Tue, May 06 2014

6 Types of Stories that Spur Giving

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials •

[Editor’s note: We’re very excited to announce that Nancy Schwartz will be a regular columnist for Network for Good’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog. Twice each month, Nancy will share her expert tips and insight on communications, marketing, and sector trends. Enjoy!]

As a fundraiser, you aim to change how people perceive your organization’s work and cause, then motivate them to give. Connection is the lubricant for this conversion, but the deadly dull way so many organizations discuss their work frequently gets in the way. Yawn!

Relevant messages wrapped in memorable stories (that strike the heart, then the head) are your way to compelling content and the conversions you seek.

But wait, there’s a problem—so frequently my mention of storytelling to nonprofit colleagues gets an eye roll. There’s so much generic, vague advice out there about storytelling, storytelling, storytelling, and so little concrete guidance and/or specific success stories, especially among nonprofits. You know what I mean.

So here’s a practical antidote to all that—six stories your organization already has to tell. Your first step is identifying the stories you have to tell in each category:

1. Your Founding Story

This is how your organization was created:

  • Get into the details, as if your founder is telling you “the why” at a party or on a car ride. If that info isn’t available, ask relatives, long-time employees and colleagues.
  • Drill down into the personal side of that act—did she have a friend with cancer, come from a country that was long in civil war or…?

2. Your Focus Story

If your founding story tells how your organization came into existence, your focus story should explain why you exist. What is the core challenge you tackle?

  • Connect the dots between your organization’s work and impact and your ultimate beneficiaries, even if there are layers in between.
  • Get detailed and personal, as if you’re telling his or her story to someone who knows nothing about it. These details help make your story memorable and more likely to be repeated to others.
  • Include visuals—they really can be worth 1,000 words!

3. Your Impact Stories

These most-told nonprofit stories feature the before and after—and illustrate the impact of your organization and supporters. They are unequaled in showing the value of your organization’s work in moving your issue or cause forward and matching the personal goals of prospects and supporters.

  • Focus on the difference your organization’s work makes in the life of someone (keep it to a single person or a family in each story if you can).
  • Outline the before and the after in an emotional way.
  • Testimonials, with a face and name if possible, have impact here.

4. Your People Stories

These are your donor, staff, volunteer, client/participant profiles. Craft these stories to make it easy for your prospective donors, partners and more to stand in the shoes of your current supporters.

  • You already have these stories on hand. And if you don’t have the details and permissions that will make them even stronger, go back and get those elements for recent stories and collect proactively going forward.
  • Don’t feature stories that are too unusual—there has to be a point of connection or others won’t be able to see themselves in that story (your goal).
  • Fill your people stories with specifics—they spent the holidays living in their car. Details allow the reader or listener to feel your story, not just process it.

5. Your Strength Stories

Strength stories showcase how your organization’s particular focus or approach adds value to the community you serve and/or and moves your issue or cause forward in a way unmatched by other organizations (a.k.a. differentiation). Your strength story is a powerful influencer in your prospects’ decision to join forces with (or to continue supporting) your organization.

  • Focus in on one or two strengths at most.
  • Don’t be afraid to brag a bit—just be prepared to back up your claims with results.
  • Endorsements from credible spokespeople or authority figures can help illustrate how your organization is unique and valued in your community.

6. Your Future Stories

Think about the change you want to make in the world or what your work will do. Future story power comes in bringing to life—in a tangible, visible, visual and personal way—what is most frequently left as a vague, abstract and overly-wordy concept.

Future stories have perhaps the greatest potential of all story types to hook your people at a gut level and motivate them to take the actions you need because you’re putting your dreams out there, making it easy for them to link their dreams to yours!

  • Go beyond your mission and vision statements and dig into specific, observable outcomes, described in simple terms.
  • Think of your future story as a “destination postcard” and underscore how your donors are an important part of your journey.

Those are the six story types YOUR organization has to tell. They have the potential to motivate people to give, volunteer, sign petitions, and participate in programs.

Begin by taking an inventory of the stories you have to tell in each category. Then build each one out using the guidelines above. Dive into shaping yours now! Got a great example of a story your organization uses to inspire supporters? Share it in the comments below.

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build the strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org.

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Mon, May 05 2014

Do you have a plan for me?

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials •

As fundraisers, we often want to know why and how our supporters plan to donate in any given year. As donors, we usually want to know the same thing from the organizations we support.

If I give to your organization, what can I expect? Do you have a plan for me if I am a new supporter? A lapsed donor? A major donor? A peer-to-peer giver? A recurring donor? If you don’t have a plan for me, how do you expect to develop a relationship with me as a donor?

We often talk about segmenting lists and personalizing communications, but when it comes to your various donor and supporter types, do you have a holistic plan for identifying, nurturing, and retaining each unique tier of support? While you may have the best intentions, without a clearly articulated plan, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to successfully execute tactics that will help you create a well-rounded, long-term fundraising approach for each type of donor (or potential donor).

For best results, your comprehensive fundraising strategy should include:

  • a list of key segments for your organization
  • how your organization defines each segment
  • the historical and projected fundraising results from each group
  • the specific tactics and messages that will help you build relationships with each type of donor

You should also understand how each segment interacts with the rest of your donor pool and which triggers move someone from one tier to the next (in either direction). If you don’t have this data, start by talking with your most loyal donors to find out what has them giving year after year.

Need some help thinking about this?

