprofit integration.
Your story is powerful, and it’s just waiting to be told. Trust Classy to help stretch your narrative across platforms and reach your donors and supporters. Schedule a demo with a Classy expert to see how we can effectively amplify your storytelling.
Copy Editor: Ayanna Julien
- “The Power of Brand Storytelling: How Brand Storytelling Can Meet Marketing Objectives,” Headstream, accessed October 24, 2023, https://www.slideshare.net/Headstream/the-power-of-brand-storytelling.
- “Facebook Organic Reach: How Many People Actually See Your Posts?” Studio 93, accessed October 24, 2023, https://studio93.ie/facebook-organic-reach-how-many-people-actually-see-your-posts.
- “The 80-20 Rule (aka Pareto Principle): What It Is, How It Works,” Investopedia, last modified March 7, 2023, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/1/80-20-rule.asp.
Understanding the Psychology of Storytelling
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