Author: Sandra Tolliver, Huss Group Senior Associate
Passion is the lifeblood of your nonprofit: the passion you and your colleagues share for the mission, the passion of your clients for your organization’s services, and the passion of your donors for the dynamic, unselfish work you do. Passion is what turns on the lights in the morning and gets you through the inevitable twists and turns each day brings.
Whether your organization is small and financially challenged or large and richly endowed, your ability to convey that passion to your funders is critical to your nonprofit’s continued success, especially in today’s world of intense competition for finite resources.
Telling your nonprofit’s story loud and clear—and with passion—is the key to connecting donors to your mission and ultimately those who benefit from your work.
As a business-savvy executive director, you’ve got that special knack of talking to people about your organization. You wear your passion on your sleeve. With any audience, you can inspire people with specific examples of how your nonprofit carries out its mission.
But do you connect those inspiring stories to funding?
With some nonprofits, it’s easy to make the “where your money goes” connection: $100 buys food, medicine, or building materials, for example. For others, it’s not so clear. In some cases, even small contributions have a notable and measurable impact, while in others the cost of a specific program may seem large relative to the population served. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the challenge of connecting funding to stories – it must be tailored to your organization.
Human stories that pique your funders’ interest–stories about your clients, staff, volunteers or even donors themselves–are the natural centerpiece of any communications strategy. Many donors, especially those who can make substantial contributions, are keenly interested in where their money goes and want to know the mix between programs, overhead and fundraising. A pie chart that breaks down expenses is one easy and visually appealing way to show this data. A favorable report from independent agencies that measure nonprofits’ efficiency (such as GuideStar) should also be a part of your story. And if you have corporate sponsors that underwrite the cost of your fundraising events, allowing 100% of donations to go towards programs and your mission, shout about it!
Huss Group has extensive experience in the art of effective storytelling for nonprofits, and we can help yours establish that crucial link between your mission and your donors.
When Candace Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, started a new nonprofit, We Save Lives, to make drunk, drugged and distracting driving unacceptable in society, she turned to Huss Group to tell her story. We helped to generate buzz for the nonprofit’s #ReflectionsFromInside campaign. With a viral video in which a man in prison for a DUI fatality tells his story to bar-goers, we got to work pitching national media networks. A producer from NBC saw the video on his Facebook feed, and we negotiated the best possible segment time with NBC Nightly News and granted them the exclusive. Then we worked to share the story across social media platforms and NBC UNI distribution channels. Ultimately, the story reached dozens of major media outlets in many countries from Canada to Japan.
When the Pittsburgh-based Hopital Albert Schweitzer wanted to raise awareness of the 60th anniversary of its hospital in Haiti, Huss Group stepped in to share compelling human interest stories during the 2016 outbreak of Zika. We told the story of the hospital’s network of 42 mobile medical workers and several hundred medical volunteers who delivered Zika preventative education and family planning to more than 10,000 Haitians and began tracking several dozen pregnant women who experienced Zika-related symptoms. To some media, we told the story of the purpose-driven life of Manhattan socialite Louise Stephaich, the niece and goddaughter of HAS founders Larry and Gwen Mellon, highlighting why family members born into unimaginable wealth continue to embody the founders’ fiery passion to provide a stable source of hope for one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere.