Viral Storytelling for Social Fundraising


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It's time for you to take storytelling to a new level.

This deck covers:
- 8 steps to an interesting plot
- Virality 101
- Storytelling in an online world
- Taking stories to the bank with social fundraising

Published in: Business, News & Politics
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  • Welcome to our webinar: Viral Storytelling for Social Fundraising. We’ll be starting in just a minute. At the end of the presentation we’ll have a Question and Answer session. Your lines are muted now but we’ll tell you how to unmute them when we get to that point.I’m Derek Christensen, Fundly’s Curiosity Engineer. The beautiful part of my job is that I’m allowed to learn about anything that I find interesting and then turn it into educational content.The topic of today’s webinar is Viral Storytelling for Social Fundraising.
  • Let’s talk about the problem. Why is it so hard to tell an effective story?
  • In their book Made to Stick, Dan and Chip Heath share a fascinating story about tappers and listeners.In 1990, Elizabeth Newton earned a Ph.D. in psychology at Stanford by studying a simple game in which she assigned people to one of two roles: "tappers" or "listeners."
  • Tappers received a list of twenty-five well-known songs, such as "Happy Birthday to You" and "The Star- Spangled Banner." Each tapper was asked to pick a song and tap out the rhythm to a listener (by knocking on a table).
  • The listener's job was to guess the song, based on the rhythm being tapped. (This is fun to try at home if you can round up a good "listener" candidate) As you can imagine, the listener's job in this game is quite difficult.But here's what made the game worthy of a dissertation in psychology. Before the listeners guessed the name of the song, Newton asked the tappers to predict the odds that the listeners would guess correctly. They predicted that the odds were 50 percent. Over the course of Newton's experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. How many of those did the listeners guess correctly?
  • Only 33 out of 120, which equals 2.5 percent of the songsIn other words, the tappers got their message across 1 time in 40, but they thought they were getting their message across 1 time in 2. Why?
  • When a tapper taps, he is hearing the song in his head. Go ahead and try it for yourself - tap out "The Star-Spangled Banner." It's impossible to avoid hearing the tune in your head. Meanwhile, the listeners can't hear that tune - all they can hear is a bunch of disconnected taps, like a kind of bizarre Morse Code. In the experiment, tappers are mystified at how hard the listeners seem to be working to pick up the tune. The song is so obvious? How can you have not guessed it by now. The tappers' expressions, when a listener guesses "Happy Birthday to You" for "The Star-Spangled Banner," are priceless: How could you be so stupid?Let’s tap that out for a minute. “Happy Birthday to You” “Oh say can you see”. The taps are remarkably similar. So although it’s hard to be a listener, it's hard to be a tapper too. When tappers are tapping, they can't imagine what it's like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than a song. They hear the song so loudly in their head that they assume the listener can too. The tapper/listener experiment is reenacted every day all over the world. It’s reenacted in your nonprofit organization as you talk to your donors, volunteers, and board members. It exists in your emails and every task you delegate.The purpose of this webinar is to teach you how to effectively tap out your tune. You will learn the elements that make stories interesting, moving, and viral.
  • Let’s start out with an example. I’m going to share with you a story that recently went viral on the popular microblogging site Tumblr. It’s entitled “A Story Without Words”.<Show the slides at 5-second intervals>
  • Awww… So what did we see here? In just 10 images, the photographer tells us a brief yet effective story. Not only did it impact the people who viewed it, it also inspired them to pass it along to someone else. Let’s examine the elements of the story that made it so effective.
