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3 Lessons From Snapchat About Telling Your Nonprofit's Story

Posted By Zach Busekrus on 7/31/15 10:00 AM


Whether we prefer news stories, comic books, major motion pictures, or Nicholas Spark’s novels, we’re all suckers for stories. We love momentarily putting our realities on hold and diving into the reality of another — especially when that “other” has characteristics or encounters challenges that we can directly relate to.

Understanding the importance of storytelling to help market a product or service is something that corporate America has adopted and been actively implementing for the past several years (e.g. Apple), but somehow this important art has yet to be satisfactorily adopted into the nonprofit marketing world.

We know our nonprofit’s mission by heart, we know the success stories, the people we’ve helped, and all of the hard work our volunteers put in — but somehow, we’ve forgotten how to—or been unable to—effectively tell our story to younger audiences.

It’s time for nonprofits to take a few notes from the number one up-and-coming social network, Snapchat, on how to tell the stories of their organization  effectively and efficiently in order to attract more supporters—especially younger ones.

Snapchat is more than just another social network; it’s a social playground constructed entirely around the sharing of stories. Snapchat has cultivated an environment that is playfully authentic, impressively relevant, and surprisingly concise, embodying several of the characteristics necessary to keeping prospective millennials and Gen Zers (the bulk of your up-and-coming prospective supporters) engaged with your organization.   


When using Snapchat, a user must take a picture directly from the app and has very limited filtering options. This prevents someone from uploading an image that was taken previously and forces a user to take an honest and unfiltered picture of where they are and who they’re with at an exact moment in time. The user doesn’t have the luxury of sorting through a myriad of Instagram filters to find the one that makes them look best.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the need to explain who we are through “filters” of donor retention rates and new donor acquisition statistics that we often forget to explain who we really are: our history, our field workers, stories from the field, and the cause we serve.

Today, more so than ever before, people value authenticity. Tell your organization’s story like a Snapchat picture — unfiltered and completely honest.


Snapchat’s “Stories” feature allows a user to share a series of photos and videos each day with others in their network on a news feed. What’s unique about Snapchat’s news feed, however, is that all of the content expires after 24 hours — because what’s news today is history tomorrow.

Keep in mind the process of donor engagement. Remember personal stories from the field give your audience a true, realistic view of the cause your mission serves. As you communicate with prospective supporters, make sure your story is relevant to where they are in the donor journey.

Disregard the dry facts and statistics for just a moment and open the eyes of your audience with a simple story about the work you do. Recall to mind the reason you are passionate about this mission and let that bleed into the story you tell. A little snap has the capacity to open the mind of potential supporters to your mission for just a few, short—and yet monumental—seconds.

Snapchat keeps its audience focused on what’s most relevant and important today, because tomorrow, next month, and next year will have worries and stories of their own.


Our online attention spans continue to wane — especially those of your organization’s target age demographic. Snapchat is all about showing and not telling. It limits snaps to a length of ten seconds, forcing users to think creatively so as to fully optimize each snap.

As an nonprofit marketer, chances are you could talk about your mission ‘til kingdom come. The real challenge is whether or not you can tell your story in a concise and yet engaging way. Sometimes a story is longer than just a snap, and that’s fair! Nevertheless, you should be able to quickly share about how missionaries in Zambia changed the lives of orphaned boys with aids by providing them with an education.

Tell your story like a snap — creatively, intentionally, and concisely.

Snapchat entered an already crowded social networking market and the reason they have been able to resist being bullied by Facebook and the other big boys on the block is because they’ve taken an entirely different approach to social networking. They’ve created a community that is authentic, relevant, and concise — three traits that social media has historically struggled to unite.

Your prospective donors don’t have time for a sales pitch, but they have time for a story.

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Topics: Fundraising, Inbound Marketing, Social Media, Nonprofit Marketing

The Nonprofit Marketer

This blog is dedicated to sharing innovative trends, best practices, and case studies for fundraising, donor development, and nonprofit marketing professionals. Our content comes from our partnership with nonprofit organizations both large and small, and the lessons learned from the implementation of marketing technologies for constituent development.

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