Storytelling in the NGO World: The Need for Diverse Donor Engagement
Nonprofits face increasing pressure to attract and retain a diverse portfolio of corporate, foundation, institutional, and individual donors. To succeed, they need to effectively communicate their impact and mission to each of these donor segments. In recent years, storytelling has become a powerful tool for NGOs to engage donors and build relationships with them. But with the rise of technology and social media, the way NGOs tell their stories and reach their audiences is constantly evolving.
The Power of Storytelling
Storytelling has proven to be an effective way for NGOs to connect with their audiences and illustrate their impact. By sharing personal stories and experiences, NGOs can demonstrate the impact of their programs, build credibility and trust, and convey their vision for the future.
Traditionally, storytelling has been used primarily to reach individual donors. However, organizations are now using storytelling with specific messaging tailored to each of their donor segments. For example, an organization may share an impact story using one beneficiary's story but also speak to the larger impact and results. This can help to illustrate the organization's achievements, impact, and long-term vision and can secure ongoing support from institutional donors.
Innovative Channels for Storytelling
With the rise of technology and social media, there are new channels and platforms for NGOs to reach a wider audience and impart their stories in creative and engaging ways. Here are three new channels that are currently being used by NGOs:
VOX: Reaching a Broader Audience
VOX is a well-known news and opinion website founded in 2014 that is renowned for its explanatory journalism style. It has the capability to reach a diverse range of demographics. Vox uses "card stacks" as a tool to present articles, which can serve as an added feature to breaking news or stand-alone stories. Card stacks are digital versions of index cards and provide a quick and convenient way for readers to grasp the information. Vox has found that topics such as climate change and current events perform best on cards for their audience. Many influential NGOs, including Oxfam, Jhpiego, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), use Vox to share personal stories, experiences, and the impact of their programs. This allows them to reach institutional, foundation, and individual donors.
AJ+: Awareness and Engagement for Youth-Focused Organizations
AJ+ is a versatile platform utilized by non-profits, advocacy groups, and news media organizations. This platform features easily adaptable reporting cards which convey the latest information, provide context through graphics or videos, and highlight the human element through short documentaries. The aim is to create a cohesive narrative by integrating these elements rather than treating them as separate entities. AJ+ also incorporates interactive elements such as 'conversation', 'debate', and 'quiz' cards where readers can participate in the story by providing their opinions. Debate cards have proven to be the most engaging, requiring readers to simply tap the screen and answer a 'yes or no' question. Organizations such as Amnesty International, Oxfam, Greenpeace, The Humane Society, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) use AJ+ to raise awareness about their causes and reach younger audiences. AJ+ is an ideal platform for organizations seeking to engage youth and bring attention to social justice and human rights issues.
FOLD: An Emerging Platform for Interactive Storytelling Experiences
FOLD is an emerging platform that provides an interactive video experience for users. It allows authors to embed cards with elements such as maps, animated GIFs, and songs from Soundcloud, making their stories playful and interactive. NGOs use FOLD to reach their target audiences and share their stories in a new and innovative way. For example, a global health NGO could use FOLD to create an interactive video tour of a health clinic in a developing country, demonstrating its impact and the challenges and opportunities in that area. As FOLD is still in its early stages, it has the potential to reach a wide audience in a unique way. However, it remains uncertain if this is a platform that institutional funders will frequent.
Bringing it all Together: Final Thoughts
In today's fast-paced world, NGOs need to be agile and innovative in their communications strategies to reach and engage a diverse range of donors. By leveraging the power of storytelling and utilizing new and innovative channels such as VOX, AJ+, and FOLD, NGOs can effectively communicate their impact and mission, build relationships with donors, and secure ongoing support for their programs.