  • Storytelling guru Andy Goodman identified 8 basic elements of a good story. Element 1 is a Protagonist – Protagonist is a fancy word for main character, the actor in the story. He (or she) is the star. There are a couple of best practices to follow when portraying a protagonist. The protagonist should be an individual, not an organization. People care about living breathing human beings, not logos and letterhead. They want to hear about William the poverty-stricken third grader, not about the Urban Uplift Initiative. Include a name, a picture, or physical description. Use direct quotes. Make the protagonist as real as possible.Element 2 is the Setting or, as Andy Goodman calls it, the World in Balance – Where and when is the story happening? Is it nighttime or daytime? Is the country torn apart by civil war? Are starvation and disease rampant? Help the listener re-create the surroundings in their head. The setting also includes the backstory. What happened to make things the way they are today? Make the listener care about the situation; draw them into the problem. Background is crucial.Element 3 is the Inciting Incident – This is where the words “suddenly” or “one day” come into play. Everything is completely normal and then suddenly, something happens to the protagonist to throw off the status quo. Their world will never be the same again. Or at least, their day has changed significantly.Goal – Coming out of the incident, the protagonist sets a goal. Goals are Element number 4. The protagonist is infused with a new purpose, objective, life direction. They go sprinting after that purpose until…Element 5,Barriers – something gets in the way. Barriers can be small or large, administrative or geographical. Anything can be a barrier. Sooner or later, the protagonist…Overcome – overcomes the barrier. The more unexpected the solution, the better. It could be a MacGuyver-like solution, the help of another person, a flash of inspiration, or any number of things. Overcoming the barrier creates momentum and increases the empathy of your audience.(Repeat) – Most stories have multiple barriers that the protagonist must overcome. This makes sense. If there was only one barrier, it couldn’t be that hard to overcome.Resolution – A story without a resolution is like a sentence without a period. How does the story end? Does it invoke emotions? Remember that the resolution does not need to be a happy one, or a successful one. Powerful stories don’t always end well. Think of Romeo and Juliet.Meaning – The meaning of the story is your chance to every good story has a moral or a meaning. This meaning should relate directly to your cause.
  • Here we have our protagonist, the dog. He’s an individual, and he’s real.The setting is laid out. The dog is in the water. There are bridges going across, but they’re much higher than the water level. It’s cloudy outside.
  • This is where we get our first glimpse of the incident. Things start to click in our minds. Okay, that lady is the dog’s owner. The dog fell or jumped off the bridge.The goal is also established – reunite the dog with its owner.The barrier? The owner’s on the bridge, the dog is in the water, and there’s a big height difference.
  • This slide represents emotion, which is a theme that should underly all of our 8 plot elements.
  • Here we have an unexpected solution to the problem. A new character, never seen before, takes off his pants and shoes in order to rescue the dog.There’s something else that you’ll miss from this picture if you don’t pause and look for it. We get more setting information. Look how windy it is. Do you see the women’s hair? These people are wearing their winter coats. The grass in the background is dead. It’s cold.
  • That’s a long drop
  • The water looks like it’s freezing cold
  • Now he’s reached the dog and overcome one barrier
  • Boom.He’s returned the dog back to its owner and overcome a second barrier
  • Here we get our resolution. That look on the owner’s face is awkwardly real. Now that is emotion. Look at the posture of her body, look at the curl of her lip, and the way her hair is still being hit by the wind. This moment gives us huge satisfaction.
  • What’s the meaning of this story? Is it about a dog? I don’t think so. It’s about the kindness of strangers. It’s about a boy who jumped in the water to help save a dog for a woman who couldn’t perform that task herself.
  • Now I mentioned that this story was shared on the popular microblogging site Tumblr. Just a little bit of Tumblr background for those of you who aren’t very familiar with it. When you’re reading someone’s blog, Tumblr gives you the option of reblogging a post, which means that the post in its entirety is published again on your blog for all your readers to see (as if you had written it, although it gives credit to the original author).You see on this slide a selection of people who liked or reblogged this story on Tumblr. It’s a lot of people.One person posted the story. Over 40 people reblogged it. For the purpose of this example, we’ll assume that each blog has 50 readers.After the original posting it was viewed by 50 people. Without the social multiplier, that would have been the total reach of the story. But somebody reblogged it. Now 100 people had seen it. And then somebody else passed it along. And someone emailed it to their sister, and another person Tweeted about it, and somebody shared on Facebook.40 people with 50 readers each is 2,000 views, from reblogging alone. Add in Facebook, Twitter, and email, and that number is easily doubled or tripled.So what makes something more likely to go viral? There’s no silver bullet or magic formula, but here are some best practices.