Download the archived presentation of our free webinar with Sea Change Strategies’ fundraising experts Alia McKee and Mark Rovner.  Listen to the recording f to learn from these two fundraising gurus, get an inside look at The Missing Middle report, and get your mid-level donor questions answered.

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Wed, April 30 2014

Nonprofit Spotlight: April

Annika Pettitt's avatar

Senior Communications & Success Specialist, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fun stuff •

Our Nonprofit of the Week spotlight helps us recognize some of the shining stars of the Network for Good community. During the month of April we celebrated organizations working to honor WWII veterans, theatres bringing great art to their communities, a health clinic in rural Nicaragua, and a coalition of women innovating in central Ohio.

Check out the great things these organizations are doing to better their communities:

Honor Flight Capital Region provides DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia World War II veterans with trips to view their memorial and experience a special day of honor and remembrance. By bringing together hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers to greet veterans, Honor Flight Capital Region ensures that those that served and sacrificed during WWII get the thanks they deserve at the memorials built in their honor.

The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio empowers the women and girls of Central Ohio to give of their time and money to celebrate, elevate, and educate women in their community and beyond. By making grants to local organizations, the Women’s Fund supports programs that drive at the root cause of issues to create long-term solutions.

Long Wharf Theatre brings world-renowned theatre experiences to the New Haven area. With unique productions, they aim to start conversations and advance the art of live theatre. Their current production, The Shadow of the Hummingbird, has received high praise and national attention but is only one of 6 distinct productions they’re staging this season.

Clinica Verde has created a beautiful, sustainable, and most importantly, effective health center in Boaco, Nicaragua. By focusing on the community’s needs and a holistic approach to individual care, CV is creating a prototype for community and health centers across an impoverished nation.

Forum Theatre aims to bring adventurous plays that inspire and challenge their audience while still being “accessible, affordable and entertaining.” By being actively engaged in developing the skills of local artists, Forum Theatre truly enriches the greater Washington, DC area’s artistic community.

Join us in thanking these amazing causes and keep up with the latest Nonprofit of the Week by following us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Tue, April 29 2014

What’s in a name? Change your terms to change perception

Melissa Raimondi's avatar

Content Producer, Network for Good

Filed under:   Branding • Marketing essentials •

During an NPR pledge drive in February, a Philadelphia-area radio host (apologies that I haven’t been able to find him) mentioned an online debate over the origin of the term crowdfunding. According to Social Media Week and Fundable, modern-day crowdfunding began around 1997 when a British rock band raised funds online for a tour. (Wikipedia takes us back to 1884!) But our local radio host had a different opinion, saying that thanks to pledge drives, NPR had been crowdfunding long before that.

When I picture a pledge drive, I see people manning the phones. But when I picture crowdfunding, I see the Internet and cool causes.

So what’s going on here?

The answer is simple: Sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and CrowdRise have rebranded “pledge drives” to be more fun and cutting edge, and with that came a new name. The truth is, simply changing a name is a great way to develop a new brand identity and connect more successfully with a target audience. Have you heard of Quantum Computer Services or BackRub? That’s AOL and Google, respectively. (Can you imagine “BackRubbing” last night’s final Jeopardy question?)

Is the name of your nonprofit hard to pronounce? Do you have trouble getting it all out in one breath? Does it only mean something to the people within your organization? If the answer is yes, consider how you can tweak it to fit the work, personality, and impact of your nonprofit.

Don’t like the terms? Change them!

Perhaps changing your name is going too far. Maybe you love your name and have a great reputation, but you can’t get anyone to come to the “Saturday Morning Cleanup.” Try repackaging events to focus on the fun aspect, such as the “Reservoir Preservation Walk” on Saturday mornings, when volunteers relax with each other and beautify the local reservoir.

Think about the terms you use to identify your nonprofit and your programs. Making some smart updates can significantly improve your marketing efforts and refresh your branding.

Have you implemented a name change to breathe new life into an initiative or make a program feel more inviting? Share your experiences in the comments below!


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Mon, April 28 2014

How to create the ultimate donation page

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Are you thinking about your year-end fundraising plans yet?

Based on our recent Digital Giving Index data and trends from the last few years, Network for Good expects to again see at least 30% of annual online donation volume come through in December alone. Online giving is a generous procrastinator’s saving grace, but how much you raise online will depend on the donation experience you offer.

Just like it does with any other tool, the success of your donation page (and in turn, your online fundraising strategy) depends on how you well you use it. The good news is that you can use the next several months to cultivate your donors and make sure your online fundraising game is on point. By taking the time to tweak and test your online experience now, you’ll reap the rewards at the end of the year.

Here at Network for Good we launched a new free online course to help you assess and improve your online donation experience. The Ultimate Donation Page Course is a series of 10 lessons focused on online fundraising best practices and must-do tasks to optimize your donation page to inspire giving, reduce form abandonment, and increase your average gift size. The lessons include real-world examples, additional resources, and the key things you need to think about to be ready for fundraising this fall—and all year round. Bonus: these principles are easily adaptable to any other landing page that’s part of your nonprofit’s marketing outreach.

The lessons help you think through things like:

  • Which options are worth adding to your page and which you should ditch
  • How to pick the right image for your donation page
  • What to test and track with your online fundraising efforts

You can register for the course for free. You’ll receive new lessons via email every few days, and you can review them at your convenience. I urge you to check it out, then let me know what you think.

Ultimate Donation Page Course



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