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5 Ingredients for a Dynamic Nonprofit Brand Story

By why” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?
—Simon Sinek


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 nonprofit’s mission and story has shrunk — dramatically.

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, a reason to want to learn more, get involved and ultimately contribute to your cause. If that connection is lost in those first few seconds, then it is really lost, and the person is most likely not coming back.


The goal is not just to sell to people who need what you have; the goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe.
—Simon Sinek


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.

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 deeply delve into the data and refine a compelling story.

Here are the 5 key elements that you should consider for a captivating nonprofit brand story:

1. 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.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
—Simon Sinek

2. Stirring — People engage and donate on emotion and then rationalize their decision with facts.

When we communicate from the outside in, yes, people can understand vast amounts of complicated information like features and benefits and facts and figures. It just doesn’t drive behavior. When we can communicate from the inside out, we’re talking directly to the part of the brain that controls behavior, and then we allow people to rationalize it with the tangible things we say and do.
—Simon Sinek

3. 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.

Facts tell, stories sell.

4. Clear — The words selected 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.

5. 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.

While the length of the brand story message has shrunk, the work of developing the “art of the story” has not. No matter how short the message, never short-change the depth, complexity, and richness of the story. Only then are you really able to keep distilling it down further to finally reach the 6-second story. Learn how to inspire collaboration and alignment in your nonprofit by downloading our latest whitepaper: Striking the Right Balance Between Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Teams.





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