  • The following best practices are a mashup of advice from Jon Steinberg, President of BuzzFeed, and Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot.1) Keep it Bite-sized. Viral content should be able to be consumed by the viewer in 30 to 180 seconds. Notice that the unit of measure is seconds, not minutes. Use that frame of reference: seconds, not minutes. I don’t think twice about forwarding along a quick video, a set of images, or a clever paragraph or two. Even if the receiver didn’t appreciate it as much as I did, it didn’t waste much of their time. The longer your content is, the fewer people will get to the end of it, and the fewer people will share it.2) Keep it rough and authentic. Think of the Tumblr story we just analyzed. The photos were low resolution. They were all different sizes. It was very rough, but it was REAL. Your audience and your volunteers and your donors aren’t looking for a highly-manicured product. They want something real. Now I feel like I should pause here and point out that this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put a lot of time and thought into your story. You should. But don't be afraid to let the humanity show. Think of reality TV here. People have some strange, bizarre fascination with it.3) It needs an awesome headline. Most bloggers call that “linkbait”. The headline should be something that a) makes people want to read it and b) is named in a way that they would feel comfortable passing it on. It needs to be compelling and catchy. A recent one that comes to my mind is “What Every Entrepreneur Could Learn from Justin Bieber”. I clicked on it, and I shared it. One from my personal blog that has been extremely successful is "What Tom Sawyer Knew and Google is Learning". As a general rule of thumb, you should spend as much time coming up with a clever title as you do creating your content.4) Use images and lists – There’s an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It is. Use powerful pictures. Hire a good photographer. But keeping with point number 2, don’t stage the pictures. Capture real candid images. Along with pictures, lists have a tendency to get views and to get shared. How many blog posts have you read which are titled “6 Ways to Increase Optimism about Fundraising at Your Non-Profit”, or “4 Mistakes Every Non-profit is Making”. You know what I’m talking about, you read those!5) You need to allow reaction. Let people comment freely! Reaction sparks interest. I’m on a mailing list for alumni from my school who were in my major. Someone will share something in an email and other people will respond. But sometimes an email will come across that’s an orphan – no one replies. Then a few days later, after I've forgotten about it, someone does. And then someone else does. And then all of a sudden I’m sick of deleting the email because EVERYONE has something to say. If it weren’t for discussion, that email and those ideas would have died alone. Discussion sparks involvement, which increases the likelihood that someone will pass it along. The one surefire thing you can do to kill that discussion is to moderate every comment before it’s posted. When I write a comment on something, I get excited. I feel momentum. And more often than not, it gets me to click on another page of the site and write another comment. But as soon as I see the words “Your comment has been submitted for review and will appear on the site after moderator approval”, my momentum stops. I hit a brick wall and I leave the site.6) Allow interaction. This is a trick direct mail advertisers have known for years. If you send an ad that requires the customer to scratch-n-win to see what they get, or pull off a sticker and put it somewhere else, response rate increases significantly. There are lots of ways to get users to interact with your site. Have them sign a petition, let them play a game you've created, have them take a quick survey, let them volunteer. The ideas are endless.7) Make it share-able. I see it, I like it, I want to pass it along. You need to have buttons right there for me to share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and email. Make that easy for me. And when you're working with Twitter, be sure to leave 10-12 characters at the end of your template Tweet so that people can re-tweet it. Sharing should be easy.
  • It’s easier to tell stories now than it ever has been before. There are countless ways and places to tell your story
  • The Houston Ballet tells their story through a series of behind-the-scenes photos on their Flickr account
  • Charity Water tells their story through infographics, Google Maps tagged with images of the projects they’re working on, etc.
