Six Trends that will Define Nonprofit Storytelling in 2021

A lot of people have this misconception that advertising is done with the sole purpose of selling a product or service, but...

Written by James Burke · 4 min read >

A lot of people have this misconception that advertising is done with the sole purpose of selling a product or service, but that is far from the truth. In today’s fast-paced and digitally-driven society, nonprofit organizations cannot afford to be the faceless entities in their advertising or marketing campaigns. To create a meaningful impact, your nonprofit organization needs to connect with your target audience at a deeper level. Your marketing should be powerful enough to pull at their heartstrings. This is exactly where marketing storytelling comes into the picture. 

Marketing storytelling is a cohesive effort that blends the emotion and facts that your nonprofit initiative evokes. Through storytelling, advertisers can grab (and keep) the attention of the audience. It can especially benefit nonprofits that are trying to spread awareness about social, economic, or environmental causes.  

Why is Storytelling the Future of Nonprofit Marketing?

People are generally impatient and their attention span is getting shorter with the advent of new distracting gadgets and the instant gratification and convenience offered by the internet. Marketing storytelling, in this scenario, can help nonprofits to create awareness and convey important messages to amplify your mission and cause, solicit donations, and attract supporters and volunteers. 

Unlike traditional marketing, storytelling doesn’t promote a product or service directly. It focuses on a narrative while showcasing your product or service in a positive light. If your nonprofit organization plans on using this technique to engage and convert your audience, it’s important to use appropriate dialogue, soundtrack, people, and camera angles.

If planned and executed properly, marketing storytelling can help you connect with new donors, attract valuable supporters and volunteers for your cause, and inspire and engage your audience on a whole new level.

Let’s take a look at some of the top storytelling trends in nonprofit marketing, and how you can use these to benefit your mission this year. 

  1. Data-Driven Storytelling is Key

The human brain craves stories, not stats. Data-driven storytelling fulfills this goal because it comes with a context people can easily relate to. Google Trends is a powerful tool to tap this data. A few clicks will show you what people search for globally or in any particular area of the world. You can figure out the most sought-after topics and terms within seconds. Nonprofits can use this data to emphasize deep-rooted social issues that need immediate solutions. It can help your target audience realize the criticality of the cause you’re promoting.

Data-driven narratives are ideal for nonprofit organizations that have access to data in their operations. Use the impact stats associated with your nonprofit’s work, and build a story around those numbers. Behind each number is a story of how you achieved that number, and people who are positively impacted by the work you did to achieve that number.

When creating a story, always keep your audience in mind. Consider who your target audience is, what they already know about the cause, and what their concerns are, and so on. Marketing storytelling gives you the ability to communicate this data in an engaging way so that it can address the most pressing questions and describe the actions one should follow to make a difference. 

  1. Tell Stories Sourced from your Beneficiaries

The target audience of most nonprofits prefers authenticity. Authenticity builds trust, and trust is necessary when asking audiences to donate time and money to your cause. That’s why many nonprofits derive the stories from the people who are positively impacted by their work. By doing so, they putting real, every-day people in the spotlight. This is known as “customer-led storytelling” — a technique that has been used extensively by businesses. 

When a nonprofit organization uses stories procured from beneficiaries, it adds credibility and trust to their work. For instance, an entity dealing with the rehabilitation of the people below the poverty line can use stories obtained from the people they’ve directly helped.  These stories have an authenticity that’s hard to match and create a deep emotional connection with your audience. 

  1. Start Focusing On Creating Engaging Podcasts

The podcast is the new marketing buzzword. Podcasting is a technique that businesses have been using to their advantage for a long time now, and nonprofits can do the same. Podcasts offer a way for their target audience to consume content, news, advice, and more, all in one place. With the help of podcasts, you can easily reach out to listeners from any part of the world instantly. Owing to the popularity and reach of podcasts, they are being made in a huge variety of formats these days. However, most of them use immersive stories to attract and keep the attention of their audience. What’s more, you can use podcasts to target specific audience types like working women, single mothers, or elderly couples.  

By using podcasts effectively and creatively, nonprofits can succeed in engaging their target audience with the stories of their work, and keeping them hooked. This simple step will go a long way in strengthening your nonprofit brand. 

  1. Use Sparklines to Create Visual Representations 

Sparklines are basically small line graphs that are used for the visual representations of data. Because most nonprofits deal extensively with data, this is an easy trend for them to hop on. The good news: According to experts, sparklines will be used extensively for storytelling this year. Nonprofits are already well-versed in showing visual representation as a way for audiences to easily comprehend complex data.  

  1. Choose Video-Based Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling can help you capture and keep the attention of your audience, ensure your message resonates with them, and enable your organization to connect with them on a deeper level. Compared to text or speech-based approach, visual storytelling is far more effective in driving the narrative forward. When using videos, nonprofits can also use influential people to boost awareness about their brand and cause.  

Several studies have shown that people from almost all demographics prefer video-based stories over other forms of marketing. Viewers are more likely to pay thorough attention to videos than any other type of media. So, the nonprofits, looking to connect with valuable supporters, donors, and volunteers, should keep this in mind and use visual storytelling in their marketing campaigns this year.  

A good thing about videos is that they can be effortlessly used on various social media platforms. Nonprofits can use short yet compelling videos to increase their Instagram engagement whereas the longer videos can be used on YouTube to spread awareness, enlighten the audience, and offer food for thought for others. When created thoughtfully, your nonprofit videos can both inspire and communicate. 

  1. Rise of Creator-Driven Influencer Marketing In Storytelling 

 According to experts, there’s going to be a significant shift in the influencer era towards more creator-driven storytelling. Influencers will be given more freedom so that they won’t come across as a mere mouthpiece for the brand. While your nonprofit may not have access to a famous social media influencer, this advice can still be applied when thinking about user generated content. User generated content is when organizations use images, text, or videos created by a member of their community. We already talked above about how authentic storytelling is important. Consider giving your community members the freedom to tell your audiences how your work has affected them, or how they work with your organization to help drive forward your mission. This could be accomplished through asking a supporter to create and share a short video, written testimonial, or a personal picture accompanied by a caption.   


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