Here’s 3 ways you can tell a better story today.
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Over the past few weeks, I created a couple videos in partnership with Pure Charity for their BRAND NEW resources section and it launched today!
Head on over and check out their platform and see the difference they’re making for non-profits around the globe.
Here’s a couple quick ways you can engage your audience and new audiences today.
Like Captain Picard says, “Engage!”
I love receiving emails like this one from Wendy Wareham.
Dan,Although we have never met, I have enjoyed your book and your audio sessions. Your messages help fundraisers to remember to keep working on crafting the stories.I’m sending this along to you because I feel like, even though I have 30 years of fundraising experience, I’ve been “taken to school” by a photographer with a purpose. I thought you might find this interesting as well. It’s the clearest case for support I think I’ve ever seen–and an excellent job of storytelling. And he’s never done fundraising in his life!
So why does this video work so well?
Cures this certain to work are a rarity in medicine, but we have one, we actually have one, and the only thing standing between Eliza and her miracle is money. The trial is lacking funding to remain on schedule, and every moment counts as Eliza approaches the tipping point when her disease will take an irreversible turn for the worst.
I’ve never understood certain tactics from agencies. They boast and brag about building a brand and continuing customer relationships but it feels like snake oil tactics. Why would you associate your brand with friendly extortion and a negative experience?
You can tell a better story than this but it takes a little bit of forethought and a decision to not go for cheap gags. Commit to great storytelling and solid branding, build a relationship and increase average donation size and the amount of people connecting to your non-profit.
If I were consulting with this group, here’s where I’d start. These ideas aren’t spending anymore money than they currently are and should have a great impact. Let’s check out a bit about their background.
To provide wish kids with hope through uplifting and rejuvenating experiences refocusing on the joy of life.
To provide lasting support and memories for wish families.
To treat families and associates with dignity and protect their privacy.
To inspire greater community participation in fulfilling Wishing Star’s mission.
To sum up, Wishing Star has been around for 31 years and they have action steps (or what they solve) in their mission statement. This is great news. Clear and concise with no frilly language to confuse us.
- 6 active chapters of Wishing Star in various cities in the Pacific Northwest.
- Website is a bit dated but they report back on the wishes they’ve granted.
- The only social media is a Facebook fan page – might be a good idea to branch out.
- They have a good stream of events so they can easily tease “what’s next” through the end of the year.
- Lots of great stories that people can get behind, similar to Batkid. I found this video with 17K+ views and it has a lift bit of production value. They could easily create something on par or better.
- Lots of room to connect emotions with their cause. Emotions = action.
- Not a hard sell.
What we know:
We have access to goats, perhaps even baby goats. Who doesn’t like a baby goat?!?! They’ll look amazing on camera. Next up, let’s try a few ideas. Just spitballing and some of these will be bad. Here’s a few I’ve come up with:
- Whatever we do, we have to make sure it’s scalable. The only way to do that is to create content that is catchy, funny and sharable. Filming this and taking stills to share through your different social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
- Can we do a set up at a school and bring the petting zoo to a school or several schools? Perhaps a private nursery school. Have kids interact, including those who have been designated as Wishing Star families. Film the interaction of families and communities collaborating
- Have the same set up at the local mall. Create a “scream like a goat contest”, film it, and give prizes for the winners.
- Can we conspire with some well known local celebs to play some practical jokes of ambushing them with goats and film it? Based on photos, they’re doing some of that already.
- Ditch the goats all together and come up with a better idea.
Making a video and if it’s good enough to share, you’re going to have to pay for it. But you might be able to convince the local news media to be your media sponsor. Let them put together the piece and then they’ll push it through their social media (plus it’s a great news story, they’ve already got the connections) and you can support it by sharing it on your channels. Of course you’re going to get a copy and put it on your YouTube page. Plus with a partnership like that shows your brand in a positive light, you’ll have all the benefits and none of the work.
Looking at their Facebook page, the goat thing is a big deal. Although it’s not really being seen by their tribe – A few dozen likes and 1 share, not the impact you want for a big push. (The tease for the goat promo received penetration – 195 likes and 110 shares.) I’d recommend spending a couple dollars to advertise on facebook or walk away from it completely and put more of a focus on Pinterest or Instagram.
