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  • Writer's picturePriyanka Maheshwari

Storytelling for NGOs

In today’s data-driven world, an average person consumes various forms of advertisement and marketing data every day including banner ads, sponsored posts, billboards, print ads and TV ads. It is said that an average person sees 4,000 adverts on a daily basis. For any brand to break out of this clamour and have a memorable connection with their audience, the art of storytelling is essential.

A story brings the audience closer to the cause. Stories are a fundamental human experience that drives people to feel empathy. As a result, it creates deeper connections between the target market and the marketer, resulting in a higher recollection value of the message your brand is attempting to portray.

This marketing tool is as important to NGOs as to profit-making brands, maybe even more so. For a donor to be able to connect to the story of a beneficiary, he must be drawn into her life. The trigger of empathy is a powerful tool in fundraising.

Even though each NGO’s story varies, there are standard storytelling rules when it comes to marketing.

Rules of Storytelling:

RULE #1: Create a character

In order for a reader to follow a story, there must be a character to empathize with. This is who you hope for, fear for, and cheer for. Be sure to include memorable details to your character – does she have a pet? Who is their best friend? What is their favourite meal? The character must have a goal or desire, this sets up the basis for the next rule.

Rule #2: Conflict

Now that you have a well-rounded character that the audience has been drawn to, it is time to describe their struggle. This is when you talk about the cause and effect of the problem that your NGO is trying to solve. Talk about how this problem is affecting your character, describing any collateral effects that may come out of it. For instance, a natural disaster could lead to lack of healthcare, or disease could cause social disapproval.

Rule #3: Take action

This part of the story describes how, with the help of your organization, the character faces the challenges that were thrown at her. This is the time to illustrate how a potential donor plays the role of a hero, and the power they hold to help the protagonist overcome her challenges.

Rule #4: End with impact

Now that the story comes to a close, it is time to show the numbers and statistics of who your organization has helped, and the progress achieved so far. This is where the ‘ask’ comes in – the action that you would like the viewer to take. This is a good opportunity to talk about what the future actions taken by the organization will be.

Best Practices of NGO Storytelling

While you tell your NGO’s story, there are some best practices to keep in mind.

1) Remember to stay authentic:

With the amount of media consumed by the average person, people are increasingly aware of when they are being ‘sold’ to. Take the time to craft genuine stories in a language that your audience can relate to.

2) Balance the good and the bad:

It is easy to use the darkest stories to attract funders, but studies have shown that stories of hope have more impact than those of darkness. Be careful to balance every tale of woe with an element of hope.

3) Include a call to action:

Though mentioned earlier, we cannot stress the importance of including an actionable item for the listener of the story. Make sure this action item is relevant to the story at hand.

4) Use visuals:

Videos are 12 times more likely to be shared than text posts and links combined, and photos are twice as likely. Visuals bring the consumer of the story closer to the cause.

5) Clear messages:

When an NGO helps a group of diverse beneficiaries in many different ways, it is natural for the message to get lost in translation. Choose your message depending on your target audience, and craft your story around that. Be clear and concise while delivering this message.

6) Get the word out:

Now that you have your story, use it! Post it on social media, communicate it to your stakeholders, present it during meetings with donors, use it on your marketing materials and website. Pen down a story distribution plan by discussing possible points of contacts with your target audience, and the means in which the story can be communicated to them.

Now that your NGO has the tools to create its story, remember, a story is not handed to you, it must be found. Keep an eye out, talk to volunteers and beneficiaries and dig out the story that relates most with your cause and audience.

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