Get Noticed in an Instant with a Visual Story

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We’re bombarded with information by the bucket loads these days. It’s easy for your messages to get lost in the endless sea of stuff.

One great way to connect is by sharing visual stories. Some people respond better to visual stimuli, anyway. Here are a few ways to tell visual stories.

Tell a story in an instant with a photo

Your donors are busy and may not have time read a story, but you can capture their attention in an instant with a great photo. That doesn’t mean a photo of your executive director receiving an award. Use photos of your programs in action.

Print newsletters and annual reports tend to be too long and text-centric. Most of your donors won’t have time read the whole thing. But if you share some engaging photos, your donors can get a quick glance of the impact of their gift without having to slog through a bunch of tedious text.

You may want to try a Postcard Annual Report instead of the usual boring booklet.

If you use social media, you need to communicate several times a week. As your donors scroll through endless amounts of posts on Facebook and Twitter, an engaging photo can pop out and get their attention.

Use photos everywhere – appeal letters, thank you letters/cards, newsletters, annual reports, your website, and social media. Create a photo bank to help you with this. It’s fine to use the same photos in different channels. It can help with your brand identity. Be sure to use high-quality pictures. Hire a professional photographer or find one to work pro bono.

Work with your program staff to get photos. Confidentiality issues may come up and you’ll need to get permission to take pictures of kids. It’s okay to use stock photos. Just be sure to give proper credit.

5 Killer Photography Tips for Nonprofit Brands

5 Image Mistakes Your Nonprofit May Be Making…and How You Can Fix Them!

Highlight your work with a video

Create a video to show your programs in action, share an interview, give a behind the scenes look at your organization, or my favorite – thanking your donors. Make your videos short and high quality. If you’re interviewing someone, be sure that person is good on camera.

You can use videos on your website, in an email message, on social media, and at an event.

11 Nonprofit Videos That Inform and Inspire

How to Make a Fantastic Nonprofit Video

10 Mistakes Nonprofits Make with Video

Make your statistics sing with infographics

A typical annual report is chock full of statistics. You want to share these, as well as your accomplishments, but you know very few donors are going to read a lot of text.

Why not use an infographic instead of the usual laundry list of statistics and accomplishments?  Here are some examples. A Great Nonprofit Annual Report in a Fabulous Infographic

Brochures are becoming a relic of the past, but what if you want an informational print piece to give to potential donors or volunteers?  An oversized infographic postcard could be the way to go.

How to Create an Effective Nonprofit Infographic

5 Infographic Best Practices You Should Follow

10 free tools for creating infographics

Good visuals will enhance both your print and electronic communication. Keep your donors engaged with all types of stories.

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Connect With Your Donors by Telling Stories

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When your donors open your appeal letter or newsletter, do you bore them with a bunch of mind-numbing statistics, or do you share a story about how the Wilson family moved out of a shelter and into a home of their own?

If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell

Donors love stories. Stories bring the work you do to life by using everyday language to create a scene. Here’s an example.

Diane woke up feeling good for the first time in awhile. After losing her job and being evicted from her apartment, she moved between her sister’s place, motels, and shelters. It was taking a toll on her family and her kids were falling behind in school.

That was about to change because thanks to donors like you, Diane and her family will be moving into a home of their own.

Can you tell a story like that? If you’re making a difference, you can. Stories should show your donors how they’re helping you making a difference for the people you serve.

Create a culture of storytelling

If you create a storytelling culture in your organization, you can make storytelling the norm instead of the exception.

Creating stories takes a little more work, but they will help you connect with your donors. When you put together a story, ask.

  • Why would your donors be interested in this story?
  • Why is this important?
  • Are you using clear, everyday language (no jargon) to make sure your donors understand your story?
  • Who are you helping?
  • How are your donors helping you make a difference?

Client or program recipient stories are best. You’ll need to work together with your program staff to get these stories. Everyone needs to understand how important this is. Share stories at staff meetings and/or set up regular meetings with program staff to gather stories.

