Nonprofit Storytelling Promotes Fundraising Efforts

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Want to raise more money in 2019? Tell more stories

man giving a speech on nonprofit storytelling

As you think about your fundraising efforts for 2019, focus on telling more stories about how the work your organization does helps others, and how donor support directly impacts your cause. Why? It’s quite simple.

People like to read about others’ struggles and successes. The popularity of radio shows and podcasts like Ted Talks, NPR’s How I Built This or Story Corps are proof of that.

Nonprofits know storytelling works but fail to capitalize

Yet, when 81 nonprofits were surveyed by Georgetown University, almost all (96%) said that nonprofit storytelling is important, but fewer had specific goals for their stories (78%) or felt that their stories met their goals (64 percent). On the whole, most didn’t think they told enough stories. Only 23 percent were satisfied with the number of stories they produced and shared.

Create a vibrant storytelling culture

In a column about how to develop a storytelling culture, Julie Dixon, of the Center for Social Impact Communication, points out that vibrant storytelling cultures have not just one, but a portfolio of stories told in different ways and from different perspectives. Vibrant storytelling also requires multiple storytellers–far more than simply having the CEO share stories of successes and good deeds in her speeches. Everyone in the organization should have and share compelling stories.

Have staff share stories of your nonprofit’s impact

Have staff meet regularly to share stories and then talk about ways the stories can be retold.

Dedicate staff and budget to tell those stories

After stories are collected, dedicate the time, staff and budget to use them. Three out of four nonprofits Georgetown surveyed spent less than 5 percent of their budget on storytelling; 20 percent dedicated only one person to the task; another 20 percent said they put 2 people on the job.

Use social media and print to tell how your nonprofit helps others

After you gather a number of stories, find ways to use them. The nonprofits Georgetown talked to said websites, newsletters, Facebook, print collateral and annual reports were their most effective communication vehicles.

  • On your website…
    Make stories front and center by using a success story on your home page. Don’t bury these stories and require clicks through multiple links to reach this vital content. In addition to stories and photos, use short videos. Videos on your website not only add a multi-media element but are also great opportunities for an SEO boost, by keeping people engaged with your website and content for an extended period of time.
  • In your e-Newsletters…
    Come up with a compelling subject line and a lead story that grabs people’s head and heart. If, for example, you are trying to recruit more volunteers, include an interview with one of your most enthused volunteers. Or, if you are trying to increase year-end donations, interview someone who has achieved success thanks to your organization’s assistance. A story in your newsletter also can put a spotlight on a donor. These stories allow donors to talk about why they support your organization, which may move those who have similar values to do the same.
  • On Facebook…
    Spread the word by sharing your stories regularly. Encourage your followers to share those stories as well.
  • Through print collateral…
    Brochures, postcards and letters to donors are a few of the printed fundraising tools that are improved through storytelling. Strong writing and photography are the keys to effective and impactful communications
  • In annual reports…
    Annual reports aren’t just about numbers. Put a personal face on how well your organization has done by using beneficiaries of its services to help tell the story. Take a look at some of the best nonprofit annual reports for 2017 for ideas.

If you need more ideas on ways to improve your nonprofit storytelling, give us a call. We can help you raise awareness–and money–through better communication.

by:

Julie Thomas

Business Development


December 18, 2018

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