Nonprofits are often created to fill a void, to fulfill a need that is not being met, and to help make society, the environment, and the world a better place. But even with the greatest of intentions, many nonprofits struggle to connect their efforts and successes to audiences that should be listening. And what’s the missing ingredient?
This goes beyond walking supporters through your basic operations or project data; it’s about sharing the WHY behind your work and the story of your mission, the people, places, and communities you serve, and your organization’s vision for the future. It’s about inspiring those who know you and those who don’t to take action; to support your work and help you achieve your goals for a better tomorrow.
Sound like a lot to achieve? It’s not nearly as difficult as it seems.
Start by Identifying Your Goals and Voice
Identifying your goals—what you’re hoping to achieve by telling your story—will help you build the framework for communicating this kind of messaging. For example, does your organization want to:
- Raise money
- Build community/support
Or is it something else? Maybe it’s all the above. Regardless, it’s important to consider the intention behind your content in order to make sure you’re effectively communicating what you need to say.
From there, it’s time to determine what you want your organization’s voice to be. For most industries, the “business formal” voice is a way of the past—and this absolutely includes nonprofits. At the end of the day, your supporters (and individuals who aren’t familiar with your organization) don’t want jargon and complexity —they want you to talk to them, have a conversation, be relatable.
Make it Emotionally Impactful and Entertaining
How do you make your audience want to read your content? How do you ensure they keep coming back? You make it evoke feeling.
Telling impactful stories requires language that makes the reader feel something. Use descriptions that trigger the senses—do your best to make the reader feel as though they are living the experience themselves. This is a compelling way to invite empathy and compassion. Try not to rely too heavily on the “doom and gloom” of challenging circumstances. (This means avoiding guilt trips!) While it’s perfectly valid for your organization to identify the problem you are trying to solve, focusing on successes, solutions, and opportunities will create a more positive and inspiring overall experience for the reader.
For example, instead of making the reader feel bad for not recycling, introduce them to innovative, fun new recycling techniques or programs in their area. Educate them on why it’s important to recycle and how to do it effectively and efficiently, regardless of their level of experience.
On a similar note, when people scroll through news and entertainment websites, social media, even email, there is an expectation (or, at the very least, desire) for entertainment; otherwise, the user will simply exit the page or app and move on to something else.
Luckily, there’s nothing to say that educational content, or nonprofit content in general, can’t be both insightful and compelling. And one great way to do this is through humor. Though by no means a requirement, humor can make a piece of content feel more accessible—even relatable—when used appropriately. Don’t hesitate to incorporate humor as well as a lighter, conversational tone.
Focus on WHO
Studies show that people respond to stories and social posts with faces—figuratively and literally. People want stories about people. For a nonprofit, these people might be the ones creating solutions or the people that benefit from them, or the hardworking team members who make up your organization.
At the end of the day, the reader needs to be able to see themselves in the story. When you share relatable stories about universal life experiences (or even life experiences people can live through vicariously), you create strong emotional connections with your audience.
Find Your Story
How do you identify the story you want to tell?
- Talk to people. Talk those doing program work and volunteers on-the-ground. Ask them about their experiences and the outcomes they deliver. These stories are great because they’re direct and authentic.
- Be an expert. Determine where your organization’s expertise lies and share that information with others.
- Make it unique. What’s different about your organization? Don’t forget to consider location. There may be many organizations focused on climate change, but how many are in YOUR neighborhood? How many take the same approach?
Tell Your Story
Fabulous, you have your story, it’s written up, job done! Well, not quite. Now you have to share it. And while posting it on your organization’s blog is one great way to spread the word, don’t limit yourself. With social media and the multitude of ways that content is shared today, there are a lot of great ways to take one piece of content and place it on several platforms that might have different audiences.
Before you hit “post,” consider the following:
- Include keywords. Keywords help make your content more searchable. If you’re writing about recycling, make sure “recycling” and long-tail keywords, such as “recycling in [your location]” are used in the title, header, and throughout the work.
- Make the title catchy but true. Titles should be obvious; they should tell readers what they can expect. And while adding humor and flair to titles is absolutely a suggestion, just be sure you don’t get carried away.
- Is it readable? A huge block of text is NOT considered accessible these days, so you’re going to want to make sure it’s broken up into bullet points or shorter paragraphs with clear headings whenever possible (scroll back up to browse an example in action). You will also want to consider including custom photography to help add some visual storytelling along the way.
And that’s it! Now you have a better set of tools to help you tell your story. Still have questions about nonprofit storytelling? Want to make an even greater impact and reach a wider audience? Check out more of our nonprofit tips by visiting EarthShare’s News & Stories page. Are you an environmental nonprofit? Reach out to our Nonprofit team at [email protected] to learn about joining our Network so EarthShare can help you achieve your goals.