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Marissa Sackler shares four ways nonprofits can tell compelling stories

Marissa Sackler

Marissa Sackler is out to prove that “brand” isn’t a dirty word—at least not in the nonprofit community.

In fact, the 33-year-old social good entrepreneur and founder of Beespace, a nonprofit incubator based in New York City, is trying to revolutionize the way nonprofits have traditionally approached their causes. Because really, when it comes down to it, early-stage nonprofits aren’t a whole lot different than startups.

Last October, Sackler launched Beespace with five incubated nonprofits—including Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai’s The Malala Fund—as part of a two-year program aimed at socially minded entrepreneurs looking to launch the next generation of nonprofits.

“Many groups that work with nonprofits are constantly focused on their donors, their stakeholders, but not necessarily on the nonprofit itself, what their wants are. We try to really constantly ask, ‘What do you need? What do you want?'” Sackler told SPN.

Granted, there are business elements—like fiscal training and HR protocol—that Sackler says are dictated to the groups, but overall, Beespace focuses on helping its nonprofits grow their communities and impact in a way that’s most effective for them.

During this year’s Big Kansas City, Sackler sat down with SPN to share four ways nonprofits can tell more compelling stories to enhance their brand as they grow:

Technology makes it easier

Not every nonprofit can be like charity: water—Sackler is a founding member—right out of the gate, but technology helps close the gap. Sackler uses the well-known nonprofit as an example of how fundraising and awareness-raising campaigns can be used to tell engaging stories about the work a group is doing.

“Charity: water obviously has an easier time with this because they have their own proprietary platform. So they can see people who are starting campaigns and they can identify individuals who will make great stories, and they’re constantly doing that.

“I think nonprofits should be looking to the platforms that they use to try to find the stories, but often they’re not fundraising campaigns per se, they’re just ways to make a donation online so it’s a little bit trickier.”

Make social media work for you

When a nonprofit doesn’t have an online platform to pull stories from, like charity: water does, Sackler says social media helps level the playing field. By sharing a shorter, more continuous story with supporters on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, nonprofits also are able to curate their most dedicated members and learn what’s most important to them.

“Social media is a great way to find those stories. You should constantly be interacting with the people who follow you on social media and build a database of those people. That sort of gives you a feed of stories.”

Cool it with the newsletters

When it comes to sharing a nonprofit’s story, Sackler preaches quality over quantity. That doesn’t mean nonprofits should bail on newsletters altogether, but it’s important to be intentional and share the group’s story when it makes the most sense.

“Content creation is extremely time consuming and I don’t suggest organizations should be running some sort of media agency or organization. They don’t have the bandwidth to do that.

“But telling clear and compelling stories about a specific campaign or a specific holiday that happens to be meaningful to them and their mission is really important.”

Always be telling a story 

Whether it’s a newsletter, photography campaign, video or a single tweet, Sackler says it’s important for nonprofits not to get caught up in the weeds and always focus on the bigger picture: sharing their story with people who care.

“You can tell a more continuous and shorter story on social media that takes a little less time and then tell those larger, more deeply compelling stories on a longer timeline.”

 

Read more about Sackler’s mission and work with Beespace through our 2014 Big Kansas City coverage: “Marissa Sackler: Profit the world through nonprofits

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