Another way to find stories is to put a Share Your Story page on your website. Share-Your-Story Page | an addition to the fundraiser’s arsenal of tools

You can also share profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors. Many organizations profile new board members in their newsletters. That’s okay, but instead of emphasizing their professional background, concentrate on what drew them to your organization. Perhaps she benefited from having a tutor when she was in school or he’s passionate about human rights.

Create a story bank to help you organize all your stories. Take advantage of slower times of the year to gather stories. You want to use stories often. Use them in your appeal letters, thank you letters, newsletters, annual reports, website, blog, and other types of social media. You can use the same stories in different channels.

Give your stories the personal touch

Use people’s names to make your stories more personal. I realize you might run into confidentiality issues, but you can change names to protect someone’s privacy. You could also do a composite story, but don’t make up anything. Fundraising with Names Have Been Changed Disclaimers

Your stories aren’t about your organization

Let your donors know how with their help, Janet doesn’t have to choose between buying groceries and paying the heating bill. Your organization stays in the background. And remember, Your Mission Statement is NOT Your Story

Connect with your donors by telling them a story. In my next post, I’ll write about sharing visual stories.

Resources to help you tell your stories

The Storytelling Nonprofit

INFOGRAPHIC: A Nonprofit Storytelling How-To

NON-PROFIT STORYTELLING: HOW TO STAND OUT IN A CROWD

What’s Your Story? Ways to Make Your Fundraising Pitch Memorable

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Guest post by Jeremy S.

Over the last couple of weeks, the theme of this blog has been telling your stories. We’ve looked at both written and visual stories. This guest post by Jeremy S. of Goodwill Car Donations shows us how to tell verbal stories – either in person or on video. These tips can also be useful when writing a story.

Whatever method you use, keep telling your stories!

What’s your organization’s story? A great story can captivate and motivate your organization’s supporters as it attracts new donors, shows long-time donors that you appreciate them, and creates lasting relationships. Learn the art of storytelling as you make your fundraising pitch memorable and engaging.

Tell a Story About a Real Person

Your donors want to hear about the clients you serve, dogs you rescue, or students you tutor. Instead of telling generic stories, share a story, or case study, about a real person and how your organization helped change his or her life.

Let Real People Tell Their Story

When possible, let your clients or customers share their stories. It creates a personal touch that connects with donors.

Share Something Relatable

Every story you tell should include at least one moment where your donors can relate to something you share.

Keep It Short

The average attention span is only eight seconds. Keep your story as short as possible while still getting your point across.

Use Emotions

It’s OK to be transparent when sharing your story. Whether you’re happy, angry, sad, proud, or excited, let your true self shine through.

Keep It Current

As your organization changes, your story will change. You’ll stay relevant and relatable when you make sure your story is current.

Structure the Pitch

All good stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Yours should have structure, too.

  • Start with a strong opener that captures your audience’s attention from the beginning. A joke, statistic, or anecdote does the trick.
  • Proceed to the meat of the story that answers questions like who your organization serves, what you do, and how you do it.
  • End with a call to action. Ask your listeners to invest in your organization as they support your cause with their money, time, and resources.

Focus On Your Brand

All the details of your story should relate to your brand. Make sure your listeners have a clear understanding of your brand’s message.

Practice

Whether sharing your story live or recording it, practice, practice, practice. You want to know the material and be confident while sharing it.

Pay Attention to Your Appearance

You might share the most heartwarming story ever, but no one will listen if your appearance is sloppy, dirty, or otherwise distracting. Check your physical appearance in the mirror before going on stage or on camera, and be sure to look presentable.

Talk About the Money

You don’t have to beg, but you do need to talk about the money. Share why you need it, how much you hope to raise, what you’ll do with it, and any project deadlines — including negative effects of not reaching your goals.

A great story allows your organization to connect with your supporters. Use these tips as you personalize, maximize, and monetize the stories you tell.

