Share impact stories because people want to hear about people – not programs or statistics

Q: Why do you need success stories in your fundraising appeals?

A: Because stories work better than statistics.

Success stories skip the boring pie charts and cut right to your nonprofit’s real world results — a starving child with a bowl of rice, a woman with an easier way to draw water, a man with a job. Success stories are the “social proof” that can turn your prospects into donors.

Scan the two appeals below. Which one inspires you to donate?

  • Thanks to our caring donors, Nonprofit Numbers has met its year-end goal of $100,000. We are now able to add 50 more children to our food program in Nearby City. This is a 10 percent increase over last year’s giving!
  • This is Tommy. Tommy came to our food kitchen in Nearby City because his family is poor, and Tommy sometimes misses meals. But because of caring friends like you, now Tommy gets a hot, nutritious meal every day. Because you helped us meet our year-end financial goals, Tommy and 49 other children are now added to our meal program. Tommy says “thank you” – and so do we.

If you chose the last appeal, you’re in the majority. Psychological studies reveal that most donors are inspired to give by emotion. And success stories make it easy for your prospects to feel, because:

  • They condense even massive disasters down to one story, and so help donors process situations that might otherwise overwhelm them.
  • They show how your nonprofit is making a real, tangible difference in your clients’ lives.
  • They satisfy your donors’ logical desire to see the practical results of their gifts.
  • They reassure your donors that their investment in your nonprofit is money well spent.
  • They make your donors feel good about themselves, and your organization.

Success stories have never been more important, or easier to obtain. All you need is an ordinary camera and a little time.

Discuss success stories with your team, and especially those members who directly provide services. Ask your clients to share their stories and provide consent for photos – especially the clients who have been most helped by your program.

One five-minute video interview with a happy client may be viewed thousands of times online. Success stories posted on social media have the potential to drive more traffic to your website. A photo and a client story can also be a powerful addition to your newsletter, mailed appeals, and annual report.

In the end, people want to hear about people – not programs or statistics. Tell stories about your happy clients, and how your program helped them overcome their obstacles, and your nonprofit will be on the way to a “success story” of its own!

3 Marketing FAILS that can sink your nonprofit

1. Fail to pay attention

Pay attention to how technology changes the way people communicate. Not to say that the “next big thing” is the right thing for your nonprofit, but If there is no adjustment to your creative content and how its delivered, you could miss opportunities and your organization can seem out of touch.

2. Fail to grab attention

Find ways to engage with constituents and supporters using new innovations. Be original. Original thinking can buy you a second look, and enable you to capture attention in a crowded field.

Using the same message for every audience doesn’t work. Understand the audience for each communication channel and adjust your call to action accordingly.

3. Fail to keep their attention

Reality sucks — people lose interest quickly.  Once you fill the communication channels with new content, don’t just walk away for months.

Constantly refresh your message and stay engaged. Develop a plan to generate content continually and deploy it on a schedule throughout the year.

There are many mistakes a non-profit can make when it comes to marketing (or not marketing). But, successful nonprofits pay attention, grab attention, and keep their constituent’s engaged, and by doing so, your call to action won’t fall on deaf ears.

Questions to consider:

  1. Do you follow trends in innovation? Or do you brush them off as fads, even though they may be here to stay?
  2. Think about your your messaging. Has anything changed over the years or is it the same pitch each time?
  3. Do you take your supporters for granted by assuming you only need to engage them once in a blue moon?