Over the last few weeks, I’ve posted articles about fundraising messaging and writing advice for fundraising appeals. My goal is that these articles is to provide you with fundraising advice that will help you year-round and especially as we careen towards year-end fundraising season, which is like the Olympics of annual fundraising IMO. In addition to the vast amounts of copywriting I do for clients, I also provide strategy work for campaigns. Specifically, what to do before and during the campaign to generate additional awareness.
One of the tactics I frequently use is storytelling to increase awareness of a campaign (surprise, surprise). In this article I’m going to break down the role stories play in marketing a year-end fundraising campaign, what kinds of stories to tell, and how to share those stories.
Using Stories to Increase Awareness of a Year-End Fundraising Campaign
When I think about building a year-end fundraising campaign strategy, one of my considerations is how I’m going to generate and increase awareness of the campaign. Some might call this marketing the campaign. This is different from fundraising asks in that I’m trying to get more eyes on the campaign and campaign content so that we pull more people in the campaign’s sphere of influence.
The campaign content has three goals:
- Pique interest in the messaging
- Get people familiar with the organization and campaign
- And (ideally) get people over the website and/or donate page
As you might imagine, this is very complementary to a multi-channel fundraising campaign in that it helps your organization be omnipresent. But a lot of times I see organizations use this kind of content to repeatedly ask for donations in a way that totally by-passes piquing interest in the messaging. Consider this your permission slip to not put a donation CTA in every single social post ?
What Kind of Stories Your Non-Profit Should Tell?
This is a question I get asked so often. Here are the criteria I use to tell stories that have the best odds of increasing the campaign’s awareness.
- The story that is on-message for the campaign
- The story communicates a problem
- The story communicates the impact of your organization’s solution
- The story touches on donor impact
It might be four criteria, but this doesn’t mean we need to write a dissertation of a story to capture all of this. Here’s an example from a recent campaign I worked on:
The concept for this came from a story interview question I had for this campaign. What was it like when you got that email or call saying your child’s funding has been approved? I knew this question would capture a particularly emotional moment for the parents that would make for content that piqued interest. To execute this, we asked a few parents to film a 60 second video on their phone or in Zoom to answer that question. We used the videos as is to keep them authentic and let the content really speak for itself.
How to Share Stories Before and During Your Campaign
The answer to what to do with your stories before and during your year-end fundraising campaign will come down to your organization’s time/resources and where your audience hangs out. In other words, if you don’t have a YouTube channel and no bandwidth to develop one (now is not the time to add this in). Focus on channels where you already get engagement and then test out different kinds of content on those channels. Use your editorial planning system to map out exactly how and when you’ll use these stories.
This could look like:
- Text of a story plus a picture
- Text plus a short video
- Carousel of images and graphics that tell a story
You can tell the whole story at once. You can tell parts and pieces of a story over the week or campaign. You can even retell stories with different messaging, images, etc. There are plenty of ways to get mileage out of a couple of stories that will help you increase awareness of your non-profit’s year-end fundraising campaign.