How nonprofits can integrate storytelling with social media

The problem facing many charitable foundations is generating a coherent narrative surrounding their missions. Successful fundraising campaigns are built upon donor trust and engagement, and developing a storyline that donors can follow, appreciate and adhere to requires careful planning. Whether a nonprofit organization accepts donations online or reaches out through more traditional channels, people will be more motivated to contribute if they are persuaded by a compelling mission and history.

One of the best ways to do this is through social media. While newsletters and emails can be effective to provide project updates and present information, social networks are more interactive. Donors can respond to posts, share content with family and friends and communicated directly with members of charity staff. However, it's important to use social networks as a channel to develop a coherent storyline.

Let donors know how it all started
For example, the research firm McKinsey & Company highlighted the case of the nonprofit charity:water. The organization developed after the founder Scott Harrison volunteered abroad as a photojournalist and saw firsthand inequalities that separate various countries. More importantly, Harrison witnessed how access to potable water can cause life-threatening conditions, which motivated him to start the charity. Instead of asking for presents on his 31st birthday, Harrison appealed to his friends and family for donations to get the nonprofit off the ground. From this first fundraising effort, charity:water has begun roughly 3,000 projects with the help of more than $20 million in contributions.

Develop a stronger connection
What helped establish the case for this charitable group? Empathy. While annual reports and statistics can be influential for government grants and major gifts from foundations, video testimonials and pictures can tell a more compassionate narrative. At the same time, posting this type of content on social networking sites generates greater awareness because it can be shared between colleagues and acquaintances alike. For instance, charity:water was able to develop a sense of urgency by clearly showing donors the need for help.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit news source npENGAGE also recommended inviting stakeholders and those most effected by a project's efforts to take part in a storytelling event. In doing so, organizations can develop a greater sense of authenticity. Instead of having the charity be the single mouthpiece for the mission and narrative, giving others a chance to make the case is an effective alternative. Hosting this as an online event is a good idea as well because participants can gain exposure to a larger audience.

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