Author Bio:

Jeremy S. is Vice President of Operations and Vehicle Dispatching at Goodwill Car Donations. Jeremy has handled tens of thousands of donated vehicles in the past five years he’s worked for Goodwill Car Donations. 

Sources

http://web.eecs.utk.edu/~bvz/presentation.html

http://www.statisticbrain.com/attention-span-statistics/

Photo by Tim Hettler

Capture Your Donors’ Attention in an Instant by Using Visual Stories

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Stories come in many forms and people process information in different ways. Some people respond better to visual stimuli. In our information packed world, a visual story can be a great way to connect.

Tell a story in an instant with a photo

Your donors are busy and may not have time read a story, but you can capture their attention in an instant with a great photo. That doesn’t mean a photo of your executive director receiving an award. Use photos of your programs in action.

Print newsletters and annual reports tend to be too long and text-centric. Most of your donors won’t have time read them. But if you present your donors with some engaging photos, they can get a quick glance of the impact of their gift without having to slog through a bunch of long-winded text.

You may want to try a Postcard Annual Report instead of the usual boring booklet.

If you use social media, you need to communicate several times a week. As your donors scroll through endless amounts of posts on Facebook and Twitter, an engaging photo can pop out and get noticed.

Use photos everywhere – appeal letters, thank you letters/cards, newsletters, annual reports, your website, and social media. Create a photo bank to help you with this. It’s fine to use the same photos in different channels. It can help with your brand identity. Be sure to use high-quality pictures. Hire a professional photographer or find one to work pro bono.

Work with your program staff to get photos. Confidentiality issues may come up and you’ll need to get permission to take pictures of kids. It’s okay to use stock photos. Just be sure to give proper credit.

5 Killer Photography Tips for Nonprofit Brands

Compelling Images for Nonprofits: When Babies and Puppies Aren’t in Your Mission

Highlight your work with a video

Create a video to show your programs in action, share an interview, give a behind the scenes look at your organization, or my favorite – thanking your donors. Make your videos short and high quality.  If you’re interviewing someone, be sure that person is good on camera.

You can use videos on your website, in an email message, on social media, and at an event.

How to Make a Fantastic Nonprofit Video

10 Mistakes Nonprofits Make with Video

Bring statistics to life with infographics

An annual report with a bunch of statistics is boring, and you know very few donors are going to read a lot of text. But you may have some compelling statistics or want to highlight accomplishments in your annual report.

Why not share these in an infographic instead of the usual laundry list of statistics and accomplishments?  Here are some examples. A Great Nonprofit Annual Report in a Fabulous Infographic

Brochures are becoming a relic of the past, but what if you want an informational print piece to give to potential donors or volunteers?  An oversized infographic postcard could be the way to go.

How to Create an Effective Nonprofit Infographic

4 Steps to Making an Infographic for Your Nonprofit

10 free tools for creating infographics

Keep your donors engaged with all types of stories.

Photo by Rob Briscoe

Dazzle Your Donors With a Great Story

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When your donors open your appeal letter or newsletter, do you bombard them with a bunch of boring, mind-numbing statistics, or do you share a story about how the Johnson family moved out of a shelter and into a home of their own?

If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell

Donors love stories. Stories bring the work you do to life by using everyday language to create a scene. Here’s an example.

Sheila woke up feeling good for the first time in awhile. After losing her job and being evicted from her apartment, she moved between her sister’s place, motels, and shelters. It was taking a toll on her family and her kids were falling behind in school.

That was about to change because thanks to donors like you, Sheila and her family will be moving into a home of their own.

Can you tell a story like that?  If you’re making a difference, you can. Stories should show your donors how they’re helping you making a difference for the people you serve.

Create a culture of storytelling

If you create a storytelling culture in your organization, you can make storytelling the norm instead of the exception.

Creating stories takes a little more work, but they will help you connect with your donors. When putting together a story, ask

  • Why would your donors be interested in this story?
  • Why is this important?
  • Are you using clear, everyday language (no jargon) to make sure your donor understands your story?
  • Who are you helping?
  • How is your donor helping you make a difference?

