The impact storytelling has in nonprofit fundraising

A well-crafted story can aid in improving nonprofit fundraising efforts.
Date Published
01/28/2015

Nonprofit fundraising efforts have changed over the years, especially given the proliferation of technology. No longer are phone calls and direct mail campaigns the most efficient way to connect with donors and convince them to give. Instead, many 501(c)(3) organizations have modernized their efforts and rely heavily on digital communications to spread the word about a particular movement or initiative that will need the financial backing of constituents in order to succeed.

However, when it comes to getting donors to give, one thing hasn’t changed much in¬†nonprofit fundraising¬†strategies: storytelling.

According to the Nonprofit Marketing Blog, well-crafted narratives that appeal both to donors emotional and intellectual sides are currently the hottest trend in the industry. Many organizations are placing heavy emphasis on humanizing their communications with constituents as opposed to the delivery of information that people may find uninteresting and therefore, won’t lend their financial support.

For nonprofits planning to make storytelling part of their fundraising efforts this year, here is a list of suggested best practices that will allow the organization to see consistent success by duplicating these efforts across multiple campaigns:

  • Allow people to tell their own stories: Many donors give money to help people less fortunate than themselves. Oftentimes, this is done sight unseen and constituents rely on the nonprofit to keep them updated on how their contributions have benefited those in need. However, the Classy Blog highlighted a move by Invisible People, a nonprofit started by Mark Horvath to aid the homeless. The organization uses YouTube to post videos of people who live on the street, to give viewers a view of what it’s really like to be homeless. This is a much more effective way of depicting the plight of people in this particular situation and communicating it to donors as opposed to a written appeal that may not have the desired impact.
  • Use storytelling to improve stewardship: After someone gives money to a nonprofit or charity, the organization will often send a thank you letter to show appreciation and convince a donor to give more next time or at the very least, do so consistently. However, the Nonprofit Marketing Blog suggests using stories to aid in retention. While traditional communication strategies post-donation are still effective, it may be advantageous to create stewardship materials containing a narrative that highlights the impact that a constituents giving has made. This will likely appeal to people emotionally and encourage them to continue supporting a particular movement of campaign.
  • Be inspiring: Many donors give to nonprofits and charities because they feel compelled to do so. While these individuals provide a consistent giving stream that organizations can count on, there still exists a large number of people who may want to help, but need to be nudged in that direction. Using still images can be a great way to encourage people to give. Giving a potential constituent a look at an individual or group needing help, or highlighting their current situation – whether it is a lack of food or deplorable living conditions – can be the spark a donor needs to open his or her wallet and contribute financially. “We create amazing content that we then distribute through the web – through social media,” Paul Young, Charity:Water’s director of digital, who developed a strategy to share stories using social media websites, told Classy Blog. “Then we give that to people we hope are passionate advocates who will take the content and share it with their friends.”

Nonprofit fundraising efforts are beginning to become more modernized as organizations continue to develop strategies that effectively leverage technology and better connect with both existing and potential constituents.

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