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How storytelling can win donors for your non-profit organisation

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Like most businesses across the UK, non-profit organisations (NPOs) have struggled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many have had to dig deep into their monetary reserves to support growing demands for services.

According to the Pro Bono Economics, UK charities faced a staggering £10.1bn funding gap due to coronavirus in 2020, with income expected to drop by £6.7bn at the same time demand for support rose by the equivalent of £3.4bn.

Some NPOs are eligible for government support, but there is limited support for specific sectors. By now, you may have already looked at ramping up your engagement efforts, nurtured current donors, and connected with potential new ones. But what next?

One area to look at is building your NPO story.

Now more than ever, you should be communicating a compelling story that makes an emotional connection, strengthens donor relationships, and demonstrates your effectiveness towards achieving mission success.

In this article, we’ve put together some tried-and-tested best practices that can help you bring your story to life.

Here’s what we cover:

Build the narrative that connects donors to your mission

Be memorable

Use metrics to create a robust and credible story

Expand your reach by engaging with the audience

Increase accountability with timely, transparent updates

Shine the light on your mission

Have you built and shared a powerful story about your NPO?

Showcase your purpose from a heart-felt human-centric perspective and use that to demonstrate why the world needs your services.

Think big. Every NPO has the power to cast a panoramic vision that can capture all stakeholders’ hearts, be they donors, volunteers, or other types of supporter.

Use individual examples and tell your story in compelling, straightforward terms.

If your NPO assists families struggling to put food on the table, for example, don’t be shy about telling donors how you’re helping to keep families healthier, happier and more comfortable during this difficult time.

One example. On the charity: water website, the first thing website visitors learn when they hit the homepage is that 100% of donations go to programmes (private funding covers administrative expenses) and that more than 11 million people have benefitted from clean, safe, water in 28 countries.

These stats re-enforce their influential contribution to communities around the world.

Use powerful images that highlight your mission, grab attention, and resonate with donors on an immediate, emotional level. Also, be sure to develop and embed critical messages in the narrative.

Donor communications should consistently reflect your brand. This helps donors keep your non-profit mission in mind visually.

Ensure your website and emails use powerful imagery of the people you’re helping and the work taking place behind the scenes.

Consider using charts showing, for instance, the number of meals served, patient encounters, trees planted, or volunteer hours worked.

Create and consistently use a clear and memorable tagline. Your communications should reflect your official colours, fonts, style and voice, all working together to reinforce your brand and keep you front of mind.

You want to have a robust and credible story by mapping your mission to relevant data and metrics that communicate your priorities and demonstrate accountability.

You aim to show how meaningful the impact is through your efforts have on your community and constituents.

Define the metrics that best support your NPO goals, and relentlessly leverage, highlight and share them at every opportunity.

Start with the basics – your funding and sources, how much gets devoted directly to services, how many volunteers you have recruited, or how many people you’ve helped.

That transparency builds credibility with your donor base.

Next, define and report some of your non-profit’s more specific outcome measures to bring your story to life, such as:

  • Meals served: Cost per meals served
  • Patients seen: Cost per patient seen per practice area
  • Reading levels achieved: Cost per reading level achieved per child
  • Animals up for adoption: Cost per animal per day

Always remember that these statistics are part of the big human vision you are setting out in support of your non-profit.

When using these outcome measures and stats, be sure to relate them to the real-life examples and stories you have.

Build that emotional connection through the insights you showcase. It will be powerful to have imagery and graphics, which represent an improvement in your metrics.

As an NPO, look to expand your reach.

One way you can do this is by keeping the conversation active on social media and video channels.

Remember that this is a two-way relationship.

Bring the big vision in alongside the necessary data. Ask your audience what they think about the work your non-profit is doing, what made them interested in your organisation, and what the cause means to them.

Metrics, messages, images and branding work very well on social media.

  • Consider using videos, pictures and events to increase your impact.
  • Post interactive content to build engagement and use visuals to drive traffic.
  • Remember to make it easy to donate using a laptop, tablet or mobile phone.

In-person events have become difficult or impossible during the pandemic, so make sure you use streaming services such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and IGTV (Instagram TV) to get the word out and create community events with a home-bound audience.

A modern cloud financial solution is a vital part of the non-profit infrastructure, not least because of its ability to deliver real-time access to key performance indicators, outcome metrics, and scorecards.

Data makes it easier than ever to present a compelling story that is accurate, transparent and complete.

It’s part of a technological shift that has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic as all organisations continue to transition to remote working environments.

Financial ‘board books’ – concise and timely digests of relevant data (a concept borrowed from the for-profit world) – are an increasingly popular choice for NPOs, guiding critical discussions and planning.

Digital board books provide instant, actionable insights to key stakeholders.

These dashboards help you show your NPO’s financial health and sustainability benchmarks by automating the tracking and management of industry-wide best practice metrics.

People always want to know more about the NPOs they donate to so they can feel good about their contributions to your cause. It’s your job to tell them your story compellingly, with an appropriate sense of urgency.

It’s essential to elevate your storytelling initiatives by identifying, tracking and measuring the performance indicators that tie directly to mission impact.

A reliable cloud financial management solution can help you shine a brighter light on your mission by helping you demonstrate financial performance, efficiency and improved outcomes.

Donors want to know that their contribution means something. They want to know they made the right choice in donating to your organisation over others.

And they want to be drawn into your story, to care about the people and values you serve.

Sure, engaging donors and persuading them to trust you with their time and money can be challenging, especially when working with limited resources.

But if you can find the best way to capture their attention, educate them and inspire them to get involved, you’ll win them over with that emotional connection.

Nonprofit storytelling

Need help to motivate donors? Discover how to use storytelling and data to reach the people who can make a difference to your non-profit organisation.

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