Nonprofit Storytelling for #GivingTuesday

Your nonprofit’s story and message is what it’s all about. Good nonprofit storytelling is what gets people interested in the work you do, inspire them to donate to your cause and keep them invested. And on #GivingTuesday, they are even more important because you’re raising funds under a deadline. To ensure that your nonprofit is driving traffic to your fundraiser and getting the donations you need to reach your #GivingTuesday funding goal, your story needs to be immediate, impactful and well-planned.

This guide will take you through figuring out what your #GivingTuesday story is and how to tell it.

Nonprofit Storytelling for #GivingTuesday

What’s Your Angle?

Your nonprofit does a lot and it can be tempting to try to talk about all of it on a day like #GivingTuesday, but you will be more successful if your campaign and your story are laser-focused. So the first step in telling your story for #GivingTuesday is coming up with an angle for your day’s fundraising efforts.

What we mean is — what are you trying to do on #GivingTuesday? Raise money, of course, but for what? Do you have a particular need right now, like upgrades to your facilities or getting a new program off the ground? Is there a specific fund or program that needs the till refilled? Does your nonprofit have an organizational priority you want to push on #GivingTuesday?

You’ll want to make sure whatever angle you choose is:

  • Simple to communicate
  • Easy to understand
  • Broad enough that you can tie multiple related stories (such as testimonials) back to your theme
  • Lends itself well to visual storytelling
  • Ties into your nonprofit’s mission

What’s Your Message?

In order to tell a cohesive story on #GivingTuesday, you’ll need to do a little digging into your nonprofit’s messaging. As we discussed in our blog about communications planning, identifying your nonprofit’s key messages and weaving them into all of your communications is how you make ideas “stick” in the minds and hearts of your supporters.

Nonprofit Storytelling in 3 Easy Steps

There are three steps your team can take to ensure that your key message rings loud and clear on #GivingTuesday.

Step One: Define your key messages

Your nonprofit’s key messages are the ideas at the core of the work your nonprofit does. They are your bedrock principles; they are simple ideas that explain why you do the work you do. Ultimately, as a nonprofit, you are not just asking your community to support your programs and services — you are asking them to buy into the ideas and principles that fuel your programs and services. If you’ve already created a communications plan for your nonprofit, you will already have these defined, but if you don’t have these written out it should be the first part of planning your communications for #GivingTuesday.

Pick 2–3 key messages about your organization. (You may want to include more for a full communications plan, but for a giving day, 2–3 will help keep your messaging tight.) These should be broad and speak to your why rather than your what. Avoid getting bogged down in programs and services your nonprofit provides and think about why you provide them.

What’s a good key message? Let’s say your nonprofit is a food bank. You may be tempted to pick how many people your food bank feeds every year as a key message. But that’s a what and not a why. So instead of discussing what your food bank does to address hunger in your community, one of your key messages might be, “We believe that all people should be free from hunger.” Another one might be, “Communities need to work together to serve others who are in need of a helping hand.” You can refer to your nonprofit’s mission statement if you’re not sure where to begin.

These key messages should be approved by leadership at your organization, so when you or your team comes up with them, make sure your executive director has a chance to weigh in.

Person writing at table with coffee and photos
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Step Two: Define 2–3 #GivingTuesday-specific messages

Your key messages are broad, and these #GivingTuesday messages will help refine them when you are developing content.

These can be more specific than your key messages — things you’ll want to define in your #GivingTuesday-specific messages could include the impact of supporters coming together to support your cause on #GivingTuesday, a specific program or issue you are focusing on, a suggested donation amount that is specific to your campaign, or a messages closely related to your campaign’s angle. But at the same time you don’t want to get too specific; remember that you will be touching on these messages again and again on #GivingTuesday, so your messages will need to be broad enough to weave into all of your storytelling on #GivingTuesday … every email, social media post, every video.

Again, if I’m working for a food bank, my #GivingTuesday messages might be:

  1. Today we come together to work toward ending food instability in our community
  2. A gift of just $25 can feed a family of 5 for a week
  3. Our community has a responsibility to help those among us who are suffering from hunger

Step Three: Put It Together

Your messages work as a funnel, with your key messages getting refined by your #GivingTuesday messages and resulting in content for your #GivingTuesday campaign.

Inverted triangle with "Key Messages" on top, "#GT-specific messages" in the middle, and "content" at the bottom
The nonprofit storytelling funnel

To clarify, when you’re building your content, you will start with your key messages. When you’re going through the processes we’ll discuss below, your key messages should be at the center — when you’re choosing which stories to tell, when you’re picking testimonials, when you’re scripting and editing your video, when you’re drafting an email, your key messages should be the foundation you build them on.

Your #GivingTuesday messages should then be woven into each story you tell. These are bells you want to ring over and over again on #GivingTuesday. Of course, they don’t have to be verbatim, they just need to be present. You’ll want to present these ideas in all of your communications about #GivingTuesday.

These messages will act as a guide when you’re building your content. When you and your team go through this process, you will find that these messages often result in content more or less writing itself — they are a great guiding light as you prepare to connect with your supporters about #GivingTuesday.

Woman writing at table with coffee and pastry
Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

Who are your characters?

Every great story needs great characters. And in nonprofit fundraising, having relatable characters is essential because they bring the issues your work addresses down to a personal level. It can be hard for the everyday person to relate to hunger as an issue, animal welfare as an issue, humanitarian work as an issue . These are big, overwhelming topics and often the public puts on blinders because it’s hard for many of us to wrap our heads around them. But connecting these issues to the story of a family your food bank helped feed, or an animal your shelter found a home for, or a refugee in crisis that your organization helped to safety are stories the average person can connect to emotionally.

