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Storymaking: The Bridge Between You And Your Fundraisers

The Plenty Team
October 1, 2014

Plan, produce, share, measure (hopefully), and repeat. Even those of us only slightly involved in marketing are familiar with this cycle. We strategize about the messages we want to communicate, what creative to use, and where to share the content. Then we examine the results and start all over again. At a high-level this process looks correct, right? Not only did we plan our messaging but even took time to measure the results. Most of us would pat ourselves on the back for taking these steps.

Yet, as you may have guessed, there is an underlying problem here. During each of these steps we rarely look past our internal agenda and goals to incorporate our audience’s needs, interests and experiences into our messaging. With a push to show impact and communicate mission we tend to naturally place the spotlight on ourselves and create organization-centric content.

While there is a need to share information about our organization and mission, it is no longer the way to win over our audience. The good news is that changing our ways isn’t as hard as we might think.

In a recent article in Inc., Alan Mochari explains the importance of moving from internally focused storytelling to externally focused storymaking. Think of storymaking as a more inclusive form of storytelling, one that is centered around your constituents. In storymaking, a constituent’s experiences with your brand becomes the driving factor behind your messaging.

And while the term “storymaking” may sound like just another marketing buzzword, the lesson behind it is valid. Here are three reasons why storymaking should matter to us:

  • Storymaking isn’t the exception, it’s the norm. The days of infomercials and pushy marketing ads are long gone. Constituents expect organizations to meet them where they are when it comes to media platforms and messaging. Instead of being the afterthought to our communication planning, constituents must be at the center of the process, with a direct focus on tying in their experiences. Any other approach will most likely leave our audience feeling alienated or uninterested.
  • As a nonprofit you have the edge. Central to the idea of storymaking is approaching our messaging from the perspective of our constituents by tapping into their emotional connection with our organization. As nonprofits we have a natural advantage as our relationships with our constituents are typically cause-based and derive from emotion, empathy, and a sense of purpose.
  • Stories enhance your peer-to-peer ask. We often talk about the different layers of an ask in peer-to-peer fundraising. The layers begin with our initial ask and then ripple out through our constituent networks. This can make maintaining a unified and strong ask challenging. Storymaking provides the unique opportunity for us to tap into the inherent sharing power of stories. Historically stories have been shared through groups of people with ease, and currently we are poised to capitalize on this trait by molding a relatable story and ask that can be shared by our constituents and beyond. By creating a story inspired by our constituent’s experiences, we connect them personally to the ask and increase the likelihood they will share this same messaging with their networks. We essentially have the potential to bridge the gap between our organization and the networks that stem from our constituents through a universal narrative.

Surely there will be a new concept that replaces storymaking as the new marketing trend, just as storymaking replaced storytelling. And when this happens many of us will quickly abandon storymaking for the new bright and shiny concept.

However, we must remember that storymaking is much more than a temporary phrase; it is an ideal that reminds us that marketing should be constructed with our audience in mind at all times. We have to get up from behind our desks, look past our weekly meeting rooms, and remember that we are trying to speak to living, breathing, and feeling individuals who want to be spoken with, not to. We owe it to our constituents to allow them to be a part of the story and impact we are creating, and in turn they will engage with us and invite others to do the same.

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