How to tell your nonprofit's story

Written by
Sam HartonWhite arrow icon

How to tell your nonprofit's story

As a nonprofit, your donors are your heroes, and it’s your job to be the mentor that guides them through their journey towards giving better. In order to do that, you need to tell them an engaging story for which they want to be the protagonist. So when you’re setting up your campaign, don’t shy away from that description box. It’s your opportunity to really show potential donors why your cause is important, and why they should be a part of it.

When writing your story, you shouldn’t just be asking your audience to donate; you should be inspiring them to. Every part of your website, campaign, blog, and marketing efforts should fit into your unique and cohesive story. At Givebutter, we know that you probably already have a great story to tell. That’s why you’re in the nonprofit business in the first place. The question is, how do you tell it?

Create Tension

Your story shouldn’t just be an explanation on what your nonprofit does. It should be an exploration of who you are, where you’re going, and how you’re planning on getting there. At some point, the founders of your organization felt inspired to build a nonprofit that is devoted to a specific cause. Make your readers feel that inspiration and compassion in every word of your marketing efforts. “Most people confuse stories with situations. They’ll tell about a situation: X happened, Y happened, Z happened,” explained Stanford marketing professor Jennifer Aaker to StayClassy. “But a good story takes Y, the middle part of the story, and creates tension or conflict where the reader or the audience is drawn into the story, what’s going to happen next.”

You may not be writing a novel, but you could take a few lessons from fiction writers. Think of your nonprofit and your donors as active characters that are overcoming obstacles and making a big change in some larger plot. When reading your story, audiences should be rooting for you and want to be a part of that change you’re making.

Include Your Audience

In the end, your audience needs feel like they are an integral a part of the story. Make sure you’re asking who you’re telling your story to and how you can engage those people in the best way. Andy Goodman, a noted writer, producer, orator, and consultant on public interest communications, writes that even though a good story can connect with people of any culture at any age, connecting with your specific audience is important in elevating your story: “Think of the story itself as gold. You mine the gold, capture the story. Then you bring it back to your office and you need to pound that gold into different shapes and sizes depending on whom you’re talking to, or also where you’re telling it.”

As the nonprofit, you’re the ones who do the heavy lifting. But there would be nothing to lift without the people that support you. Make sure that you don’t just tell your story, but show your audience how it couldn’t be written without them.

Get Visual

We know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the fact is, people do. Make sure you’re putting in extra effort towards how your website and other marketing materials look so that your story can really shine. Clunky, outdated looks automatically deter new visitors and raise suspicion on the legitimacy of your organization, so go for a sleek, fresh look that highlights bright colors, high-res images, and, of course, your well-crafted story.

Xoombi reports that visual information is about 40 times more likely to be shared on social media. If you want people to listen to your story, you have to get them to your website, and visual engagement is a great way to do that. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been building your nonprofit for a long time, you’ve probably realized how important social media is to crafting your story. For more tips on how to make your social pages as engaging as your core story, take a look at this article.

Written By

Written by
Sam Harton