How will you tell your stories more persuasively in our high-tech age?

Do you as an association (not-for-profit) professional worry about how we can use today’s high-tech age to promote your services? In a “Hubspot” article from August 20th, Mike Spear details how five successful non-profits or charities narrate their “impact” by leveraging a little technical prowess.

No one would dispute Spear’s observation that all non-profits need to tell compelling stories, because storytelling is “at the heart of every non-profit’s ability to engage donors and create movements.” And these stories need to be told well, since the further we move into the digital age, the higher donors’ expectations become, of seeing “return” on their charitable investments.

Now, more than ever before, non-profits must identify, express and “market the impact they make with their programs.” In case if you didn’t have time to read Spear’s report itself, he catalogs five North American non-profits who embrace this challenge successfully, by telling their organization’s story through content- rich media: Acumen, Invisible Children, charity:water, Share our Strength, and Splash.

“Acumen” invests in “companies, leaders and ideas that are changing the way the world addresses poverty.” Acumen’s writers describe its stories so inspirationally that supporters quickly share its stories over Facebook and Twitter. The “share” buttons appear, just as they read Acumen’s website. This use of sharing technology enables the charity to spread awareness of its impact.

“Invisible Children” tells the plight of impoverished children in Africa, through sharing online content (including “flash alerts” delivered by crisis-trackers) over media, mobilization, recovery and protection of its beneficiaries. It also hosts inspirational events, where fundraising is explicitly connected to grass-roots developments, such as defections by LRA soldiers, which enable healthy community to be built.

“charity:water” is masterful in making fundraising personal, encouraging supporters to donate on their birthdays and other milestone dates, to provide clean water to those who lack it. Through short online videos and blogs, the charity shows the building of wells. It also profiles staff and partners whose fundraising creates strong communities.

“Share our Strength” uses a “No Kid Hungry” microsite to share the lives behind their programs, through the stories of the people they serve. Videos, photos and enhanced website design encourage observers to take action.

“Splash” is a clean water non-profit that posts reports of its success online for donors to follow. Each story reflects the development of a specific (impoverished) region, where the work of the local population (and not only staff) is promoted. “Splash” also uses a microsite to display detailed data, such as maps, photos, and statistics, to encourage supporters “to become informed evangelists for the cause.”

Spear smartly profiles these five non-profits, since they openly promote their impact and are transparent about their operations. These organizations succeed by connecting the actions of individual donors with real-world outcomes. They build community between staff, donors and beneficiaries. They insist that each person is crucial to the success of the operation. And most importantly, Spear says, they leverage “creative inbound marketing techniques and contextual content,” such as photos, videos, blogs, email and social media, to empower supporters to give more and to get personally involved. These non-profit organizations demonstrate that they can build and maintain community by self-reflexive marketing that expands the number and commitment of its supporters.

And while these methods are not costly to adapt, creating this kind of close engagement is a challenge that service providers like me face daily. I may not be writing to benefit starving children in third-world climates, but my clients’ services are fundamental to the lives (and quality of life) of many. Optimizing response-potential through creative online video, and seeking deeper engagement with prospects over social media (notably Linkedin), are two strategies I’m investigating. But it takes time and resources to adapt, to be sure.

What persuasive stories can your association share and how can it share them in fresh ways?  These are questions that service providers (like copywriters) need to answer with your association, collaboratively. That is where the work really begins.


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