By Mo Waja
For many nonprofits, ‘marketing’ has been — and remains — a support tool for fundraising; its purpose, mainly to serve as a medium to get the fundraising message out there to as many prospective donors as possible, via social media or otherwise. But this limited use fails to capitalize on the opportunity of marketing. For nonprofits making more robust use of marketing and communications, the act of ‘marketing’ becomes everything from a branding exercise to a recruitment tool, to a way to connect with key stakeholders, to community engagement, to profile building, to storytelling.
But it’s that last, storytelling, that sits at the core of good marketing. No matter what message your organization is looking to put out into the world, the story you tell is the heart of how you express the need of your population, how you connect with your community of supporters, and how you show the continuous positive impact your organization has. The question is, how do you tell that story well?
The thing is, ‘telling a story well’ encompasses more than simply telling a good story that (hopefully) raises fundraising dollars. Why? Because every charitable organization owes a duty of care to the population they serve that goes beyond the good work provided.
This, how to market, advertise, or tell a nonprofit story well, has been a topic of much debate. While, broadly, we can agree that tapping into empathy and, from that, compassion, is a key component of generating giving behaviour through storytelling, the real question is how do we get there. One common way is the use of ‘shock’ campaigns depicting imagery of people in desperate circumstances. Yet this strategy has been used so frequently that it has almost become a cliché, while simultaneously becoming an unfortunate standard by which many fundraising campaigns are set, particularly those for international aid (think your classic imagery of impoverished, starving Africa). While, even today, these shock campaigns — often more harshly labeled ‘poverty porn’ — can undoubtedly be effective in soliciting short-term donations, the problems with this approach are multifold. Read more »