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How to Improve and Repurpose Your Nonprofit’s Core Story


Once upon a time, I worked with an organization who, when asked what they’d like to see from our project, replied with “collect the most money in the least amount of time.” Well, sure, that’s kind of what every nonprofit wants, but… well there are too many unanswered fundraising questions there: how, for what, what do you do about it, etc. And of course, probably the most important: who are you telling the story to?

So, let’s talk about your story. Your core story. I’m honestly surprised about how many organizations don’t have their core story figured out. The core story is a combination of the organization’s goal (beyond getting the donations!), some specifics about the campaign, who they’re helping, how they’re helping, how the donor is involved and more. This is your story; your core story. Now… what do you do with it?

Segment Your Donor Base
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Having a good understanding of that core story is key to the next steps, the most common being to segment. When you tell your story, you tell it to different groups. For example, take a school. You, as the school, need to get your message out with the best impact you can muster. Most, and I really do mean most from my experience, will just send out that core story to everyone on their lists. But, if you segment that list in something as simple as Alumni and Parents, you can now change the wording of your story to “speak to” each group. Segmenting donors enables you to send messages that are more in-tune with what each donor is interested in and aligned with why they support your organization.

Have a Multichannel Approach
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But segmenting goes beyond types of supporters, zip codes, financial levels, etc. It can also apply to the medium it is sent through.  A live storyteller will adapt to the crowd. A physical flyer pays attention to text style and size and framing of the text, usage of images. An email pays attention to a subject line, exactly who it is from, pictures, link styles, length and more.

Then there’s social media! With Twitter, you are limited to only 280 characters. You need to be able to tell that story in 280 characters or less. Instagram means your story should be captured in a single image with no links. Facebook allows you to have a little more freedom on design, but then you also need to consider the best time to send it.

Every time, every medium, every audience should be considered when crafting your message from your core story. That core message will still be there, but the actual words or images or style may be completely different. You are making the message personal and your different audiences can relate that much better. They are all getting the same general message, but you are giving them a more direct reason to care in the language they prefer.

Keep Your Story Alive
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Now that you’re successfully personalizing your story to fit your audience, how do you repurpose it? How do you keep an audience that constantly wants something new with your “same old story?”  The storyteller (you) needs to adapt to their audience at every telling. This means to keep it topical. What is happening in the world that could relate to your audience and your core story?

This may mean your core story changes slightly. Of course, right now, that is easy to see because of the pandemic. New hurdles are in place. The “bad guy” in your story likely has changed to (at least) include the virus as a concern. So, the main story may change slightly, and that alone gives your campaign new life. But with the new factors, your message in all of its different forms also changes.

Ideally, you don’t want to tell the exact same story and just slap a different title or subject line on it, or use a different Twitter message to go to the exact same link. It will just bore and frustrate your supporters. But with an ever so slightly different focus, whether it is because of new circumstances (COVID-19), different vehicles (Twitter vs. Facebook), or different audiences (parents vs. alumni), you can use the “same” material – your core story – and have a unique, timely and personal experience for all of your different constituents.

Scott Couchman
Training Manager



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