Do Your Nonprofit Marketing Pieces Tell a Story?

  • by Shala Graham
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A picture of the Real Water Film Festival website.

By now, you've probably already heard dozens of times that people make decisions (and especially donation and volunteer decisions) based on emotion rather than facts or rational ideas. And, as you might guess, few things stir up emotions like a good story.

That's the reason best-selling novels and movies touch us in a deep way, and that's also why storytelling is such an important skill for anyone involved in nonprofit marketing. When you tell a good story, you help people to understand, empathize, and react to your cause.

Of course, there are literally dozens of kinds of stories you might want to tell in your nonprofit marketing, so here are a few of the most prominent, common, and important:

Stories about personal impact.

This is a staple of nonprofit marketing, and one that's almost always effective. When you tell about how another person (or in some cases, an animal organization) has been touched by your cause or someone else's generosity, you make it possible for the reader or viewer to see how others like them have been able to make a difference.

Stories where the subject overcomes huge odds.

These stories are great for two reasons. First, they are inherently more interesting than tales with expected endings. And second, they can add a sense of hope to situations that seem overwhelming. If you can show how a subject overcame a big obstacle, you can change the way other people think about your cause.

Stories that paint a brighter future.

In the same way, no one wants to contribute to an effort if they feel like it's too late or their help won't make a difference. By showing the way to a brighter future – or even just showing how one segment or group will be better off – you inspire hope, which can lead to attention and action.

Stories that feature hypothetical possibilities.

While you'll want to be careful about scaring readers or viewers into action, letting them know what could happen if they don't respond can sometimes be an effective way to tell a story. Stories involving hypotheticals and eventualities can be powerful motivators.

What each of these types of stories has in common is that they give you a sense of something more than facts, figures, and statistics. They make your reader or donor feel something, which is the name of the game when it comes to turning them around to your cause and getting them to take action.

So, the next time you feel like one of your nonprofit marketing pieces doesn't have the impact that it should, ask yourself whether a more compelling story might be the missing ingredient.

Need expert help putting together a nonprofit website that helps your organization reach its goals? Call or email SW Creatives today so we can show you what we've been able to do for other groups just like yours.

See original eNewsletter.