When you’re at a loss for marketing ideas, the temptation can be very strong to spew out statistics at your potential donors. Hopefully, they’ll be able to grasp the impact their support can have for your cause, right?
But human motivation is strongest when emotion is involved, and (needless to say) stats rarely inspire emotion. In order to inspire people to take action, you’ll need to tell a damn good story — but how? By using these 4 incredibly effective storytelling angles for your nonprofit’s next marketing campaign.
1. Put A Face To Your Cause
There’s a reason that so many nonprofit campaigns profile a select few of the individuals that they help: we humans are hardwired to "tune in” to people’s pain, especially young children. We become more empathetic when we can see, hear, and feel another person’s suffering as though they were in the same room with us.
EB Research Partnership’s "Cause The Wave”
campaign aims to find a cure for children with Epidermoysis Bullosa, a life-threatening skin disease that causes blisters across the body. The campaign does a great job of introducing 3 young individuals with EB, peeking into their back stories, and allowing the subjects’ sweet personalities and little quirks to shine through. The quick yet effective storytelling here creates a powerful emotional connection with the viewer before asking potential donors to act now.
2. Share A Volunteer’s Perspective
Everyone loves a humble hero, so why not feature one in your next campaign? Your storytelling doesn’t always have to focus solely on the people affected — showcasing the raw emotions of volunteers committed to your nonprofit’s cause (and the compelling backstory that drove them to volunteer in the first place) can be just as effective.
The nonprofit Team Rubicon is made up of volunteering military veterans and medics who provide support during natural disasters. Naturally, many of these volunteers have stories to share that inspire donors to pledge their support.
Team Rubicon volunteer Andrew Hanna’s "Salvation Through Service”
is a shining example. The veteran delves into his personal struggles and explains how saving lives during wildfires, floods and hurricanes saved his own life in a way. Still, he keeps it real with his readers and is therefore able to connect with new, potential donors at their level: "If [Team Rubicon] is just a bunch of kumbaya bull, I can always turn around and go home. It wasn’t, and I didn’t.”
- Clearing up abandoned neighborhoods in Detroit with Team Rubicon (Photo: Andrew Hanna / Team Rubicon, from medium.com)
3. Explore Multiple Perspectives
For an emotionally multi-dimensional story, put the reader into multiple people’s shoes. This helps them get a wider perspective on how their donation is being used to positively impact the lives of many.
Habitat for Humanity’s article
highlighting a bathroom their organization built for a man in need doesn’t just focus on the gratitude of 81-year-old Walter (the man in question). They also share the emotionally charged concerns of his daughter, Francine, and the CEO of a partnering nonprofit, Cynthia Jenkins. The result is a vibrantly depicted, well-rounded depiction of a "truly humble, sweet, kind man who really worked hard” who was positively gushing over the life-changing gift of a bathroom — made possible by generous donors’ continued support.
4. Powerful Visuals That Make Viewers Double-Take
If for some reason you’ve missed this absolutely brilliant campaign by Save The Children
, stop now and go watch the minute-and-a-half clip. No matter how many times you’ve seen this campaign (it’s racked up over 62 million views at the time of writing), the heartbreaking imagery still hits close to home and reality-checks your understanding of how traumatizing it must feel to live in a war-torn country.
And just to ensure the first few seconds of the video don’t bore you into clicking away (seemingly mundane clips of a little girl enjoying her birthday party and playing with toys), the video’s curiosity-inducing title keeps viewers watching until the very end.
Save The Children’s campaign works because it gets their potential donors, who are most likely from developed countries and have never known the realities of war, to emotionally connect at a primal level with hurting children on the other side of the world.
Bonus: Know What Makes Your Organization Unique
It’s easy to lose sight of what makes your nonprofit special when you are working in it every day. It’s easy to fall into a formula of "this is a person who needed help, then they found us and we did xyz.” try to go beyond that and look into what you feel sets you apart from everyone else.
Maybe it’s your founder and their story of creating the nonprofit. Or perhaps you have a unique approach to your cause that similar organizations aren’t considering. Professional Storyteller Micheal Kass recommends finding a moment in your workday that made you say "wow” then think about why it had such an impact on you.
For more tips you can listen to our full interview from the Fundraising Superheroes podcast here:
Storytelling Is All About Emotion
Though these 4 storytelling angles differ in various ways, they all share a common underlying thread: they connect on a deep emotional level with the audience.
Next time you brainstorm a campaign for your nonprofit, think about:
- what your audience might be experiencing emotionally in their everyday lives
- what those affected are feeling and living through
- the reasons why your organizations’ team members are so passionate about your cause
Any of these insights could serve as strong motivation for your donors to band together, help you raise awareness, and show their support.