Client or program recipient stories are best. You’ll need to work together with program staff to get these stories.  Everyone needs to understand how important this is. Share stories at staff meetings and/or set up regular meetings with program staff to gather stories.

Another way to find stories is to put a Share Your Story page on your website. Share-Your-Story Page | an addition to the fundraiser’s arsenal of tools

You can also share profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors. Many organizations profile new board members in their newsletters. That’s fine, but instead of emphasizing their professional background, concentrate on what drew them to your organization. Perhaps she has a brother who’s struggling with Parkinson’s or he’s passionate about the environment.

Create a story bank to help you organize all your stories. You want to use stories often. Use them in your appeal letters, thank you letters, newsletters, annual reports, website, blog, and other types of social media. You can use the same stories in different channels.

Give your stories the personal touch

Use people’s names to make your stories more personal. I realize you might run into confidentiality issues, but you can change names to protect someone’s privacy. You could also do a composite story, but don’t make up anything. How to Tell Nonprofit Stories While Respecting Client Confidentiality

Your stories aren’t about your organization

Let your donors know how with their help, Monica doesn’t have to choose between buying groceries and paying the heating bill. Your organization stays in the background. And remember,Your Mission Statement is NOT Your Story

Dazzle your donors with a great story. In my next post, I’ll write about sharing visual stories.

Resources to help you tell your stories.

The Storytelling Nonprofit

NON-PROFIT STORYTELLING: HOW TO STAND OUT IN A CROWD

You Have 6 Nonprofit Story Types to Tell

Photo by David Bleasdale

 

Your Year-End Appeal Checklist

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This summer is flying by and September will be here before you know it. Fall is a busy time, especially if you’re doing a year-end appeal.

Many nonprofits rely on their year-end appeal for a good portion of their revenue.  Even though your mind may be focused on going to the beach and eating ice cream, you want to start planning your year-end appeal now.  Here’s a checklist to help you get started. Of course you can use this any time you run a fundraising campaign.

How much money do you need to raise?

You may have already set a goal in your 2015 fundraising plan (at least I hope you did) and perhaps you need to revise that goal.  If you haven’t set a goal, determine how much money you need to raise before you start your campaign.

Do you have a plan?

Put together a plan for your appeal that includes a timeline, task list, and the different channels you will use.  Make it as detailed as possible.

When do you want to send your appeal? In the beginning of November?  Figure out what you need to get done and how long it will take. You may need to recruit extra volunteers or get your materials to a mail house.

Are your mailing lists in good shape?

Make sure your postal and email mailing lists are up-to-date.  Check for duplicate addresses and typos. Your donors don’t want to receive three letters at the same time or have their names misspelled. Also, segment your lists – current donors, lapsed donors, event attendees, etc.

Do you have a good story and photo to share?

Find a good story for your year-end appeal. You’ll want some engaging photos for your letter and donation page, too.  Quotes from clients will also enhance your appeal.

Why You Need to Tell Your Stories

Get Noticed in an Instant With a Visual Story

How did your donors help you make a difference?

Your appeal letter should highlight some of the year’s accomplishments and state what you plan to do next year. For example, let’s say you run an afterschool program for high school students. Share your success of reaching your goal of serving X number of students. Next year you’d like to expand and serve middle school students, as well.

Focus on the people you serve and show how your donors are helping you make a difference.

Do you have enough letterhead, envelopes, and stamps?

Don’t wait until the end of October to check your supply of letterhead and envelopes.  Make sure you have enough. Perhaps you want to create a special outer envelope.

Even though many people donate online, you want to make it easy for donors who prefer to mail a check. Include a pledge envelope or a return envelope and a preprinted form with the donor’s contact information and the amount of last year’s gift.

Stamps are more personal, so you might want get some nice ones to use.

Is it easy to donate online?

Be sure your donation page is user-friendly and consistent with your other fundraising materials.  Highlight your year-end appeal on your home page and include a prominent Donate Now button.

