The Non-Profit Marketing Guide to Persuasive Storytelling
Non- profit marketing is about telling your story. Your very existence as an organization has a story behind it; a cause that people have rallied around, a service that somebody needed, or a social movement that is improving lives. To market your organization, you need to make this story as exciting and compelling as possible and inspire people to act upon your message.
The most successful non-profits know exactly how to fundraise through effective storytelling across their marketing platforms. A great example of this cross-platform storytelling is the Livestrong Foundation that tells its company story through the personal struggle of the individuals it supports; from diagnosis, to dealing with the disease, to Livestrong’s help and solutions. If we look at any page on their website (http://www.livestrong.org/Brian/) you will notice how they use video, printed guidebooks, social media, support links, and many other touch-points to tell a well-structured and compelling story about their events, fundraising efforts, clinical trials, and other individual and community aspects of the organization.
This same technique should be applied to your non profit organization. Whether it’s the story about opening a learning center, protecting a wildlife park, or organizing an event, the conversation that you have with people should have structure, meaning, and intent.
As a marketing plan-of-action, here’s a quick reference guide to composing your own story:
Indentify Your Story
As we see from the Livestrong Foundation website, the company story is split into many examples of how Livestrong has brought hope and positive results to people’s lives through the individuals it has helped and the measures it has taken. Think about this same story structure of cause and effect in every marketing piece you present – identifying each event, performance, opening, awareness drive, etc. as an opportunity to speak about the reasons for doing something and the things that you hope to achieve for your organization.
Every story needs a beginning, middle, and an end. If we take the example of an environmental organization that is replanting trees in urban areas, the story could be structured in the following way:
- There is a problem with lack of trees and clean air in inner-city environments
- Trees were planted by volunteers and organization members
- A week later the trees are starting to break the surface – representative of the organizations aims and solutions for creating a healthier planet
This story works on many levels, both literally and figuratively for telling a company story and to get people to care about your organization. If you can get people to care enough and recognize their part in the solution you’re proposing, you can succeed in getting them to part with much needed funds.
Evolving Your Story
In the example above, a tree planting initiative would have great staying-power as an on-going story in which you could track the results of trees growing in this environment and follow people’s positive reactions. It’s something that particularly lends itself to Facebook and other social media platforms in which you can give regular updates that not only continue the story, but gets people to actively follow the story. You should recognize every event as an opportunity to tell a story with lasting results and effect.
The evolution of your story and distribution of your story are important aspects of all your marketing materials. It’s important to watch and follow each and every one of these stories and celebrate them as successes (or even give reasons for their failure and use this as a vehicle for garnering more support). From the art gallery that represents and shares in the success of the artists it showcases to the charity organizations that can track, measure and update people on the relief they bring, a story needs to evolve and grow through your website and other mediums.
Communicating Your Story
A story is not a story if no one gets to read or hear it. Successful non-profit companies know how to translate their story across all mediums. If we take Best Friends Animal Society (http://www.bestfriends.org/) as an example, you will notice the extra effort they take to promote their story. Almost every action taken by the organization is published across their website, Facebook, Twitter, and other media sources. News and story is critical to the organization, and they use their website, video blog, news page, and email promotions to capture heartwarming stories of the animals that are housed and treated there.
Here are some great story ideas for all channels:
- Seasonal Stories
Use Mother’s Day, 4th of July, Earth Day and other holidays as a promotional vehicle, i.e., Mother’s Day at the Sanctuary – The Story of a Mother and Her Pups
- Event Stories
Cover all your events across all your channels, pre- and post-event. Tell the story from an attendee’s prospective, create previews, reviews, video blogs, and interviews. Be very clear on your fundraising intent and continually reference the reason behind the event, i.e., who it helps or what the fundraising will achieve.
- Teaser Stories
Create story articles that generate interest right off the bat. Surface a part of a story in an email or newsletter and create teaser posts for Facebook or Twitter. It’s a great way to point your audience at the exact online donation page or website location that you want them to go.
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