The most effective emotions in nonprofit storytelling

June 30, 2014

The most effective emotions in nonprofit storytelling

A great story is one of the unique advantages nonprofits have in their fundraising efforts. While businesses can provide customer testimonials and highlight positive reviews, these often don't compare to the energy of a well-crafted message from a nonprofit. The power of a story about a specific person helped by a charitable organization's program or the positive results of volunteer efforts in a local community are among the most powerful messages that potential contributors will hear. Organizations need to make sure they're crafting relatable and engaging messages that utilize the potential of an emotional response to its fullest. Here are a few pieces of advice for incorporating emotions into nonprofit storytelling:

  • Awe, laughter, amusement and joy are most effective: Although not specifically focused on nonprofit fundraising efforts, research from marketing firm BuzzSumo compiled by Business Insider found these four emotions encourage the most sharing online. Awe is the most popular, with 25 percent of highly shared content evoking this emotion. Laughter, amusement and joy came in at 17, 15 and 14 percent, respectively. As charitable groups know, getting donors to share information is almost as important as actually getting contributions. Crafting a report or article about a specific program or recent activities around one of these four emotions can lead to more audience engagement and financial gifts. While statistics certainly have their place in outreach efforts, touching on the emotions of a potential contributor can be extremely effective.
  • Sad stories have a place too: 101 Fundraising pointed out the need for nonprofits to not shy away from using some negative emotions in their storytelling efforts. Detailing the problems faced by a person before he or she was helped by a program, or the poor condition in an area that is targeted for improvement, can spark potential contributors into action and encourage them to share the story with others as well. It's often a good idea to follow a sad story with a positive one that details the changes that a nonprofit has helped implement. Sometimes this approach isn't directly possible, such as when groups are raising funds for disaster relief. Nonprofits can instead provide examples of similar situations during which their efforts helped redevelop the local community or repair damage caused by a disaster.

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