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Lessons In Non-Profit Storytelling From The Best In The World

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

If you think times are tough in a marketing world where you’re actually providing goods or services in exchange for money, spare a thought for the marketers of charities who need to convince us to part with money without wrapping up something for us to take home.

One of the biggest challenges non-profits face is justifying their operating costs. Supporters of charities have long questioned the amount of money spent on admin vs. how much actually creates impact for the worthy cause they donated to.

The Internet has made it easier for charities to reach people and to tell their story, but that access has also created a new breed of supporter who is both savvy and discerning. Access shouldn’t be confused with impact though. There are no shortcuts to mattering to people, but there are ways you can tell a better brand story.

7 Lessons In Non-Profit Marketing From charity: water

1. Declare a single enemy.
charity: water’s is dirty water. They explain how lack of access to clean drinking water impacts everything from health to time, poverty to education and the effect on the lives of women and children in particular.

2. The 100% giving model.
Build trust with transparency. charity: water stripped away all doubt about how much of the donated funds actually impacted good causes. They have two funding streams, donations to water projects from supporters and private donors and sponsors who fund operating costs. Donations are tracked to results in the field using photos and GPS so that supporters can see their impact.

3. Provide context
The size of the problem is still big (a billion people don’t have access to clean water), but charity: water breaks it down. They make the real impact of the donation more tangible.
My $20 buys access to clean water for one person.

4. Understand the donor’s worldview.
charity: water knows that we were buying the feeling that giving brings.
They worked out what supporters needed to know and how they wanted to feel and used great storytelling to make that happen.

5. Make it personal
The my charity: water platform gives people the opportunity to create their own campaign and a way to reach out to and connect with their supporters. This platform also makes it easy to both fundraisers and supporters to donate, keep track of progress and feel involved.
There are regular campaigns encouraging people to ‘donate’ their celebrations, like birthdays to the cause.

6. Leverage design.
Take a look at the charity: water website and you’ll see what I mean. Many charity websites feel clunky, they often have the feel of a dated corporate bureaucracy. This one feels like it’s alive, that it’s powered by community and intention, that work being done. The charity also has a recognisable symbol— the yellow jerry can.

7. Create community
charity: water makes it easy to share their story and your campaign via social media. They leverage all of the modern brand storytelling tools to both share the joy and create a sense of community.

Here is the charity: water Difference Map (created by me for the book Difference, not in consultation with charity: water). It might give you some clues about how to tell your own story.

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