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Why the Power of Stories is Essential for Nonprofits

3.3.16 By: Partner

Today’s post comes from Joshua Loomis at Cirrus Insight. Cirrus’ inbox/Salesforce integrations allow you to track your emails and email links in your CRM (in addition to setting tasks, scheduling meetings, and tons of other functions). Tracking emails and links  means you can test subject headlines to see what’s best for increasing open and click through rates. Combined with link tracking, you can see exactly which stories are having the biggest impact on your outreach.

You’re a nonprofit. Maybe you’re trying to save lives, lift people out of poverty, or help with education. No matter how you’re helping make the world a better place, you likely depend on statistics for gaining funding and proving how hard you’re working.

Numbers are essential for acquiring funds from foundations and wealthy donors, but what about gathering small donations and volunteer support?

Turns out people usually don’t look at humanitarian work in a purely rational manner. Big numbers can actually decrease the number of donations if they stand in the way of the emotional elements of what you do. At times, power of personal stories hold more power than a statisticians notebook.

Wait, People Don’t Respond to Bigger Numbers?

People tend to focus on how much of a problem they can solve, rather than the nitty gritty details of what they’re doing. It feels better to know you handled 25% of the problem rather than 0.25%. Human compassion also goes down as the numbers go up, perhaps out of a lack of imagination or a need to maintain one’s mental health.

So How Do Stories Help?

The benefit of stories is that they focus you on a single task you can help with. If you tell the story of a single person who is struggling, potential donors will be more willing to immerse themselves in the situation, become empathetic, and give.

Here’s an example. Which email subject line is more engaging to you?

  1. “The Zika virus could affect thousands of people”

  2. “Waiting for answers, Tatiana fears for her unborn child.”

For most people, it’s probably the second one; it really pulls the heartstrings! That’s an actual email subject line used by Operation Blessing to raise awareness about the Zika virus in impoverished communities.

Stories act as a human brain hack for creating empathy. We naturally listen, engage, and empathize with stories. Even short ones such as the single sentence above.

What Does this Mean for Marketing?

Using stories is essential for your marketing/outreach as a non-profit. Everything from your email subject lines, to presentations, to videos on your website will be better if they focus on individual stories.

Don’t tell people they’re contributing to save hundreds from a drought. They’ll feel overwhelmed and want to avoid thinking about it. Instead, tell them that a few hundred dollars will allow Abena and her family to have a clean well. Surely you can spare $5 to help reach the few hundred that’s needed to save Abena’s life? Of course, this isn’t only applicable with humanitarian work, and can be applied to any nonprofit sector.

On the more practical side, I’d recommend testing your stories, instead of simply taking my word for it. If you have a marketing automation solution like Pardot or HubSpot, you can easily run A/B tests on emails, but what if you’re a smaller organization without a marketing automation solution?

Start using stories in your emails and marketing materials, test the results, and watch your nonprofit become more successful.  Check out some other blog posts about and by Cirrus Insight, here, here, and here.  If you’re interested in implementing this solution, let’s chat.  


Tell your storY




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