Using storytelling in your nonprofit’s text messaging strategy can help you strengthen connections and inspire generosity. Use these tips from Mike Snusz, Director of Nonprofit Customer Experience at Tatango, to get started.
A person looking at text messages on a smartphone.

Whether you’re running an annual text-to-give fundraiser or pairing text-to-give with your next event to maximize giving, you need compelling donation appeals to inspire generosity. This is where storytelling becomes essential.

For thousands of years, stories have been the thread that brings people of all different backgrounds together. With the right storytelling tactics, you can highlight the gravity of a given issue, demonstrate why your cause is worthy of ongoing support, and prove how you’ll use donations to push forward change.

Storytelling via text messaging can be a powerful way to spread your message to supporters immediately. According to Tatango, nonprofit text messages have a 99% open rate and a 90% read rate within just three minutes of sending—which means you can ensure that your organization’s story will be seen. Use these best practices to infuse storytelling into your next text messaging campaign.

Revolve your story around a compelling protagonist

The best stories all have one thing in common: a hero that readers want to rally around and root for their success. Focusing your story around a compelling protagonist can keep your supporters’ attention while creating a powerful emotional response. Keep these tips in mind: 

  • Identify your protagonist: Choose a protagonist whose story embodies the mission and impact of your nonprofit. This could be a beneficiary who has directly benefited from your organization’s programs, a volunteer who exemplifies dedication and passion, or a staff member who goes above and beyond to make a difference. Be sure that your chosen story resonates with your target audience to evoke empathy.
  • Highlight personal journeys: Share the personal journey of your protagonist, including their challenges, triumphs, and the impact your nonprofit has created in their lives. Use vivid and descriptive language to paint a picture of their experience. By humanizing their story, you can create a compelling narrative that captivates donors and inspires action.
  • Focus on transformation: Emphasize the transformational journey of your protagonist, showcasing how they have overcome adversity and achieved positive outcomes with the support of your nonprofit. Highlight key moments of growth, resilience, and empowerment to help donors understand the real-world impact of their contributions and motivate them to support your cause.

Be sure to obtain the consent of your protagonist before sharing their story publicly. This will help to retain your community’s trust over time. 

Highlight donors’ individual impact

Your stories should emphasize that the difference you’re able to spark in the community is all thanks to supporters’ contributions. In your text messages, make sure to: 

  • Illustrate the tangible connection between donors’ gifts and the resulting impact: You might tell a story about a single mother who was struggling to find affordable housing for her family. Thanks to donors’ contributions, you were able to build her a new home and provide her family with resources to achieve financial independence and security. 
  • Quantify their impact: Use data to illustrate the scale and scope of supporters’ impact, such as the number of individuals served, lives changed, or communities empowered. Show donors how their financial support translates into real-world outcomes and amplifies the effectiveness of your programs. If you recently held a disaster relief fundraiser for a community affected by a hurricane, for example, you might share how the $100,000 raised helped 500 families receive critical food supplies and shelter. 
  • Shout out specific donors: If certain donors went above and beyond with their gifts, you could give them a public shoutout in your text messaging campaign and show how their gifts made a difference. This can inspire generosity among your entire support base while making your loyal donors feel appreciated and seen by your organization. As a result, you’ll be able to boost retention rates.

By emphasizing the role your donors can play in your nonprofit’s stories, you can empower them to take action and power the change you’re hoping to make.

Add engaging visuals

You’ve likely heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” That adage stands true in storytelling via text messaging. Visuals can catch your supporters’ eye and bring your stories to life.

Keep these best practices in mind when incorporating visuals into your storytelling:

  • Highlight before-and-after scenarios: Use before-and-after visuals to illustrate the transformative power of your nonprofit’s services. Demonstrate your impact through visual comparisons, such as images of communities or individuals before and after receiving assistance from your organization.
  • Incorporate infographics and data visualizations: Create infographics and data visualizations to present key information in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand format. This can help supporters to truly understand the impact your organization and their contributions have on the community.
  • Maintain brand consistency: Ensure that your visual content is consistent with your nonprofit’s brand identity, including colors, fonts, logos, and messaging. Consistent branding helps reinforce your nonprofit’s identity and makes your visual storytelling more recognizable and memorable.

With the right text messaging software, you can easily send multimedia messages with a variety of different visuals, including photos, videos, emojis, gifs, and more. 

End with a clear call to action

Your stories should all tie back to the central action you want your audience to take in your text-to-give campaign: donating to your cause. 

To make your calls to action (CTAs) effective, use these tips:

  • Use compelling language: NXUnite’s text-to-give guide recommends using persuasive language that encourages action and creates a sense of urgency. Phrases like “Donate by midnight to get your gift matched” and “Give $20 today to provide urgent relief to our community!” convey a sense of immediacy and importance.
  • Highlight the impact: Tie your CTA back to the story you’ve just shared by emphasizing the impact that taking action will have. For example, you might state something like, “Your donation will help provide clean water to more families in need” or “Join us in making a difference in the lives of children like Sarah.”
  • Provide clear instructions: Make it easy for your audience to follow through on your CTA by providing clear instructions on how to take action. Include a link to your mobile-friendly donation page to facilitate an easy giving experience.

At the same time, not all of your text messages should urge recipients to give to your nonprofit. Throughout the year, vary your CTAs to direct supporters to register for events, sign up to volunteer, join your social media community, and more.

Incorporating these storytelling techniques is simple when you have the right tools on hand. By investing in a comprehensive text fundraising platform, you can make it easy to streamline your campaigns and keep your donors invested in your cause year after year.

Mike Snusz brings 19 years of digital fundraising experience to his role as Director of Nonprofit Customer Experience at Tatango, a text messaging platform for nonprofits and political campaigns. Prior to Tatango, Mike spent 15 years at Blackbaud leading a team of digital consultants that helped nonprofits improve their online fundraising, monthly giving, email marketing and peer-to-peer fundraising programs. Mike started his nonprofit career managing the Ride For Roswell from 2003 to 2005 in his hometown of Buffalo, NY.

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