What Humans of New York Can Teach You About End of Year Fundraising | npENGAGE

What ‘Humans of New York’ Can Teach You About End of Year Fundraising

By on Sep 3, 2014


It’s the beginning of September and, as if you haven’t already heard this about a thousand times, the end of year is really almost here.

That means that in 115 days, the biggest giving day of the year will be upon us. (Download this awesome new eBook to make sure you’re  prepared!)

As I ponder the ways in which nonprofits can really stand out this December, I’m inspired by the work of Brandon Stanton. If you’re not familiar with Brandon, he’s the blogger/photographer behind Humans of New York (HONY). Unlike most others who’ve built a massive following on social media, his following of over 9 million people grew by doing things differently. He’s not taking selfies or blogging about his adventures in the kitchen…

He’s telling other people’s stories.

In doing so, he forces us to consider lives and circumstances other than our own. Maybe we’ve walked in this person’s shoes, dreamed of walking in their shoes, or our biggest fear would be to wear their shoes for even five minutes.The point is that we’re left with an impression.

No matter how different we are from the people pictured, each post is an ode to the story in all of us, a reminder that—in ways big and small—we’re all in this together.

And at the core, that’s what inspires charity.

What does HONY have to do with your nonprofit’s end of year fundraising campaign?

For starters, everything.

As you’re (hopefully) working to integrate a content and digital strategy into your EOY fundraising and marketing campaign, it’s of utmost importance that you’re showing and telling a story that inspires:

Show me the woman who’s getting back on her feet post tragedy.

Show me the child who’s no longer hungry or scared or worried about clean water.

Show me the man who’s found comfort in a hospital bed thanks to a service dog.

Show me the family that’s running a race in memory of a loved one.

You are who you serve.

1. Photo a Day Campaign

Use your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts to share a photo of someone who’s been impacted by your mission. Ask people to submit photos or get professional photos taken (even cooler if a photographer does it pro bono). Then, in the words of the beneficiary, tell their story.

Where are they now? Where did they come from? What are their plans for the future?

Ask the kinds of questions that get to the core of why your organization exists. Then, let their photos and stories build the case for your year-end ask. If you give people a glimpse into the lives of those they’re helping to change, you give them a reason to give again, and again.

2. Video Testimonials

This is a great way to make your stories even more personal and demonstrate the significance of every donor’s support. It’s also an opportunity to show off the personalities of the families and individuals your organization serves. Everyone’s story is unique; use videos as a way to highlight this.

This is a video that was shared during the ALS #IceBucketChallenge craze. I believe this guy’s video alone could have inspired the $98.2 million in donations. I urge you to watch the video in its entirety.

 3. Supporter Stories

People want to give, but what they want more than to give is to contribute—to have impact. They don’t want to give cash. They want to give meals. They want to grant wishes.

They want to foster change.

Your numbers are important, yes, as is the building renovation project your campaign will be funding and the event you hosted last week. But those things alone won’t foster a network of connected supporters. Alone, those will not tell the story of your organization’a work. Tell them, instead, about lives that are impacted daily through service.

Your volunteers and your front line fundraisers have stories. Their lives have been impacted by your organization’s mission, so give them the opportunity to talk about what they’ve seen, who they’ve met, and why they’re committed to supporting your cause. Take pictures. Conduct a video interview. Put a face to the story.

Tell their stories and, subsequently, you tell the story of your organization.

That’s what people want to be a part of during the biggest giving season of the year, and that’s how a groundswell of support for your mission begins.

Your ask is important. Your last chance email is important. Your donate now button is important. Your thank you is important. But the most important piece of your entire end of year fundraising appeal is the story of your people—the story that directly connects your supporters to your cause and reminds them that you’re in this together.

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Madeline Turner is a social media expert, and was formerly the online and social marketing manager at Blackbaud. Prior to running Blackbaud’s social media and thought leadership blog npENGAGE, Madeline worked as a managing editor for Blackbaud’s content marketing program. It is her goal to create content and share ideas that challenge the status quo of the nonprofit industry. When Madeline isn’t tweeting or writing blog posts, you can find her drinking coffee out of her ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ mug, wearing giant headphones and singing off-key.

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