To engage donors and inspire them to get involved in your nonprofit—whether by fundraising, word-of-mouth advertising, or volunteering—they need to become invested in your story. What makes your nonprofit tick? What are its goals? Who does it help? And why?
A 2014 Nielsen report showed that earned media is considered 88% more trustworthy than owned media. While this statistic represents data from retail consumers, there is every reason to believe that the same principle would apply equally to donors.
So how do you generate earned media?
Simple. You tell stories.
By telling your nonprofit organization’s story, you have the chance to earn unpaid exposure from third party sources. (Not to mention the potential to inspire a longtime admirer of your nonprofit to finally take the plunge and make a donation.)
According to Christopher Booker, author of The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, there are seven types of story archetypes your nonprofit can use to its advantage.
- Overcoming the monster
- Voyage & return
- The quest
- Rags to riches
While all of these story archetypes can provide the ability to exhibit your nonprofit’s value to donors and constituents, you may find that some are more effective than others.
For instance, the “tragedy” archetype should be used sparingly. While effective, particularly for nonprofits, it runs the risk of desensitizing the potential donor. Anyone who has seen that sad pet rescue commercial knows what I’m talking about.
The first few times you see the commercial, tears spring to your eyes and you’re reaching for your checkbook before you even know what’s happening. But after about a dozen or so viewings of the same commercial, you find yourself changing the channel in order to avoid experiencing those feelings of guilt and sadness that once prompted you to open your wallet.
One of the best archetypes to use, however, is the “rags to riches” story model. This demonstrates your nonprofit’s ability to take a bad situation (“rags”) and turn it into a success (“riches”). For instance, if your nonprofit recently had a great Thanksgiving food drive, put the narrative into story form by describing how many more people were helped due to the food drive’s success.
You can measure this in families, individuals, cities, whatever metric works best for your nonprofit. You can even add names and photos to your story to make it even more relatable.
The value of storytelling to your donors is directly related to the impact of their donations. So gather up your characters, weave your tales, and show donors why your mission matters!
[Adapted from: STORYTELLING: What’s your ANGLE? by the Content Marketing Institute]