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  • Jay Wilkinson, CEO of Firespring

Guest Blog: Tap the Power of Storytelling on Your Website

NOTE: This is a guest post from Jay Wilkinson, CEO of Firespring

One of your most powerful marketing tools is a great story. And your other powerful marketing tool–your nonprofit’s website–is the perfect place to showcase one.

Of course, you can tell everyone about your mission and your cause on your website in clear, direct, “mission statement” style language and hope that’s compelling enough to get people to pull out their credit cards or sign up to volunteer. But if we’re honest, most of the time, that’s not going to move many people to do either.

But storytelling–showcasing an engaging, heartfelt, inspiring story–has the potential to change everything. Donors are generally more motivated to give for emotional reasons than logical ones, and telling stories that tug on heartstrings is an effective way to inspire them to tug on their pocketbooks or get involved.

So, let’s talk about that a bit: How can you effectively use your nonprofit website to tell a compelling, memorable story? I’d start with this:

Jay Wilkinson

Find a story worth telling.​ You have to know what to write about, what to video, what to photograph, what to podcast–because not everything that happens is necessarily share-worthy. So, be on the lookout for something interesting, like a unique or new event and the people attending. Individuals or families you’ve helped. A volunteer who went above and beyond. A donor who sacrificed for your cause. ​Tell stories​ that evoke emotion, celebrate change, communicate your mission or simply just inspire people–and often those stories will focus on people more than buildings and on changed lives more than facts and figures. I’m not saying facilities and data aren’t interesting; but they’re not typically the stuff of a compelling story. People find other people’s lives fascinating, though.

Know where to tell it and sell it. ​Your ​nonprofit website​, of course, is the perfect tool for storytelling. You can feature stories on your blog, images and videos on your donation pages, quick anecdotes on your About Us page, or all of the above on relevant landing pages. You can run spotlights on your homepage that feature a headline about a particular story, then link to a page where you tell more and include a call to action (Donate Now, Sign Up For Our Newsletter, etc.). Really, you can get as creative as you’d like, highlighting how your organization has impacted lives and changed your corner of the world by providing an insider’s view of the people who make your nonprofit run–or a glimpse of those who’ve benefited from it.

And, while I’m talking about your website content, this is the perfect place to mention the importance of a reliable, user-friendly CMS, or content management system. Not every nonprofit website has one, and those organizations have to rely on a gatekeeper, or a third party, to make content changes for them. Don’t let that be you. Get yourself a website solution with a CMS that has point-and-click simplicity so you can change your content–and stories–as you see fit, all on your own. And once you’ve turned your website into a captivating and engaging storytelling machine, you’ll want to make sure it gets noticed.

Drive people to your website with (you guessed it) stories. ​Whether you’re featuring snippets of stories in your e-newsletter, direct mail pieces, social media posts, YouTube channel or other marketing materials, be sure you’re driving traffic to one common destination: your website. That’s where you can really pull people in and tell them more about your mission and cause and the lives you’ve impacted.

But, of course, all your marketing channels are vehicles for storytelling, and it’s smart to take advantage of them. Post a video on Facebook or use ​Instagram Stories​ to showcase an event for those who couldn’t be there. Or go live on either platform from your event to introduce volunteers or constituents who’ve sacrificed for your organization. Tweet from a conference you’re attending, or maybe a fundraiser or drive you’re hosting. The possibilities are really endless with all the social media platforms available and email marketing potential. I will just remind you, as I do everyone, that your website is the hub of your marketing universe, and all roads should lead back to that. It’s the ultimate destination for engaging your audience and, more importantly, moving them to action.

And remember: Show, don’t just tell. ​Videos, photos, infographics (you can easily create your own on websites like Canva), compelling images–these are all so crucial to good storytelling. You can write blog posts and articles and well-crafted tweets all day long, but without the visuals to go along, even the best, most compelling writing won’t be as impactful. (There’s a reason they say a picture is worth a 1,000 words.) The great thing is most of us have smartphones, and that’s really all you need to take videos and pictures that are easily shareable. Sometimes people get hung up on budgets and how much it will cost to hire a videographer or a professional photographer, but there’s no need. Today, most of the videos and photos people share come straight from a mobile device. It’s just about taking the time and pinpointing the opportunities to video and photograph the right stories.

Like I said in the beginning, find the stories worth sharing.

At ​Firespring​, where I serve as CEO, storytelling is highly regarded. We tell stories often of our staff members or the wonderful clients we serve and ​organizations we’ve impacted​. We also believe in using our people, products and profits for good. We’re not a nonprofit, but we ​are​ a Certified B Corp–and we’ve made the nonprofit space our home for over a decade, helping thousands of nonprofits tell their stories by creating captivating and engaging websites that clearly communicate their mission and their cause.

I’ve long held to our belief in “education without expectation,” and I invite you to browse our selection of ​free webinars​, all designed to help you learn more about websites, marketing, technology, fundraising ideas, and a variety of other topics that you deal with on a regular basis. Or if you’d rather, you can ​sign up for a quick, free, customized demo​ that’ll put you in the driver’s seat and let you experience what a brand new Firespring website would look like for your organization.

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Jay Wilkinson is the CEO of Firespring.

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