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Monday, December 6, 2010

The Best Charity that No One Has Heard Of

I was reading the "Give Well" blog, when they posed an interesting question about how to tell the story of the "Best Charity" that they found. Few, if anyone, seemed to know about this charity, and even if they did, there was no gripping or compelling story that spread the word out about the charity. The core of the problem? said charity is "in the sector of health system logistics."

A challenge yes, but insurmountable, no. As I read the article, the author correctly points to the key success factors of fundraising - connecting contributions to tangible emotional impact. That should be it right? But yet they claim to need help with suggestions on telling the story. The real goal of the question, I suspect, is expand the "connection" strategy to implementable tactics within some budget, time frame, or other scarce resource.

My approach would be one of focusing on the tangible impact as a function of resource inputs. One reason why the charity was voted "Best" by Give Well, is its use of funds to create impact well beyond its budget.  Indeed, if the impact could be clearly presented in simple statistics such as a high Charity Navigator score where 95% of funds goes to disease reduction efforts, or every $1 spent insures delivery of 20 vaccines, then there would be an obvious starting point.

While there are many charities that will accept donations, there are only so many donors. The charities who often draw the most donors will either have longevity, track record, or infrastructure that helps them pull in donations. Without those key leverage points, charities need to find ways to draw and keep attention. That's where the emotion and reason come into play. Impact and results by a charity satisfy something I call the minimum logic requirement - that minimum about of proof where a donation is not a bad idea, and the charity has more or less equal footing for donation $. Then, the emotional aspect can kick in. If a donor has to choose from charity A or B after the logical stats have been evaluated, then the one with the biggest emotional response has the best chance.

The tactic I would suggest is creating print and video material showing both the success stats intermixed with compelling images/video of before an after scenarios. I could story-board it if I had the figures and some footage, but I'll try to explain here. Start with videos or stills with a voice-over from a local affected by the charity talking about before the impact, describing what it was like. Then follow that with a brief statement of what the charity does, then more video and stills with voice over from the same person, discussing what the impact has been. Repeat for each success/impact using several locals, being sure to include statistics that increase trust and credibility on the front end.

That's how I would tell the story - in as many media outlets as possible, sharing the content with all current and futures supporters, and encouraging sharing. I would also include instructions on how to share the content as well, asking supporters to identify and contact local and regional outlets to share their stories, using any connections to charity members.

1 comment :

  1. Hi Duane,

    I formerly worked at VillageReach in communications and support the ideas of storytelling and emotional appeal that you present. You may be interested to see that VillageReach has a youtube channel with several videos:

    The limiting factor preventing many small nonprofits from developing strong multimedia productions is lack of staff time and budget resources to devote to marketing projects. While these projects may indeed increase recognition, they often are not feasible to implement.