Connecting Hearts, Raising Funds: The Power of Empathetic Storytelling in Social Media Fundraising Campaigns

Brynne Krispin
November 29, 2023

In today's fast-paced and AI-obsessed world, building long-lasting relationships with your audience is crucial for the success of any business or organization. For nonprofits, this is especially important as they rely heavily on the support and engagement of their donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries.

By walking in the shoes of your supporters, you can gain valuable insights into their needs, desires, and motivations, allowing you to create genuine and emotional marketing campaigns that resonate with them on a deeper level.

I first became aware of the power of empathy in digital storytelling while working as a social media manager at International Justice Mission early on in my career.

IJM is the largest anti-trafficking organization in the world, but many of their survivor stories of rescue and healing can’t be told online.

I remember many meetings sitting in a room hearing about a recent rescue operation or a survivor’s story that moved staff to tears, and then a leader turning to me and saying, “But this one can’t be shared on social!”

This created a unique challenge for our team to find ways to build an emotional connection with our social audience without being able to show faces or provide the very details that often make a story memorable.

I began testing different messaging, hooks, and imagery on our social platforms. I was determined to recreate the same emotional response in the conference room without being able to share the same details.

And the more I tested, the more I found this to be true: when we talk to our audience like human beings and put ourselves in their shoes, connection, and loyalty follow.

It all came down to empathy.

Protecting survivors’ privacy while creating moments for our supporters to feel deeply connected to their stories requires understanding their unique perspectives, needs, and motivations.  

Walking in Your Donor's Shoes

While many organizations believe they know their supporters, the truth is that truly understanding their perspectiv and motivations can be challenging.

One common mistake is assuming that supporters spend a significant amount of time thinking about the organization itself. In reality, donors, like all of us, are busy, tired, overwhelmed, and often focused on their own needs and priorities.

But the good news is, once we see the value and feel emotionally connected to a cause, we give generously and stick around longer. A Matista study in 2018 revealed that emotionally connected customers have a 306% higher lifetime value. For nonprofits, this can be the difference between sustainable monthly revenue and frantically chasing down large donations to meet your revenue goals at the end of the year.

Implementing Empathy Into Your Campaigns

Creating genuine and emotional marketing campaigns requires a deep understanding of your audience and their wants and needs. It involves walking in their shoes and truly empathizing with their experiences. By tailoring your marketing efforts to address their specific pain points and values, you can create content that resonates with them on a personal level.

Imagine you run a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing mental health support to individuals experiencing stress and anxiety. Your target audience consists of people from various age groups who are struggling with mental health issues, particularly stress and anxiety due to life challenges.

Here's how you can incorporate empathy-based marketing into your social media strategy:

  1. Identify Pain Points: Use social listening tools to monitor conversations and comments related to stress, anxiety, and mental health on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Pay attention to the challenges and frustrations your target audience is expressing.
  2. Create Relevant Content: Develop content that addresses these pain points. For example, you could create blog posts, videos, or infographics on topics like "10 Tips for Managing Stress in Everyday Life" or "How to Cope with Anxiety during Uncertain Times."
  3. Share Personal Stories: Share real stories from individuals who have benefited from your organization's support and programs. These testimonials can be powerful in building trust and showing that you understand your audience's struggles.
  4. Engage in Conversations: Respond to comments and messages from your followers with empathy and support. Offer resources and guidance when people reach out for help or share their mental health challenges.
  5. Host Live Q&A Sessions: Organize live Q&A sessions on social media where you invite mental health professionals to answer questions and provide tips for managing stress and anxiety.
  6. Offer Solutions: Promote your organization's services and resources as a solution to mental health challenges. Highlight the benefits of your programs in terms of stress reduction, coping strategies, and improved well-being.
  7. Show Empathy in Visuals: Use images and videos in your social media posts that portray the emotional journey of individuals who have found solace and support through your nonprofit. Show their progress and the positive impact your organization has had on their mental health.
  8. Use Emotional Storytelling: Craft compelling stories that showcase the transformation and healing experiences of individuals who have overcome stress and anxiety with your organization's help. Stories are the most powerful way to evoke empathy and connection.

By implementing these strategies, your nonprofit organization can create a strong emotional connection with your audience, increase awareness about mental health issues, reduce stigma, and ultimately drive engagement and support on social media.

Bottom line: Empathy-based marketing in the nonprofit sector can lead to more meaningful connections with your community and increased support for your mission.

By building long-lasting relationships with your supporters and providing valuable content that addresses their emotions, you can not only increase donations but also establish a loyal base of advocates who are ready to jump in and help you need them.

Just remember: these platforms are built for connection and dialogue.

To break through the noise, create a human-to-human experience. Develop the relationship first. Solve the problem together.

For more tips on how to implement human behavior and psychology into your social strategy, sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter, Socially Minded.

About the Author

Brynne Krispin is a social media strategist for nonprofits and small businesses. Working with NGOs, thought leaders, and policymakers in DC for the last decade, she specializes in getting people to care about complex issues that might otherwise get ignored. Her team at Cause Fokus uses empathy-based marketing to turn passive audiences into loyal advocates.

Brynne Krispin of Cause Fokus