Nonprofits: You Have 6-Seconds to Get Your Story Right, Part III

Most nonprofit organizations (NPOs) – regardless of size – have separate and distinct marketing and development (fundraising) functions.  This recognizes the importance of donors as an audience, their specific messaging needs and the unique types of outreach and experience required in development teams.  However, the marketing and development functions are more alike than different, especially now that each function engages the same people through digital and social channels. In this three part series, part 1 covers alignment of goals and part 2 discusses alignment of audience insights

The 3rd and final installment of this 3-part series on “Striking the Right Balance Between Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Teams focuses on the importance of alignment when it comes to your brand story. 

Alignment of Story

We live in the age of participation. It used to be that the story of the cause or the mission of the organization, was told in a controlled manner by the NPO, and participants and donor prospects only responded. Today, however, our lives are digital, and the story has to emerge from the digital screen, encouraged by the user’s input, search or query. Storytelling today largely relies on audience participation.

As our digital lives have become massively cluttered through the explosion of always-on mobile devices and always-on social media, the time for telling our brand or mission story has shrunk — dramatically. Welcome to the world of the 6-second story

Yes, 6 seconds.

Your team has about a 6-second window for making a connection with prospective donors, volunteers and program participants. Just 6 seconds to give people a reason to care and a reason to want to learn more, get involved or give.  If that connection is lost in those first few seconds, then it is really lost, and the person is most likely not coming back.

In such a brief window of time, the storytelling must be simple, clear and aligned with the audience’s needs and wants.  All messaging from the organization from every department, including marketing and development, must make a bold statement and encourage exploration.

Your message must be:

  • Simple:  Simplify a complicated issue or problem that is important to the prospective participant or donor.  The message becomes the guide that helps them identify with the cause and be motivated to engage.
  • Stirring:  People engage and donate on emotion and then rationalize their decision with facts.
  • Memorable: Aim to strike a chord that prompts an internal question or reflection.  People can more readily relate to a story than fact-laden statements. 
  • Clear:  The words chosen for your Story, as well as any marketing communication must mean exactly what is intended, and they must be familiar and understandable to the key audiences.  Clarity is the most important element, even more so than cleverness or artistic or linguistic value.
  • Quick:  Communications must resonate in about 6 seconds. Because that is all the time you will get as people quickly move on to the next site, the next message coming at them, or the next digital or social interruption.

However, while the length of the brand story message has shrunk, the work of developing the art of the story” does not. No matter how short the message, never short-change the depth and complexity and richness of the story. This is where both marketing and development teams can have a combined influence that is greater than the sum of the parts.  With the collective understanding and rich data sets from both groups, your teams can completely, fully and deeply delve into, understand, and refine that full and perfect story. Only then are you really able to keep distilling it down further to finally reach the 6-second story message.

An Implementation Checklist

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If you have made it this far, we hope you are convinced that the alignment of marketing and development operations is a big opportunity for your organization.   

Here’s a checklist to get started:

  • Regardless of your title, department or longevity in the organization, you can get this conversation started.  Bring up the idea of identifying areas of collaboration in the next staff meeting.  Best case is that legacy distrust or long-held hesitations are brought forward and discussed.  Worst-case scenario is that the idea gets shot down unilaterally, and you learn something about your organization.
  • Take a look at the goals and objectives of both marketing and development for your organization.  Current overlap and shared purpose is a great place to start to formalize new levels of collaboration.
  • Call on your counterparts in other departments who are also doing surveys of key audiences.  Share insights, align feedback and determine potential overlap for future efforts.
  • Start small with a collaborative project to demonstrate the power of shared inputs and talent.  Celebrate small wins as proof of concept for larger projects.
  • Embrace the opportunity to breakthrough organizational inertia and build an Audience Insights function that can become a shared services operation for the entire organization. 

Contact Us

TopRight can help you assess your opportunity and establish a structure for ongoing success.  Contact us today for more information, and see the case studies on our website for inspiration.  Sign up for the TopRight blog and follow us @TopRightPartner for more ideas on how to #MoveTopRight.

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