  • The World Food Programme tells their stories through videos. There’s an interesting phenomenon here – the first video has 41 comments (and is also the shortest). The second video has 6. Placement matters.
  • Genesis Energy tells their story through an online game that teaches the importance of energy management.
  • It’s easier to tell stories now than it ever has been before. There are countless ways and places to tell your story. You should be utilizing all the elements we just talked about to boost your fundraising efforts.
  • How specifically do you leverage what you've learned about storytelling today to raise more money for your cause? First, tell a powerful story on the two pages of your website that matter most: your home page and your donation page. Inspire people on your home page to click on your "Donate" button. Your job isn't finished when they land on the donation page. It's finished when they make a donation, so tell your story there too.
  • Second, tell your story in the snippets you share. This is perhaps the most overlooked form of storytelling in the world of online donations. I love the example of I made loan on Kiva, a microlending website, and was given the option of sharing it on Facebook. I did. Instead of a generic message informing my friends that I made a Kiva loan, it was a personalized message that told a story. "Derek just made a loan to Dora Clemencia on Dora Clemencia has an agriculture business in Ecuador. A $25 loan can empower borrowers like Dora Clemencia on" The snippet told a story and contained a call to action. Look at the reaction. Almost immediately, I got a Like and a comment from the same person. I responded. Then I got another comment from a friend who had clicked on the link, read the story, and taken time to respond to a detail in the story. Lastly, I got another comment with a short endorsement for Kiva.Contrast that to a donation I made to the relief efforts after the Japanese earthquake. One person liked it, no one commented on it.You’ll get triple the interaction if you tell a good story.That’s a wrap. You’ve learned about the 8 elements of a good story, Virality 101, Storytelling 2.0, and storytelling for online fundraising. I hope you’ve found it educational and helpful. A recording of this webcast will be posted on our blog soon. Please Tweet about it, subscribe to our blog, and email any feedback you have to
  • We have a few more minutes for question and answer. If you have a question, you can send it to me via chat or a message, or you can unmute your line by pressing ____.
  • Viral Storytelling for Social Fundraising

    1. 1. Viral Storytelling<br />for Social Fundraising<br />Easy, Social Fundraising<br />
    2. 2. The Problem<br />
    3. 3.
    4. 4. The tapper tapped the rhythm of a well-known song<br />
    5. 5. The listener tried to guess the song<br />
    6. 6. 3<br />only<br />120<br />of<br />
    7. 7.
    8. 8.
    9. 9.
    10. 10.
    11. 11.
    12. 12.
    13. 13.
    14. 14.
    15. 15.
    16. 16.
    17. 17.
    18. 18.
    19. 19. Protagonist<br />Setting<br />Incident<br />Goal<br />Barriers<br />Overcome<br />Resolution<br />Meaning<br />
    20. 20. Protagonist<br />Setting<br />
    21. 21. Incident<br />Goal<br />Barriers<br />
    22. 22. (Emotion)<br />
    23. 23. (Unexpected)<br />
    24. 24. Barriers<br />
    25. 25. Barriers<br />
    26. 26. Overcome<br />
    27. 27. Overcome<br />
    28. 28. Resolution<br />
    29. 29. Meaning<br />
    30. 30. Virality 101<br />
    31. 31.
    32. 32. 1) Bite-Sized<br />2) Rough or Authentic<br />3) Awesome Headline<br />4) Images and Lists<br />5) Allow Reaction<br />6) Allow Interaction<br />7) Easily Share-able<br />
    33. 33. Storytelling 2.0<br />
    34. 34.
    35. 35.
    36. 36.
    37. 37.
    38. 38. Online Fundraising<br />
    39. 39. Tell a POWERFUL story on your home and donation pages<br />
    40. 40. Tell your story in the snippets you share<br />
    41. 41. Questions?<br />
    42. 42. Resources<br />A Story Without Words<br /><br />Storytelling - Andy Goodman<br /><br /><br /><br />Case Foundation<br /><br />