Non-profit storytelling for marketing

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You will often hear us, and other marketers, say that you shouldn’t spend too much time talking about yourself online. If you’re a non-profit or NGO, you’re the exception, and you should talk about yourselves and what you do as much as possible! Inspiring tales about the work you do is what your donors want to see; they want to see what their money is being spent on. There are five steps to non-profit storytelling for marketing that can help you get new donors, and plenty of engagement from current donors. 

We have simply loved working with our client, The Children’s Hospital Trust over the past few years, and we will be using their amazing work as a model to illustrate the steps below. 

Step 1 – Lay it out 

This is your planning phase. Find the beginning, middle and end of your narrative. You don’t need to use any overly-creative framing devices here. Your story needs to be purposefully easy to follow from the very beginning. If you want to tease the end, do it in your social media caption rather than as a part of the larger story itself. 

For the Children’s Hospital Trust, the beginning of a story consists of introducing a child and their parents to the reader. They spend a small amount of time discussing their lives and how their children got injured, or what symptoms they began experiencing if they were sick. 

The middle of the story goes into how their beneficiary, the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, saved a child’s life, gave long-term hospital care, responded quickly at the emergency centre, dispatched social workers, patched up an injury efficiently and/or provided other services to the family of the child in need. 

We wrap things up with an update about how the sick or injured child is doing now, weeks, months or even years after receiving treatment. This offers readers a sense of closure, and shows them just how much of a difference their donated contributions made to a little one and their family during a difficult time. 

Step 2 – Choose your hero 

Your story won’t drive itself, and it needs a central character behind the wheel, so to speak. You need to build your story around who your hero is as a person when you’re using non-profit storytelling for marketing. The Children’s Hospital Trust does this by giving us plenty of info about their heroes. Most of the time, it’s a sick or injured child. The story will go into the child’s personality, what kinds of games they like to play, and (most importantly) the different ways each one shows bravery and resilience throughout their healing journey. 

It’s important to remember that the way you represent your heroes here matters. Not only should you get permission and a nod of approval from them, but you also need to be careful about the way you express their needs. When you’re working with an organisation that serves the community, like the Children’s Hospital Trust, remind yourself that all people are sensitive about needing help in this way. You need to craft your narrative in such a way that your heroes and their needs are represented respectfully, without appearing to infantilise them. 

Step 3 – Guide your audience

When you get an inspiring story, instead of publishing it immediately, save it for a time when it will have the biggest impact and can guide your donors to a tangible target. 

For example, the Children’s Hospital Trust run campaigns to try to improve the Red Cross Children’s Hospital constantly. They do these one-at-a-time so that each one gets the attention and funding it deserves. Some of their campaigns have included building a new emergency centre, a therapeutic playground and an orthopaedic unit. 

During each of these campaigns, they ran inspiring patient stories that related directly to the live campaign. This allowed donors to see just how impactful their contribution would be before even donating. When they were trying to fund the emergency centre, they focused on children who were injured or in accidents. During the therapeutic playground campaign, we saw more stories about disabled patients or children with a long-term recovery ahead. Alongside their orthopaedic unit campaign, they featured children in need of orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation. 

Step 4 – Offer a solution 

Now comes the big part: asking people to donate to your cause. You’ve told an inspiring story, and maybe it had a happy ending; at this stage you might wonder what would incentivise people to donate. 

Towards the end of each story, the Children’s Hospital Trust expands on the challenges the team faced during each healing journey. Despite happy endings, there was also overcrowding, no transport for follow-up appointments, old technology, too few beds in certain wards and units, and not enough training for nurses, social workers and therapists wanting to specialise in paediatrics. 

The solution to all these problems? Funding, of course! Offer your solution here and ask for what you need. Do you beneficiaries need money, non-perishable food, sanitary and dignity toiletries, clothes, volunteers? 

Step 5 – Add extra information

Imagine you’re a potential donor (especially a new donor). Look at your call to action and ask yourself if everything they will need is there. Have you included a hyperlink to various payment options to donation? Have you added a drop-off address for gifts in kind or a sign-up sheet for volunteers? You also need to make sure you include multiple ports of contact for people to get in touch to ask questions or get involved in bigger ways. Whatever you can do or add to make the whole process as fast and efficient as possible, the better. 


And that’s it! Non-profit storytelling for marketing is a powerful tool, and real stories about humans, animals or habitats in need are especially effective. If you’re looking for assistance in marketing your non-profit or NGO, or even if you just need a hand in telling your stories impactfully, we’d love to get on board. You can click here to get in touch with us for a quote.