Understanding Your Audience is the Most Important Part of Nonprofit Storytelling

Understanding Your Audience is the Most Important Part of Nonprofit Storytelling

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Have you put time and energy into a campaign or video, published it online, and gotten fewer than 100 likes or totally missed your fundraising goal? I’ve been there. It’s a horrible experience. Storytelling is supposed to be the magic bullet to get people’s attention, right? Nonprofits sometimes assume donors want to know their story simply because the work that they do is important. But the truth is you have to give people the kind of content they want in order to keep their attention. And in order to give them what they want, you need to get to know them better.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a potential client who works with children about what media works best for her organization. She told me that some of their most popular videos show kids dancing to music while she films on her phone. She said it’s a silly thing, but that donors love it and often watch them over and over.

There is a term for this type of content: the “time out experience.” It’s a particularly effective strategy when targeting women. It was no surprise to me to learn that my potential client’s primary donors are women between the ages of 30-50 and are primarily mothers. The dancing videos give these women a minute or two of pure happiness where they aren’t thinking about the stress of their day or the needs of their kids. They love those videos not because the mission is important but because the videos make them feel good.

Once you start giving your target audience content they want, they are more inclined to engage with your other content. If you get to know your donors you should look at your communications with them as a mutual conversation. They may be providing you funds, but you are providing them something that they enjoy on a deep, personal level. Stop making the media you think your audience wants; make the media you know they want.

Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Use Google analytics and Facebook to analyze who comes to your site, what posts they love, what kind of causes/programs appeal to them;
  • Send out a donor survey;
  • Make a list of your target donor's demographics (age, sex, education, nationality);
  • Make a list of your target donor's demographics psychographics (habits, hobbies, values);
  • Create an ideal customer profile (or two) and craft media directed at that profile;
  • Interview donors to see what is important to them, why they give to your organization, and what media they love.

 

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