This event/campaign could be an annual event that’s become a part of their DNA and something they’re known for. It strikes me as odd but I’m probably not their primary or secondary audience. Creating a great experience for them is far more important than making me feel comfortable. This is a reminder I often tell advisory boards – “If the idea/campaign is not created with your demographic in mind, it’s ok for you to hate it.”
What would you suggest they do? How can they tell the best story?
“Hi Dan, reading through Non-Profit Narrative (love it, very inspiring) what do you mean by Acquisition? Specifically as a takeaway on pg. 53. Would this be in the sense of an “ask” after the event? Maybe acquiring more people into our story to tell the story? Would love a little help understanding this. Thanks!” - Michael Barsamian
Michael shot me this question via facebook and I thought this question may occur to more than one reader. He’s been kind enough to let me use this post to answer him.
Backstory and context:
This is taken from Chapter 3 of my book, The Non-Profit Narrative. Chapter 3 is when we move from theory to practicality.
In the book, I talk about arcs for campaigns. Events can work much the same way – there’s a life cycle to them. The image above shows how that event can work best. Take note that the event isn’t at the end of the arc, it’s about 75-80% of the way through the arc.
Events are great but in large part they aren’t scalable. Classically speaking, your gala event or other large event happens as some sort of thank you or as a kick off from your largest donors to show momentum through the year. For a lot of organizations these were among the first things to cut in 2008-2009. But it’s been several years and they’re bouncing back.
In todays rough economy everything has to scale or have multiple payoff points. In the old economy the gala used to net big dollars, consume a ton of resources in time and dollars. If your event cost 10,000 and 100 attended, the net cost per person was $50 and that is never coming back. unless they gave over the $50 amount. And classically, that’s where it would stay. Now if that was a luncheon for donors that had given 10,000 or more in the last 12 months – that seems worth it. It’s a fine investment to make. However, it’s not scalable. The event happens, it impacts all the people in the room and then it’s over.
However, in the new digital economy for an 5-10% in resource we can use the same preparation to also impact our community and cultivate our current audiences.
So let’s take the same group. We want to have an event for donors that have given 10K and above in the last 12 months as a thank you. We set out to book the venue but now we also tease that we’re making preparations for a big thank you to our “Gold Circle Donors” (You mean you don’t have a name for your ultra donors? Change it fast!) Tease the event in in the prep by posting a photo to Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. the next day, do a quick 2-5 twitter/facebook posts about the qualifications to become part of the Gold Circle. This is also a great time to launch a blog post about those same qualifications. It’s a blog post so share all the info, share the lifecycle, share the page where your donors sign up to be part of that higher donor level. You’re now involving and informing your general audience on what it looks like to be a larger donor or a regular donor or whatever criteria you’d like to talk about.
With the details finalized, it’s time to begin the push for the event. If it’s a gala or on the level of fancy, I’m sure there’s a print element. Invitations are printed and sent in the mail. Take pics of the invites and share them through your social media channels. This may seem weird because it’s just mail… and maybe we’re getting too meta with taking pics of our invites… But please let me assure you, these pics and other activities help show momentum. Momentum is easy to get behind once the ball is already rolling. Todays audiences know that really well so show them what you’re up to, even if it feels silly.
A few days after the invites are out, start the tease via social media. If there’s a logo to share or if you can share the whole invitation, post it! Share about and thank sponsors as they sign on. Next up, email. Get your email targeted to the correct group and make it look like the invitation that you’ve sent out. But it can’t feel like a paper invite. It’s still digital, so be ready to receive RSVP’s and corporate sponsors from the email. Make sure you’re sending all the crucial information and have links to sponsorship, the ability to buy tickets. Eventbrite does some nice work for orgs and events.
Over the next few weeks pepper info about the event through all communication channels. It should be a P.S. (read: call to action) on your corporate email until the event. As awards, special guests or talent is confirmed share that through your social media channels. Remember that pictures speak louder than your update. Plus the same photo can be used on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest – just not at the same time. If you’ve got options then know that square pics are better for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram and longer, thinner pictures work best on Pinterest.
Then as the event arrives, and it’s awesome. Make sure someone is blasting photos of the event out through all your social media channels… pretty much constantly while the event is happening. You can’t overdo it – release the hounds!
As the event ends, thanks everyone for being part of a great night. Thank your volunteers and take their picture. By showing who currently is helping you out, you’re giving vision to those who are debating volunteering next time. In a perfect world, you’ve had someone taking photos but you’ve also had someone capturing the event on video. Great b-roll of the mix and mingle and the remarks of your organizations leadership on how the organization is doing. You may also want to grab footage of the award that you’re presenting or the celebrities in attendance.