For an example, take a look at this campaign from The Humane Society of the United States. This 2013 year-end campaign was one of the organization’s most successful campaigns. To help raise awareness and funds for dogs in puppy mills, they told the story of one little dog rescued from a puppy mill. This made a big, complex, often controversial issue hit home for people. They were able to take a big issue and make it feel personal. And that is precisely what you should aim to do with your nonprofit storytelling.

So, as you’re preparing for #GivingTuesday, you’ll want to follow that example and find characters that help tell your story. The characters may be obvious to you. But you’ll need to identify characters your nonprofit has worked with that will help you tell your story. So leave no stone unturned while looking for great characters! Scroll through old emails, photos, social media posts, and ask your coworkers.

Here are some things you’ll want to consider when choosing characters:

  • Can we easily contact them?
  • Does their story help us tell our nonprofit’s story?
  • Can we easily get their permission to use their story?
  • Are they available to tell their story in their own words (either in quotes or on camera)?
  • Is it a unique angle that hasn’t become cliche or overused by similar organizations?

During the #GivingTuesday planning process, reach out to anyone whose story you wish to use in your #GivingTuesday campaign. Get their permission and their quotes so you can begin building content.

How will you tell your story?

This is where you’ll start putting your prep work together and building content for #GivingTuesday. To get started, identify what you’ll need to tell your story.

Here’s what we suggest you start with:

  • A video. Having a video on #GivingTuesday is recommended because you can use it in so many different ways — on your website, on social media, in emails, on your Razoo page. You can even show it at an in-person event! If you’re not sure how to go about making one, put a call out on social media and email for a volunteer videographer who can help you put one together. But even if you can’t find a videographer, you can DIY a #GivingTuesday video by splicing together photos, video footage (which iPhones are actually pretty great at capturing) and using a free online video editor like YouTube Editor, apps like VivaVideo, or websites like Kizoa.
  • Photos. Gather photos you can use on #GivingTuesday. Photos will especially help keep things interesting on social media . You can ration out your content so that you don’t run out of steam during the 24-hour giving marathon. Photos perform well on social media. So they can help spice up your emails, add interest to your story on Razoo, and can be added to your website and/or blog.
  • Social media share graphics. Use the photos you’ve gathered to create some shareable graphics for #GivingTuesday! Add a quote from your testimonial or a call to action, along with the #GivingTuesday logo. These can help build buzz and generate shares. Institute for the Music Arts did this during 2016’s #GivingTuesday and had great success. Free online tools like Canva can help you create easily create eye-catching share graphics already formatted for social media on a budget.
  • Draft emails/blog posts. These will be a bit more long-form than your social media posts, so you can make sure you add in all the details and flourish you’d like. These longer pieces can help inform the shorter pieces you’ll need to produce, such as social media posts.
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Where will you tell your story?

When you’ve got much of your pre-planned content ready to go, the next step is identifying your channels of communication and tailoring your story to suit each channel. Make a list of all the different ways you’ll communicate with the public about and on #GivingTuesday, including:

  • Razoo page
  • Email
  • Social media
  • Website
  • Blog
  • Media (print, TV, radio, etc.)
  • In-person events
  • Direct mail marketing
  • Fliers
  • In your facility

Once you’ve identified your difference channels, you’ll want to think through a strategy for each. For instance, how are you telling your story on Razoo?  Are you creating a #GivingTuesday-specific fundraiser page for your campaign? Or are you using your organization’s page for #GivingTuesday? What’s your email schedule? Where on your website will you promote #GivingTuesday? How many blogs will you post about #GivingTuesday? What media contacts can you use to help publicize your #GivingTuesday campaign? Do you have any opportunities to market your #GivingTuesday campaign at upcoming in-person events; do you have one planned for the big day? Can you add #GivingTuesday marketing to your upcoming direct mail campaigns? Do you have any fliers or posters in your nonprofit’s facilities (and do you have the foot traffic to make these effective)?

While it helps to cast a wide net, it also helps to identify the most meaningful channels of communication. If you only have a handful of Twitter followers but you have a robust Facebook following, devote more of your time and energy to Facebook. If you get a lot of traffic in your lobby but your email list is a little thin, spend time and money creating promotional materials for your lobby and encourage visitors to sign up for your email list. Tailor your strategy to what works for your organization. You don’t have to give equal weight to all channels of communication.

Put it together … and then edit

Now you can build out and polish your content for #GivingTuesday. Schedule social media posts, schedule blog posts, update your website, get the fliers and posters for your lobby printed, test and schedule your emails, and dot your i’s and cross your t’s for the big day!

Your nonprofit probably already has an editing process in place, but if you’re a one-man or one-woman show and you’re preparing everything, it helps to have other sets of eyes on the content you’re building. We recommend:

  1. A content edit. During a content edit, you’ll want to have another person (preferably someone familiar with your key messages and mission) look at your content with a critical eye to make sure everything in your story is clear, aligns with your mission, and that your key messages shine through. A content edit will also focus on optimizing your word choice and making sure that your copy is as strong as it can be. You should have someone take a look at your emails, blog(s), any social media posts you’ve scheduled.
  2. A copy edit. As a last step, make sure you have a grammarian take a look at your content to ensure there are no typos or grammatical errors. Ideally this should be someone other than the person who does your content edit.

If you follow these steps, you can make your nonprofit’s story the centerpiece of your #GivingTuesday campaign and inspire donations by moving your followers to act.

Register for #GivingTuesday if you haven’t already! Questions about telling your story on #GivingTuesday? Contact us at support@razoo.com.