You could set up a special page for your year-end appeal.

The Top 10 Most Effective Donation Form Optimizations You Can Make

Set Up a Customized Donation Page

While you are at it, check your website for out-of-date information and broken links.

Does Your Website Need a Tune Up?

How does a donation help the people you serve?

Create a set of giving levels and let your donors know how their gift will help. Here’s an example.

Do you have an incentive to entice donors to give a larger gift?

Instead of premiums, see if you can find a major donor who will match any upgrades.  I know of an organization that also uses this as an incentive to get new donors.

Boost Your Fundraising Results With a Match From a Major Donor

Do you offer a monthly or recurring giving option?

Monthly or recurring giving is another way to get a larger gift. Some people might balk at donating $100 or more, but if you present it as $10 a month ($120 a year!), it sounds more feasible.

How will you thank your donors?

This is so important. Spend as much time on your thank you letter/note as you do on your appeal. You need to thank your donors as soon as you receive their gifts.

Handwritten notes and phone calls are much better than a pre-printed letter. Now is a good time to create or buy some thank you cards, as well as find board members and volunteers to make thank you calls or write notes.

Don’t Treat Thanking Your Donors as an Afterthought

How are you showing the love?

I know this is a busy time, but don’t skimp on your donor communication.  Keep engaging your donors and other supporters (who may become donors) by sharing success stories and gratitude. Go the extra mile and create a thank you video or hold an informal open house.

How are you preparing for your year-end appeal?

Image by Backdoor Survival

How to Get Everyone in your Organization on the Same Page

5099718716_2f066cebc7_zWhat would happen if you got your staff or board together and asked them to give a short description of what your organization does? Would you get 20 different answers?

Now take a look at some of your communication materials – fundraising letters, thank you letters, website etc. Are your messages consistent in all your materials?

Inconsistent messages are fairly common among nonprofits, but don’t worry, it’s something you can fix.

Create a message platform

Putting together a set of clear, consistent messages, also known as a message platform, is a good project for you to do this summer.

Now whenever you create a fundraising letter or content for your website, you can draw material from this set of messages.

Having a consistent set of messages is essential when you have more than one person writing for your organization and as new staff or volunteers come on board. All your materials need continuity and a single voice.

Everyone in your organization – staff, board, volunteers – is a message ambassador, and needs to be involved. Although, that doesn’t mean they should be involved in every step of the process.  Your best bet is to have a small group – marketing staff and board members with marketing experience – put together the message platform.

You may want to get some initial input from staff and board. Ask everyone a few key questions, such as:

  • Who is your target audience? You may need to cater different messages to different audiences.
  • What is important to them?

As you create your positioning statement and talking points, ask:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • How do you do it?
  • Why is it important?
  • What makes your organization unique?
  • How are you making a difference for the people you serve and in the community?
  • What do you want to achieve?

Keep it simple

This may sound obvious, but your goal is to make sure your reader understands your messages. Your messages should be clear and specific.  Sometimes they’ll include a call to action. Write in a conversational style and steer clear of jargon. Create a Jargon-Free Zone  Most people respond better to a human interest story than a lot of statistics.

Your messages should not say something like – We make a difference for at-risk students. Instead, say Our volunteer tutors help students boost their reading and math skills so they’ll have a better chance of getting into college.

Use language your donors will understand

Have someone outside your organization, a friend or family member, look at your messages. Something that’s clear to you may be confusing to others.

Stay consistent with a style guide

Continuing on the theme of consistency, I strongly recommend putting together a style guide. Create a Style Guide for Your Organization

Get everyone on the same page

When you’ve finished putting together your message platform, introduce it to the rest of your organization.  Check in periodically to make sure everyone stays on the same page.

Here is some more information to help to you create a message platform.

Putting nonprofit key messages to work

Getting to Aha! The Nonprofit Marketer’s Top Challenge

Photo by David Dugdale – http://www.learningvideo.com