Because your event so well, I’m sure you had a program of some kind. And because you’re really smart, you created a video to sum up all the work you’ve achieved together this last year or to share a specific story of someone you’ve helped through your incredible organization. if you did that – GREAT JOB! You’ve just helped equip your social media channels with plenty of info.
If there was a video, get that on your YouTube/Vimeo channel ASAP. Once it’s there, share it through your channels and give the context. Tell the story of how the video came to be. Why was this person chosen? What are some of the crazy facts that you’ve achieved together in service or loving a problem. Give the vision – this is telling your story!
Prep that email with the story behind the video. Then link to it and ask your audience to share it. Prep 2-4 possible messages that your email recipients could cut and paste in their social media channels. Make sure they’re all less than 140 characters with your YouTube link included. Make sure your video has links to your site either in the description or through annotations. THIS IS SCALABLE ACQUISITION. You’ve created tools for your audience to share with their network the cool things that they’re apart of. You’ve also empowered board members, staff and others to look cool by sharing a great story. All the data says peer to peer opinions matter far more than advertising, especially with millennials.
Any facts reported in the video can now be used to inform social media and allow you to yell from the roof tops about the work that you’re doing, THIS IS TYPICAL OR TRADITIONAL ACQUISITION. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn here, you’ve earned it. Your blog posts in the few weeks after the event should be sharing the photos and video that you have created from the event. Don’t forget to start teasing the next event or campaign so your audience knows what to be looking for.
This is how a campaign or event can be used to cultivate current donors and acquire new donors – plus all the work you did for a single event can now be shared with thousands.
A few caveats:
- You have to create great work in invitations, photos and video.
- If it’s embarrassing, slow or sappy, no one will share it.
- Map these steps out on a calendar and set up reminders of what you’re going to be sharing each day.
- These are instructions for a largely digital approach – acquisition though mailing lists is a afferent ballgame.
- Keep your event program short – Don’t be self indulgent, this is about your donors satisfaction.
Thank you Michael for your question!
Michael Barsamian is an Area Director for Young Life in the Chino/Chino Hills area. (www.chinovalley.younglife.org)
If this kind of teaching is helpful to you, have your team sign up for the Non-Profit Storytelling Training class. For just $495 you and your team can walk through storytelling principles of your organization and strengthen the story that your telling, engage with your current donors and connect with new ones.
What is it that we love so much in the hero, the heroine or the monster?
A well told story inspires. It hurdles the fences of our segmented thinking. A well told story knows no boundaries in setting, genre, characters or structure. The entire process dances and bends to the delight of the audience – showing triumph and tragedy in an orchestra of life change. Tension and suspense, driving us to the unknown.
And we want to know what happens next. Does he vanquish the villain? Does he get the girl?
Story is what drives people to town meetings and public squares. Story has the power to ignite revolution and drive change.
It’s the convergence of life with art.
Like what you see? Sign up for the entire class today, click here!
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Get a notebook
Carve out some time weekly to think about your story
10 Days ago we announced the first course in Non-Profit Story Training Series. This first class will be at a discounted rate of $247. (Regular price will be close to $500). Several organizations have signed up – from small to large in annual fundraising. All seeking to tell a great story, engage their audience and change the world.
In the Non-Profit Story System you’ll find:
- How the Narrative Story Framework applies to your non-profit.
- How to acquire and cultivate an audience while telling a compelling story.
- Strategy to determine Your Best Audiences
- The Top 3 Storytelling Principals
- The Step-by-Step guide to Audit and Assess Your Social Media Presence – Turn the Social “Me” to a Social “We”.
- How to Execute Your “Why” in Your Communications – The “Why” is the most important piece and will inspire your audience to action and support.
- Ideas to help your team know what needs to be adjusted to transform your current site into a cultivation and acquisition tool.
- How to Create a System to Measure Success (Key Performance Indicators)
- The guide to determine your primary and secondary audiences and define the Ideal Behavior for them – Defining what you need will help staff and audiences know what they’re being asked to do.
Here’s what you need to do to secure your discounted spot:
- Enter the coupon code PREORDER to get the discounted price (case sensitive)
Introductory pricing will end this week. Don’t miss out, enroll in the class today!
