Let Me Tell You A Story…
Let’s say I’m going to make a video to persuade you to support local artists and musicians. I’m going to cite industry statistics that show 99 percent of musicians will never get signed to a major label. I can link to IFPI’s worldwide analysis and Nielsen’s 2017 year-end report to prove that digital streaming makes up the majority of the recording industry’s sales. Then, I’ll juxtapose that number with Spotify’s average artist payout of $0.0038 per stream. I could do that…
Or, I could film a short documentary about Alex, a struggling singer-songwriter in your hometown. Alex is a very talented lyricist and has a beautiful, sultry voice. Since middle school, she practices guitar every day for at least two hours. She graduated from college with a major in music performance. Her professors urged her to move to New York or Los Angeles to make industry connections. So Alex did, but she soon ran out of money after a three-month stint performing open mics and small bar showcases. That’s when she had to move back into her parents’ place.
Now Alex works two part-time jobs as a server and delivery driver to make ends meet. On most weekends she has a regular time slot lined up at the local dive, The Smiling Banshee. Alex makes about $30 in tips and gets a complimentary meal from the bar, but that’s the extent of her success. She sells burned CDs she recorded with her basic home studio setup, but she only sells one or two of these on a good night.
It’s no secret that videos are shaping the future of our digital content consumption. Unfortunately, many organizations hope that annual report statistics and budget breakdowns will spur donor giving.
Now, which video would you rather watch? Moreover, which video would move you to support local artists? I’m willing to bet the latter would be more effective. In fact, Alex is an amalgam of several friends I have who are also musicians. Those people have stories to tell through their music, but few are privy to seeing their true stories.
It’s no secret that videos are shaping the future of our digital content consumption. Unfortunately, many organizations hope that annual report statistics and budget breakdowns will spur donor giving. Early in my journalism career, a wise mentor told me to “quote feelings, not facts.” Which is why the story — not the numbers — will motivate your future donors.
1. Video Storytelling Makes You Feel Something
Whether it’s a documentary or a novel, good narratives involve interesting characters. That doesn’t mean you have to like them. But something — whether it’s their backstory, mannerisms, appearance, goals, or dialogue — triggers an emotional response. If your goal is to persuade donors, you’re going to need an emotional narrative to gain their empathy. And to do that, you’re going to need a lot of oxytocin.
Now bear with me for getting all science-y for a paragraph. Oxytocin is a chemical released in our brains during social bonding experiences. It happens when you’re hanging out with your friends. Or, when you cry during Moonrise Kingdom (not that I did). Oxytocin is the powerful key to good storytelling because those emotions stay longer with us than others.
Emotional narratives are also good fundraising appeals because they’re extrinsic to the self. Recent research suggests that organization-related appeals, which focus on a nonprofit’s work and impact, are more likely to receive larger donations than donor-related appeals (the latter focus on the donor’s sense of self). So if you’re trying to persuade donors who previously gave to your organization, or other audiences who are consistent charitable givers, a good story is your best bet.
2. Video Storytelling Is Unique
Novelty is the fresh air that breathes life into your stories. It’s also a concept that’s deeply connected to our learning and retention. In other words, you’re more likely to remember a news headline that reads “Man Bites Dog,” rather than “Dog Bites Man.”
“I distrust plot for two reasons; first, because our lives are largely plotless… and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.”
— Stephen King
The good news is that there’s plenty of novelty for nonprofits. The bad news is that too many are still trying to communicate impact statistics, hoping the numbers pass for a story. Consider the people you serve. Who are they? What’s their story? Why did they need your organization’s help, and what got them there?
In his memoir On Writing, Stephen King has a powerful quote on how important plot is to story creation: not very. “I distrust plot for two reasons; first, because our lives are largely plotless… and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.”
If you’re trying to tell your organization’s story, it doesn’t behoove you to pigeonhole your benefactors to it. Rather, it’s important to find the truth within your subjects. Once you have a deep understanding of the people you serve and their unique situations, only then can you communicate your important role.
3. Video Storytelling Presents Challenges (And Resolutions!)
If your subjects are the vehicle for your nonprofit’s story, then the conflict (and its resolution) are the highway on which they travel. That’s because a person’s conflict shapes their character (and often vice-versa).
Let’s say I woke up today, had a piece of toast, went to work and chatted at the water cooler, then went home for the evening and played with my Pomeranian. That would be a lame story. There’s nothing exciting happening; there’s nothing worrisome or of intrinsic importance that would make the viewer ask, “What happens next?”
At Click & Pledge, we make it our mission to help your organization tell its story. Last week we unveiled pledgeTV™, our own resolution for video fundraising. pledgeTV™ is an online video player that lets donors give to your organization while they watch. pledgeTV™ streamlines the entire donation funnel. It’s the first video player that offers this functionality, bridging the gap between asks and conversions.
Resolving conflict gives the story a sense of purpose and relief. It ties up loose ends and allows us to go home thinking about what we learned. Resolution, at least for nonprofits, is simple: your organization, or its work, is the resolution. In contrast, maybe the story isn’t finished and there is no resolution yet. But, with a donor’s help, your organization can provide that resolution.