When you create marketing content to reach out to donors or introduce your nonprofit to a wider audience, how do you describe your organization? Do you stick to the basics, repeating your mission statement and the same fundraising appeal every time? Are you getting the results you want?
If you’re not reaching your marketing goals with your current strategy, start utilizing nonprofit storytelling. Nonprofit storytelling is the practice of using real, compelling examples of your nonprofit’s work and impact in your communications with supporters. Effective storytelling inspires donors and forges a genuine connection between them and your organization, leading to stronger, lasting relationships.
Let’s dive deeper into the three main ways this strategy can directly result in more donations for your nonprofit:
- Storytelling increases donor acquisition.
- Storytelling keeps existing donors engaged.
- Storytelling makes supporters feel more connected to your nonprofit.
1. Storytelling increases donor acquisition.
The most direct way that impactful stories can benefit your nonprofit is by bringing in new donors. In fact, Meyer Partners’ guide to attracting new donors lists creating content with rich storytelling as one of the top strategies for donor acquisition. Imbue the following with respectful, authentic stories to secure prospective donors:
Center storytelling in all of your mailings, email series, and social media posts to appeal to new supporters’ emotions and convince them your nonprofit is worth supporting. To craft stories for your outreach, start by plotting out the standard elements of a narrative:
- Central characters: These are the people whose stories you tell. Your central characters could include beneficiaries, donors, volunteers, or any other constituents who play a role in your organization. Vary your characters for different communications and marketing campaigns so your audience gets a broad sense of your organization.
- Setting: Where does your nonprofit create impact? Set your stories in the areas and communities you serve, naming specific locations when possible. This will help new supporters visualize the need for your organization’s work.
- Theme: Each story should center around a theme or core value that relates to your nonprofit’s mission, such as compassion, progress, or equity. Give concrete examples of how your nonprofit prioritizes that theme in your work.
Don’t forget to end each message with a clear call to action. When you tell the story of how your nonprofit helped a beneficiary in a direct mail appeal, for example, conclude with a call to action that invites the reader to continue the story by becoming a donor.
Your organization’s homepage is likely the first place people go to learn about who you are and what you do. Therefore, it’s crucial that your website makes a positive first impression on potential donors. Follow these steps to ensure that your website uses the power of storytelling to attract new donors:
- Choose central characters to highlight throughout your website who exemplify your nonprofit’s impact, such as your beneficiaries.
- Align content on your homepage, about page, and donation page that effectively communicates their stories and draws new donors in.
- Pair compelling images with short written content that describes the specific ways your nonprofit affects your beneficiaries. Use names, numbers, and tangible results.
For example, to optimize your homepage using storytelling techniques, you might place the text “We provide 300 meals to low-income Seattle locals like Jerry every month” over a large image of volunteers handing a meal to a grateful man.
2. Storytelling keeps existing donors engaged.
Don’t reserve your stories for new donors alone. When storytelling is a part of your donor stewardship strategy, you can turn supporters into loyal ambassadors who advocate for your organization’s success. Use stories to encourage your existing donors to get more involved with:
Events and volunteer opportunities
Promote your fundraising events more effectively and recruit more volunteers by incorporating the same storytelling strategies into your marketing efforts to existing donors.
At fundraising and volunteer events, you can also take the opportunity to collect personal stories from your donors themselves. Record interviews, ask for feedback, and connect with them based on their passion for your mission. Interviewing active supporters will make them feel valued and empowered, and these stories can serve as future marketing collateral for your organization.
Increased and recurring donations
By combining storytelling with other donor stewardship strategies, such as creating a supporter pyramid to visualize giving levels, you can inspire donors to increase both their involvement and their donations.
Apply these storytelling tips to your donation appeals to inspire your supporters to give again and give in greater amounts:
- Focus on impact. Include real stories of the progress your organization has made thanks to their previous donations, highlighting concrete numbers of people helped or services provided to showcase their donations’ impact. Use donor segmentation to send tailored appeals based on each donors’ contribution level for added personalization.
- Use donor-affirming language. Emphasize the major part each individual donor plays in progressing your organization’s mission. When providing examples, use “you” often and make your donor the driving force of the story.
Once you’ve expressed your donors’ impact, promote additional giving opportunities. Specifically, Double the Donation suggests marketing matching gifts and recurring giving programs to existing donors. End your appeals with calls to action that emphasize the greater impact they can make by participating in these programs.
3. Storytelling makes supporters feel more connected to your nonprofit.
The bottom line is that positive, authentic nonprofit stories increase feelings of connection in your donors. Making your supporters feel connected inspires continued action, dedication to your organization’s mission, and long lasting support. Remember these tips to create strong relationships through outreach:
- Tell beneficiaries’ stories often to remind supporters why they give.
- Keep supporters up to date on the specific results of current and past fundraising campaigns.
- Focus on stories that evoke positive emotions rather than negative ones to motivate donors to act.
By using these strategies to genuinely connect with supporters, your stories will lead to committed new donors, increased donations, and a better overall relationship with your community.
When using these strategies, remember to tailor each of your stories for your audience. If you want additional help crafting your nonprofit’s story, consider partnering with a nonprofit marketing consultant to learn how you can improve your storytelling and increase your marketing’s return on investment.
About the Author
Bonnie brings to her role at Meyer Partners more than 30 years of fundraising experience, with a special emphasis in multimedia approaches to new donor acquisition and development. Her expertise encompasses several facets of direct response fundraising, including copy writing and creative direction, market research, strategic planning, and comprehensive results analysis.