Christmas Holidays are great. Seeing family and rehashing old stories and catching up but sometimes it’s a lot. Make sure you make time to connect with family and loved ones this year but after the food coma kicks in and naps are prevalent and the puzzling ends – take a break and experience something new together.
I’ve been watching a lot from the PBS/BBC partnership of late. I don’t have anything against American TV or the producers but British television tends to leave out the hype. Instead theses shows are full of surprises because the conventions for these shows are different. Most of these shows will be found on Masterpiece Mystery! (Set your DVR’s) I’m also partial to my local KOCE-TV for all the awesomeness!
Here’s a few options for some great storytelling on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video
File Under: Unexpected Brilliance
Recommended If You Like: Elementary, my Dear Watson; The Usual Suspects; Firefly; Ripper Street.
If you haven’t watched this incredible take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters then this is a great time to start. I’ve written about it before here. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are excellent! Plus, the new season starts just after the first of the year!
File Under: Brooding becomes him
Recommended If You Like: Tough Guys, Complicated ladies.
Idris Elba’s title character is put through the wringer. A little bit of swagger and a serial killer character you won’t soon forget.
File Under: The Ex-Files
Recommended If You Like: Silence of the Lambs, Insomnia
A dark crime thriller that definitely for adults. Set in Belfast, the series stars Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson, a senior police officer investigating a string of murders. Not sure if this actually aired on TV in the states.
File Under: Robing room
Recommended If You Like: Atticus Finch, Boston Legal, LA Law
An interesting and captivating look at the world of the British legal system. It’s like Law & Order with wigs minus the “doink doink”.
File Under: Puzzlers
Recommended If You Like: Smart Ladies, Post War Intrigue, Tweed
A female dominated cast that shines brilliantly. Equal parts intrigue and code breaking. I’ve talked about this show before here. Notice the lack of floral prints on any of the ladies, it’s all geometric patterns.
File Under: Classic Branagh
Recommended If You Like: Swedish Meatballs and Architecture, Catch Me If You Can, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Kenneth Branagh is a Swedish detective, chasing bad guys and dealing with emotional issues. Plus a pre-Loki Tom Hiddleston.
File Under: Leathal Weapon goes to the U.K. minus the saxophone
Recommended If You Like: Downton Mysteries,
Buddy cop drama set in Oxford. Classic meets new, young meets old – it’s all in there. Great characters and good drama.
Additional Adventures to Take
A smattering from the rest of my viewing pleasure. Great characters, far away lands, imagination and whimsy!
File Under: Wally Pfisters and Tarsem Singh’s Love Child
Recommended If You Like: Thomas Harris, Thomas Harris and Thomas Harris
I can’t say enough about this show. The art direction, the cinematography plus a killer cast lead by Mads Mikkelsen
Recommended If You Like: The next big thing, Terminators gone good,
Sci-fi shows are a tough nut to crack but this show has been great for the first 6 episodes. Since the completion of Fringe, there really hasn’t been a great sic-fi show. I think Almost Human could fill those shoes. Sure it’s still finding it’s legs but the ride so far has been entertaining.
File Under: End of the mad world and I feel fine
Recommended If You Like: The footsteps of George Romero,
Don’t call it a zombie show! It’s a show about the best and worse of the human condition.
Top of The Lake
File Under: Peggy Post Mad Men
Recommended If You Like: New Zealand Sundance Channel, Holly Hunter’s accent, IFC
Top of the Lake is a slow burn and the first ever series to screen at Sundance. A mysterious pregnancy from a 12 yr old girl, shady characters and an outsider detective (Elizabeth Moss) bring this series to life. Created, written and directed by Jane Campion (The Piano, Portrait of a Lady).
House of Cards
File Under: Inconceivable
Recommended If You Like: Love/Hating Kevin Spacey, Dark and Stormy DC.
I consumed this whole season in a week when it first came out. This multi-Emmy award winning series has thrown the idea of TV on it’s head. David Fincher made DC look despair laden and powerful in a way that sucks the life from the West Wing.
File Under: Dramatic Family Time
Recommended If You Like: Hugs and crying
I really dig this show. It can be hokey, sappy, and simple but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.
Things to think about when watching:
- Define the hero and the villain.
- Is there a character caught in grey areas?
- What conventions are being used so that you’ll fill in the blanks and be drawn further in?
- What story dynamics are involved to keep you from jumping to conclusions about any character?
- How can these conventions and story tropes be used to help your marketing/branding/story creation process?