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5 Ways You Should Be Using Story Assets

What are some of the ways you can use stories in your work?


1. Pictures in social media fundraising campaigns

One of the main reasons NGOs collect photographs is to use them for fundraising (here are our photography tips). To many organizations, that means traditional fundraising via print appeals and email blasts. But what about social media fundraising? Using it has been proven to increase fundraising results by an average of 40%. Many South African NGOs have the capability to raise money via social media but they don’t, according to this fundraising research from 2014. But you can’t just superimpose text on a photograph, upload it to Facebook and expect money to roll in.

During my time at the American NGO Bread for the World, I worked with an online editor and a fundraising manager to create a Facebook component to an email and print fundraising campaign. I researched picture possibilities while my colleagues worked on finding quotes and writing simple text to Photoshop on the pictures. People ended up “liking” and sharing the pictures a lot and the campaign helped put us over the fundraising goal. Lessons I learned or re-learned during this campaign:

1. People love pictures of babies.
2. Create a URL exclusive to the social campaign so you can track metrics.
3. You should always have someone or some people look over your design.
4. Collaboration is key. You will often create something better together than on your own.

2. Stories in emails

As long as we’re on the subject of fundraising, let’s talk about using stories in fundraising emails.

One year at Bread for the World two colleagues and I experimented with this. We settled on four stories that would each become an email describing a certain person and his or her struggle with hunger or poverty. At the last minute, for reasons I can’t remember, we switched out one story email with an email straight-out asking for money. The non-story email was our accidental control. After the campaign ended, we found that the three story emails had higher open and click-through rates than the non-story email.

Obviously, this was in no way controlled scientific research. There could be a number of reasons the story emails fared better than the non-story email, including email subject line and the time of day we sent each email. However, this anecdotal evidence did convince my former colleagues and I that stories are essential in fundraising campaigns. This story in Harvard Business Review helps explain why.

3. Colleagues’ presentations

Many organisations have technical experts, researchers and community organizers giving presentations and workshops. Every interaction with people outside your organization is a chance to showcase what you do, educate people about your cause, inspire potential volunteers and even raise funds. Make sure your colleagues know about the human interest stories available to them and the quotes, pictures, videos and audio soundbites that will help make their good presentation or workshop great.

It helps if you consistently keep assets in the same, accessible place. So word and audio stories can be on a shared drive, photographs on a site like Flickr and videos on YouTube. Then, when you add new content, email everyone. This way people aren’t always asking you to get them a picture or find them a story.

Clients I’ve worked with have asked me to create collections of audio snippets they can play during workshops. They’ve asked me to create all-photograph PowerPoint presentations with some facts imposed on each picture (like this photo presentation that ended up Huffington Post). They’ve asked me to list quotes they can read during presentations. These are all things you can do in your organization.

4. Quotes on Twitter to promote the story or your organisation’s work

Quotes are popular and can drive traffic to web pages. Read through that story you just published or listen again to that video you just posted. Pull out a quote, be sure to add a link to relevant content on your website, then tweet it out. As we’ve written in our Twitter guide, Twitter is not just a way for you to market your products and services. You can even experiment to see what works best: sometimes I tweet a story using the story headline and a link to the text. Then I tweet the story again using a compelling quote from one of the story characters and a link to the text. Nearly every time, the quote tweet gets more clicks and retweets than the headline tweet.

5. Give your story assets to the people in your stories

This one is very simple and highly appreciated but not often done. I know it can be time-consuming to transfer photographs to a thumb drive, print pictures or convince a colleague to pack a stack of hefty annual reports in their suitcase for a field visit. But I believe it’s the right thing to do for people who have given their time and stories to me.

Laura Elizabeth Pohl is a photographer and filmmaker who frequently works with international NGOs. You can see her work at www.laurapohl.com.