We all know that nonprofits love to present things in a certain way: with statistics and metaphors. However, is this really the best approach to get people to support your important work?

The Problem of Metaphor

With so many complex issues that nonprofits are taking on, the temptation to speak in metaphors is always there. How else can you translate efforts like hunger, homelessness or defeating diseases into meaningful concepts a person can understand?

Unfortunately, nonprofit metaphors can fall flat with the public when not carefully tested. What sounds great in a brainstorming discussion can leave people scratching their heads on the street.

While there is a time and place for using metaphors to help increase support, they must be carefully-crafted in order to resonate.

One example of quick, effective metaphor from Pencils of Promise: Put your impact on autopilot

What a way to ask for monthly donors!

The Problem of Statistics

Humans are not natural statisticians. Even the most experienced statistics experts among us still innately guess the wrong things at times – mostly because of how our brains are wired.

On one hand, nonprofits can take advantage of a trend: people believe that trends will continue.

“We have a tendency to perceive momentum–if things have gone up, we assume the trend will continue,” University of Toronto marketing researcher Sam Maglio says.

So, nonprofits can show increasing results to supporters to help them believe in the difference the cause is making.

However, people don’t connect emotionally with statistics and that’s where many fundraisers fall down. Sharing the statistics about homelessness or food shortages isn’t going to help people open their wallets – showing someone a hungry child will help increase donations.

Start Telling Stories

Metaphors and numbers can only get you so far when it comes to securing fundraising and really making a difference in your cause or mission.

“Showing the before and after is incredibly powerful and allows people to go on an emotional journey that elicits a lot of reaction,” says Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise, in the Storyteller’s Secret.

In fact, telling a good narrative story about your organization increases certain brain chemicals, creating connections to the “characters” you introduce and making it more likely that they will support your work.

While statistics and metaphors can help explain a problem, they lack the emotional punch that a good story creates – without the story, you won’t get as much support.

Eileen Blake

Eileen Blake

For more than two years, Eileen has worked for AlumniFinder as a Marketing Manager sharing solutions for prospect research, fundraising and more. Eileen has a Bachelors in Mass Communication from the University of South Florida. In her free time, she is active in Rotary International.