Telling your non-profit story is an essential piece of your fundraising strategy. Your non-profit’s story must be clear and compelling. It should translate online, in printed materials, on social media or in person. Above all, you want to generate empathy and motivate donors to give to your organization.
The number one purpose is to move people to support your cause. Telling your non-profit story is your first chance to introduce your charity and the difference it makes.
According to DonorBox, stories are beneficial because they:
- Create context
- Motivate people to act
- Create a connection
7 Must-Have Elements When Telling Your Non-Profit Story
Before writing the story that will support your fundraising strategy, you’ll need to gather some info. You may want to interview key people in the organization, for instance, or dig into some past charity statistics.
Pull together details about:
- What does your charity do?
- What’s your organization’s end goal?
- What makes your approach different than others?
- Mission & Vision
- What is your organization’s ultimate vision? Your vision will typically be an inspirational statement that paints a picture of your ideal future.
- Your mission statement, on the other hand, is about what you’re focused on achieving.
- Talk about who or what your charity helps.
- Remember that beneficiaries can be people, animals, the environment or ideals.
- The more you can personify your beneficiaries, the easier it will be for people to connect with your cause.
- Who are your charity’s founders?
- What motivated your founder(s) to act?
- How has your charity has progressed or evolved over time?
- Look at the other members of your leadership team and explore their backgrounds and motivations.
- Do they have personal stories that have shaped the organization?
- Don’t underestimate the importance of quantifying your impact.
- What statistics can you share around the number of people or beneficiaries your organization has helped?
- What other numbers can you share to demonstrate your success at making a difference? Consider talking about total funds raised, supplies provided, people served, etc.
Keys to Telling Your NPO Story
Next, it’s time to package your story for different marketing channels. Your fundraising strategy will likely leverage multiple digital and offline tactics, so the story must translate across your website, social media, at events, and in person.
1. Outline your champion.
- Who is the champion of your story? (HINT: this is the beneficiary your charity seeks to help.)
- Where does the story begin and end? Consider the current state of things and the change you hope to create.
- What journey does your champion take? Explain how your charity makes a difference for this person or cause.
2. Structure it like a real story.
Sometimes the hardest part of writing is simply getting the order right, according to Network For Good. When you feel passionate about a project, or you’ve been immersed in the cause for years, it can difficult to objectively communicate with your audience.
Consider the following structure points every writer follows:
- Introduce your character or cause and establish the goals (i.e., caring for their family, removing trash from the oceans).
- Explain the current situation that exists.
- Explain the point of conflict in the story (i.e. the cause your charity seeks to impact).
- Create tension through “rising action” by explaining past attempts to fix this and why they’ve failed.
- Introduce the climax or turning point in your story. This is typically where your organization steps in to make a difference.
- Explain the resolution and what the world looks like when you’ve made a difference.
3. Bring your story to life.
Now consider the best ways to present your story to your audience. For example, it will live on the ‘About’ page of your website. Additionally you can bring it to life through:
- Compelling copy: Create alternative, shorter versions of the story. These will be used on social media pages, in direct mail pieces, etc. Consider writing a 1-, 2- and 3-sentence version of your story so you have options to work with.
- Photography: Words can only go so far in bringing your cause to life. Imagery is a vital tool in connecting with people. Classy, a non-profit fundraising software, recommends using visual content to attract and engage supporters. Here are a few best practices they share:
- Use high-resolution photos. Photos can easily be scaled down but not up in size.
- Avoid using tiny photos, especially on your website. Large images make a larger impact.
- Use the “rule of thirds” when cropping. This means you want to place the focal point of your image off-center.
- Leave space around your subject. Show context by including some of the surroundings.
- Video: Video is a powerful way to reach new audiences. Videos can live on your website, get added to your YouTube channel, and be shared on your social media pages. Some social media platforms favor posts that contain video links, so your posts will reach a wider audience.
- Infographics: These are a great way to convey a lot of information. They combine graphics, text and statistics. They can be used on your website, on social media and in printed materials. Infographics are also one of the most shared types of content, so they can go a long way towards expanding your reach.
- Case studies: Real-life examples are potentially the most impactful part of your non-profit’s story. By putting a face to your cause and sharing your impact, you’ll have a much better chance of acquiring donors.
Inspirational Stories from Top Non-Profit Organizations
Take a look at these non-profit stories that inspired us.
ASPCA: The ASPCA does a great job of establishing their beliefs and mission. They use photography of suffering animals to create an emotional response in the viewer. And they clearly outline their response and success with visual call-outs.
The Nature Conservancy: The Nature Conservancy relies on breathtaking images of natural habitats. These photos draw the reader in so TNC can deliver their statement in a simple format. Similar to the ASPCA, they prominently display numbers that show their impact and motivate people to get involved.
ChildFund International: ChildFund International presents its champion and conflict clearly in a few sentences, saying:
“Worldwide, 570 million children live in extreme poverty, vulnerable to many factors that threaten their well-being. Children need protection, support and care at each stage of childhood to stay safe, healthy, learning and on track to achieve their potential. ChildFund works with local partner organizations, governments, corporations and individuals to help create the safe environments children need to thrive.”
They share clearly the people they’re supporting, the reasons their cause is important and exactly how they’re making a difference.
What non-profit organizations do you think are doing the best job creating an emotional connection with donors? Share your favorite NPO story in the comments below.