Why Nonprofit Storytelling Won't Be Enough in 2014

Dec 27, 2013 | Updated Feb 26, 2014

In 2014, nonprofits will need to move beyond storytelling to win donors. Fundraising has always been a tough beast to tame. Moreover, with new oversight laws and the growing wealth disparity, organizations must convince donors how their services are producing sustainable results.

Yes, crowdfunding and social media have taught nonprofit staffs how to convey great stories to pull donors' heartstrings to open wallets and purses. However, the information age also yields more vigilant contributors who want to be reassured that their money is making an impact.

So, how do nonprofits push pass storytelling? Here are five key factors nonprofits can include in their long-term strategies:

1. Transparency
Be honest. Donors want to know not only your successes but also your failures. More importantly, people want to understand how your organization will learn from its mistakes and move forward.

Keep donors updated about your nonprofit's activities and how it plans to improve operations. If your organization suffered from a social media snafu, be direct with your donors. Inform them of the steps being implemented to prevent any future problems. There's no better way to promote trust than to be transparent with your donors.

2. Mobile Engagement
Thankfully, with today's technology, connecting with others is much easier. Whether it's by phone or iPad, meet donors on their playing fields. By using apps and text messaging, your organization can now have people donate money, set up volunteer time, or even volunteer virtually.

Host volunteer interviews via Skype. Send reminders to volunteer groups with WhatsApp. Announce successes through Twitter. Don't make any excuses for engagement this year. Go mobile!

3. Donor Incentives
Ensure your donors feel appreciated. Of course, a thank you card would work. But what about a Facebook shout-out? Or post a volunteer's picture on a Wall of Service board. It's time to merge traditional ways of showing appreciation with really cool perks.

You don't need to spend lots of money on thank you gifts. Partner with local businesses to provide awesome prizes to your volunteers. For example, team up with a movie theatre that can donate two tickets every month. Invest in donors, and they will invest in your organization.

4. Collaborations
Nonprofits should partner with one another to reach a variety of donors. Collaborations can promote a positive image to the community and can show camaraderie for multiple causes.

Think about planning a nonprofit fair, where community members can learn about different organizations in the local area. Donate a Facebook post to highlight the great work of another nonprofit. When organizations play nice, then outsiders will respect and value the nonprofit sector more.

5. Performance
Keep donors updated about the organization's progress. Data combined with personal anecdotes can show individuals the community impact. When donors see and understand the accomplishments, they will be encouraged to continue their support.

Invite donors to Google+ hangouts discussing quarterly performance reviews. On Instagram, post photos of how donors' dollars and time are translating into tangible solutions. Be creative!

Ultimately, nonprofits want to bring value to their missions. Avoid the just storytelling trap. Focus on the above factors to increase your nonprofit's effectiveness to engage donors.