Creating a year-end campaign is like telling an epic tale:
- There’s a beginning, middle and end to the story
- There’s a noble protagonist
- There’s something monumental that stands to be gained (or lost)
Nonprofits use many techniques to engage audiences in their campaigns throughout the year, but successful year-end campaigning requires a unique type of storytelling. Your nonprofit’s year-end story is special because it aims to both summarize your progress over the last year plus set expectations for what’s to come in the future. Whether your nonprofit’s year has culminated in ways that you have anticipated or not, your task is to find the strongest threads from recent events or activities and weave them together into a patchwork of ideas and perspectives that ultimately inspires supporters to give. Choosing the wrong (or weak) storyline could mean losing the interest of potential donors early on in your campaign and ultimately missing out on valuable donations.
So, where do these incredible tales come from? Every nonprofit’s story is different. By tapping into your organization’s special blend of culture, creativity and broad connections (everyone from staff, volunteers and other high profile figures to the people you help everyday) you can create your own year-end story to set you on a sure path toward happily ever after.
Here are some types of magical year-end stories just waiting to be told:
The Fairy Tale
We’ve all heard this one: Once upon time, there was a nonprofit that created positive change in the world. But danger was lurking close by. An evil force was doing harm by putting its own power and profit above the good of the community. This force had to be stopped. So the nonprofit rallied its base and fought back with all its might. And just when you thought it couldn’t be done, the impossible happened – good triumphs over evil. All is right in the world…until the next time.
Without a doubt, it’s powerful nonprofit storytelling. No matter whom you cast as the “good guy” or the “bad guy”, it’s difficult to not be pulled into the overall drama. Nonprofits often default to this kind of storytelling for their year-end. After all, it’s easy for audiences to follow the storyline whether they’ve been with you from the beginning or joining later in the series of events.
Although if your organization is still facing a significant uphill battle – maybe you haven’t fully closed down that puppy mill or you haven’t been able to get that key project off the ground due to funding – embrace it for your story. It’s okay to sacrifice your happily ever after for now. Just make sure your story is compelling, realistic and illustrates how you’re working to get there.
Unveil a sinister world of corruption, underhanded deeds or simply get real about the frustrations of dealing with the bureaucratic red tape hindering your movement. The focus here is your antagonist and spotlighting just how harmful they can be to a cause. Is there a member of Congress that’s been especially hostile to your stance on a particular issue? Or maybe there’s a local board member who is continuing to evade your questions? Whoever’s been the sharpest thorn in your side; use your year-end campaign to take your standard advocacy actions up a notch.
Rally your supporters while also encouraging them to dig a little deeper in their pockets to fight this threat head on. Be prepared to share lots of facts, figures, witty comebacks and hard-hitting commentary about the harm that’s been inflicted. Just be sure you offer some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. Audiences can only take so much doom and gloom. Negativity is a good way to attract attention (look no further than the GOP candidates making headlines), but it is likely to burn out even your most ardent supporters.
Only nonprofits with some serious cute power in their arsenal can pull off this genre. Here’s looking at you, animal organizations and nonprofits with a funnel of cute kids at your disposal! But it’s not the standard romantic love we’re talking about. Instead, this genre is about making your audience fall head over heels with your cause by delivering a few laughs and lot of warm, fuzzy feelings.
Create some light-hearted, visual content for your story. Think video testimonials or pictures of staff and volunteers working side-by-side, or letters (or tweets!) of thanks for your organization’s hard work. (Need more inspiration? Here are 7 types of videos you can create for your year-end campaign.) The point is to underscore a deep passion for your work. Don’t get too lost in the world of cutesy fluff though. Make sure your campaign is still grounded in clear and positive results.
What’s the scariest thing about working for a nonprofit? For many, it’s not knowing where the funding is coming from next year! Play up this tension by sharing your year-end goals with your supporters. Want to raise $10,000 more than last year? Want to gain 500 more supporters? Great! Be transparent; put it in your year-end story and involve your audience in the suspense of a year-end fundraising drive.
Be sure to get your goal thermometers ready! And increase the build-up by offering to do something special when you hit a major milestone. Maybe if you hit your goal, your Executive Director will rappel down a building or you’ll release a special video from a celebrity saying “thanks”. Keep the content fresh and exciting and keep your supporters coming back for more even after they’ve donated to your campaign. And most importantly, don’t forget to follow up your campaign with an update. Did you meet or exceed your goal? If not, that’s okay too. Explain how that will affect your organization’s impact the following year and how much more determined you are to have a more positive outcome in the future.
It’s easy to get swept up in joys of the season. Speaking to your audience in this context is a simple way to honor the good work that’s been done all year and say “thank you” to the people who’ve made it all possible. This type of storytelling is especially effective for organizations with a large base of volunteers or those that organize larger events toward the end of the year.
The key is to capitalize on the spirit of the season without having any groups feeling left out of the big picture. Whatever message you choose, just be consistent with your theme across your website, email, social media and other web properties.
This kind of story invites your audience to relive your most exciting tales and beckons them to join you in upcoming adventures.
Share recaps of your biggest wins from the year through words, images, videos and social media snippets. Who did you help? What did you do? Why was it so important? Get updated testimonials from people who were a part of the action.
Remember this kind of storytelling is not just about celebrating what’s been accomplished, but urging your supporters to increase their commitment as well. Whether it’s by taking the next step to join as members or becoming a monthly sustainer, your goal is to cultivate donor relationships.
There are so many more nonprofit tales just waiting to be told, but we hope this list gets your team excited to uncover its own special story. Take a few queues from Adventure, mix it up with some Political intrigue and Suspense, add a dash of Romance with your own spin on happily ever after and you'll be well on your way to ending this year on a high note.
Whatever your style, just make sure it's a page-turner!