Brand Storytelling for Nonprofits

It is a mistaken belief the Nonprofit storytelling is all about poverty porn or making people feel bad about the situation of the beneficiaries . You splash pictures of poverty to tell your story. This puts off people and they shut out to such communication.

For example to feed people in Ukraine impacted by war you can put pictures of pain or you can tell stories of heroism and impact , inspiring stories move the audience to join the story.

People want to listen to inspiring stories, stories of change , stories of taking on challenges and overcoming them .

Also in a nonprofit the beneficiary is not the product and the donor is not a customer. Many Nonprofits have got this all wrong and thus the attempt to sell beneficiary pain as story.

The beneficiary is part of the community and the donor is a partner in change.

For a nonprofit it is not similar like business, you don’t sell you inspire.

To begin with most nonprofits do not see marketing as important and use voluntary help . However we’ll intentioned volunteers cannot bring in continuing to the marketing. They are unable to justify marketing budgets to their donors.

Reality is whatever your nonprofit unless it is known to donors and volunteers it is difficult to access support.

Where are the stories?

A nonprofit if full of stories, stories of beneficiaries, stories of the founders journey, stories of volunteers, stories of challenge and stories of change. There are stories all around that need to be told.

I am sharing 3 examples of how I have leveraged brand storytelling using inspiration as a hook for the cause.

1.Spirit of Mastek Awards As the head of CSR and Communications at Mastek I had to build employee engagement with the communities. The first thing I did was initiate Spirit of Mastek awards.

I called nonprofit leaders to the organisation, gave them a stage to share their story first hand. Each story was inspiring . We had leaders likes Dr Prakash Amte , Dr Abhay Bang , Dr Ashish Satav , Adhik Kadam , Girish Kulkarni , Mamoon Akhtar visit the organisation. After each talk I remember a standing ovation. The stories touched the heart and shifted consciousness of the organisation.

2. Inspired Fundraiser I initiated a annual fundraiser entertainment evening for a cause . This was targeted at HNIs as donors. We sold tickets for the event and had a Bollywood playback singer perform at the event.

At the event the organisation did a matching grant . In 3 hours we could raise funds to support a high impact cause . The idea again was to inspire people to give collectively.

3. Project Deep Blue As a communication head I had the challenge of building the Mastek brand in the campus . Rather than use the normal approach of sponsorship I came up with an idea of connecting students with a cause through building deep IT solutions . This was also in keeping with the brand of Mastek as an IT solutions company. The students would be mentored by Mastek employees.

This was a wonderful win win for students, for Mastek employees and nonprofit organisations for whom the solutions were built . Also it helped Mastek establish a socially conscious brand within the campus.

As I have demonstrated in all the three above case studies which are highly successful I used inspiration as the core of storytelling.

Change communication approach based on the target audience

Also you would see the approach was changed in all three cases . In the first case the target audience was Mastek employees, in the second case it was HNI donors, and in the third case it was students at the campus.

Nonprofits need to design their communication based on the target audience the communication is sent out to . Are you targeting donors or volunteers decide that first .

Bring out the conflict in the story An inspiring story will have a conflict at it’s core. No conflict makes a boring story that no one is interested in .

When Dr Ashish Satav shared how he had to survive in the tribal disconnected area of Melghat to treat the poorest of poor tribals , where he did not even have a structure and a bullock cart was his first ambulance , employees stood up to listen to the story.

When Adhik Kadam shared how he has been kidnapped 18 times by the terrorist in Kashmir and yet he built a orphanage for girl children in the area it shook the audience.

Conflict is what makes a story stand out . Which was the last film that you watched that you recollect the conflict the hero faces , his struggles, pulls you into the story.

Every nonprofit that works for a cause deals with conflict at various levels you need to bring out the conflict in your storytelling.

Get them to act Don’t just tell a story get your tribe of followers to act . What do you want them to do ? Donate ? Volunteer ? Help you build the facility?

Make action simple so that your target audience knows what is expected .

I have been advocating that nonprofits devote a team to co tent marketing and storytelling because u less your nonprofit is not known how will people support your cause ?

I am available to any nonprofit who wishes guidance on brand storytelling do get in touch. What I need is commitment to brand storytelling and marketing and investment in a team.

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