'Marketing, Donor Relations’
The Power of Data Storytelling in Non-Profit Marketing
How do you form a strong, memorable connection between your non-profit and your donors? You take advantage of one of the most powerful (and increasingly popular) communication tools - data storytelling!
Data storytelling bridges the gap between hard data and human communication. Blending these two key components is necessary if you want to retain your donors’ attention to your cause. Why? Because the human brain has been hardwired over thousands of years to more easily remember information when it’s packaged up in a story-like format!
Think back to your high school science class, for example. Which teaching style did you find more enjoyable and easier to learn from: the poker-faced prof who assigned endless readings straight from the textbook and handed out a mountain of worksheets for you to memorize… ?
Or, the teacher with a highly emotive, animated style who would mix in stories, humour, visuals, and demonstrations tailored to your class’ interests while still tying it all back to the curriculum?
Teacher 2’s powerful storytelling ability is the obvious pick, and the research backs this up. A study done by the University of North Carolina found that half of the participants examined expressed an emotional connection to the content when told a story. And that number jumped all the way to 64% when the story was able to relate to participants’ own experiences in some way.
If your aim is to increase donor retention, the most surefire way to build a stronger relationship with your donors is to connect with them at an emotional level. So just how do you foster this emotional connection?
Don’t Be Afraid To Get Descriptive!
Like the high school teacher example above, you want to mentally transport your reader into your story using vivid description and detail. The more your donors are able to visualize your story about how their funding is transforming the everyday lives of underprivileged children in developing countries (for example), the stronger your donors’ emotional ties to your nonprofit will become.
Share Other People’s Emotions Too
This could certainly be individuals and communities that your nonprofit helps, but perhaps could even be your team members as well. Us humans are social creatures and tend to mirror the emotions we see in others.
Peppering in your team’s emotional reactions to certain campaign statistics can be an excellent way to connect emotionally with your donors (as one participant in the UNC study cited above explained it, "they would get excited, so I would get excited too!”). This strategy also serves to humanize your team and foster familiarity for donors.
Minimize Distractions That Could Take Away From Your Narrative
If you are showcasing a graph, hide any information that doesn’t meaningfully contribute to your story (of course, this is different than intentionally misconstruing data to fit your narrative). The web analytics company Crazy Egg created a graph for how to best depict your data in a meaningful way:
If your donors are reading your story through email or a blog post, do not link out to a dozen other websites, YouTube videos, or social media posts that will lift your readers out of your narrative and interrupt the emotional "flow” of your data storytelling.
Boost Your Data Storytelling With Data Visualization — And Lots Of It!
Our brains process and recall visuals faster and easier than language. Your non-profit can take advantage of this concept by coupling your language-based narrative with visuals. This tactic will target both the left and right sides of the brain, making your story more appealing and easily digestible for your donors. So wherever appropriate, support your story with charts, videos and other visuals to really bring your storytelling to life!
As an example, the crowdfunding platform Donors Choose translated their data on how their 500,000+ users fund various projects into a summarized, easy-to-understand infographic which you can view here
The ability to analyze big data and translate that into an emotionally captivating narrative is one of the most valuable skills in an increasingly data-driven world, as per this official 2019 LinkedIn report
. With the strategies above, your nonprofit can start to harness the incredible power of data storytelling to share the exciting stats of your campaign efforts with your donors — but in a way that’s most meaningful to them.
Column Five Media. "Infographic: What Donors Choose: The Odds of Project Completion.”
Petrone, Paul. "The Skills Companies Need Most in 2019 – And How to Learn Them.” LinkedIn Official Blog. January 1, 2019.
Sturm, Brian W. "The Enchanted Imagination: Storytelling’s Power To Entrance Listeners.” University of North Carolina. July 1999.
Two Octobers. "8 Data Storytelling Concepts (with Examples!).” March 30, 2018.