Grand River Agency Put NANOE Ahead of The Social Media Curve

Grand River Agency Put NANOE Ahead of The Social Media Curve NANOE NEWS

Grand River Agency Put NANOE Ahead of The Social Media Curve celebrates a superior NANOE Member that raises the level of visibility of nonprofit organizations everywhere. In only three short months, Grand River Agency has posted over 2,100 NANOE billboards, articles, and short form videos USING NEW ONLINE TECHNOLOGY. Jimmy LaRose, NANOE Founder, says, “Go to any search engine, type in the word NANOE and see what’s happening on X, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tik Tock & Instagram. NOBODY PROMOTES NANOE BETTER THAN GRAND RIVER AGENCY!”

Here’s what Kelsey Boudin, Founder & President of Grand River Agency, has to share about social media trends for nonprofits:

We love a good metrics and analytics session more than anyone. It’s in our blood as digital marketers. Diving into the results to witness the fruits of our nonprofit marketing labors, seeing what worked (and most importantly, what didn’t), with a heavy focus on clients who MUST succeed.

Grand River Agency Put NANOE Ahead of The Social Media Curve

It’s worth noting, though, the old adage: “Figures lie and liars figure.” Don’t get me wrong, the analytics are absolutely critical to inform and adjust strategy. But powerful storytelling in nonprofit marketing is the ultimate key performance indicator (KPI), although it can’t be quantified like click-thru rates, engagement, average viewing sessions, web traffic, etc.

Too often, our friends in charity focus so much on digital media best practices that their storytelling gets lost in their own noise. What happens when their story gets lost in the noise? They fail to rise above all the other noise. When they fail to rise above the other noise? Their vital nonprofit mission is communicated to NO ONE effectively.

Not to the individuals and systems served.

Not to the funders who bankroll their nonprofit mission to exist in the first place. (After all, as we know, donors are your TRUE customers.)

Nonprofit Marketing: Focus on Storytelling First

Of course, strong nonprofit brands do rely on data-driven insights to optimize campaigns and draw conclusions on user experiences. This is ONE great tool that shows us a wealth of information. But they often overlook a crucial element – storytelling – to make sense of the numbers.

If regular posting brings back lackluster data, they often focus on WHAT THEY DID rather than HOW THEY DID IT. While the Devil’s in the details, posting at 7:25 am versus 8:10 am or using the right hashtags won’t make a bit of difference if your nonprofit storytelling stinks.

Storytelling Has Guided Humanity for Thousands of Years … It’ll Guide Your Nonprofit Today

A few years back, I wrote a blog about caveman storytelling. I took our dear readers back 25,000 years to envision a caveman gesticulating and grunting his way through a story about a frightening encounter with a bear. Without speaking a word, he conveyed the crux of the story: a forewarning for his family’s safety. Thousands of years later, the stories and objectives are infinitely more complex. Yet the essence of storytelling remains the same: to promote awareness, inform decisions, arm with knowledge, compel support, and call to action.

A well-told narrative captures attention, evokes emotions and connects us on a deeper level. Sound like something you need your nonprofit to accomplish? In today’s digital landscape, the art of storytelling has become even more critical to chart your organization’s course on a turbulent sea of information.

Let’s explore why the most effective nonprofit digital marketing must first embrace the power of storytelling with human empathy to improve those algorithm-based metrics and analytics.

Engaging on an Emotional Level

Analytics can tell you numbers of visitors or engagement rates, but they can’t capture the emotional aspect of human interaction. Professional storytelling with a journalistic touch, taps into empathy and forges real connections with your audience.

A blog, infographic, social media post or video clip will almost certainly lose traction if it doesn’t tell your nonprofit’s story. What’s the story? It’s the “why” behind what your organization does. It’s the true human impact, told through powerful imagery (captured easily enough these days with a smartphone) and descriptive language with an outward focus.

It’s not what your charity does, but how real people’s lives are transformed as a result of your efforts. The story isn’t “Our Foundation did this great thing,” but rather, “This great thing dramatically improved this person’s life.”

THAT’S THE STORY! That’s the way to appeal to BOTH of your target audiences. Because make no mistake, your nonprofit storytelling and marketing must resonate with program recipients and donor prospects alike.

Making Complex Concepts Digestible

All industries all have their own buzzwords, special intricacies and service aspects. The nonprofit sector is no different. Many of these are things you must know to operate, but they add little, if any, value as part of an ongoing community dialog.

A public health-based nonprofit may base its performance on data points in a local Community Health Assessment and socioeconomic determinants of health. A charity for inner-city single mothers may serve to improve complex realities involving poverty and equitable access to resources. Is the data point the story? Is a 2.7% increase in “happiness” scores on a survey a compelling narrative – even if that modest improvement represents thousands of people?


Your nonprofit storytelling has the responsibility of simplifying complex topics for your followers. A story of a mother of three struggling with food insecurity finally getting access to healthy food conveys your nonprofit mission better than any data point ever could.

Tell her story. Let her tell it herself. Your digital marketing analytics will improve organically by simply being more compelling – and shareable.
Gauging True Community Impact
Remember that “figures lie and liars figure” expression? Well, sometimes your most highly performing nonprofit marketing content actually does nothing to “move the needle” for your mission.

Your Instagram photo accepting a big check from a grant funder could net hundreds of likes, comments and shares. The local media may even make a big splash about it, if promoted effectively. But if those hundreds of engagements – each one a touch point with your nonprofit brand – don’t result in further action, was that post actually engaging?

What’s ultimately more valuable: a well-told story of true community impact that gets only 12 likes, but directly results in four sizable donations from wealthy benefactors? Or the check-passing photo that made noise, but resulted in no further support?

Building Trust & Credibility

I once worked as a grant writer for a local nonprofit that – unbeknownst to me at the time – didn’t have a great reputation in the community. The public perception through the organization’s storytelling narrative was that the CEO cared more about their personal image as a community powerbroker than advancing its mission.

Was that truly the case? It’s hard to say. But its predominant narrative explained the mission poorly and even caused stakeholders and prospective community partners hesitant to align with their brand.

Outwardly focused nonprofit storytelling demonstrates credibility and trustworthiness in both words and deeds. It allows you to be more authentic and real. Again, the CEO didn’t “do this great thing,” but “this great thing helped people.”

Humanize your organization by sharing authentic stories about impact on lives. People form powerful bonds with brands they perceive as genuine – not a cookie-cutter form of genuine, but the actual real you.

Engaging & Retaining Attention

Capturing and retaining attention has become a significant challenge for digital marketers, especially in the charitable realm. Quantitative analysis is just not enough to break through the noise and captivate your audience amongst others also doing great work.

Any organization could buy engagement metrics. Great storytelling takes a unique skill set that ultimately means SO MUCH MORE to mission promotion.

Telling compelling stories transports your audience into a world where they become active participants. They can “see themselves” in your mission – whether as someone who benefits from it or gives generously to support it. You create a cohesive and immersive experience, as well as a lasting impression that keeps your audience coming back for more.

Great Storytelling Differentiates Your Nonprofit Brand

The worst thing you can be is uniform and boring. If your message can’t be differentiated from other charities doing similar work, your nonprofit storytelling and marketing will never stand out in the overcrowded digital realm. Stories convey your brand’s values, vision and purpose, making your digital marketing efforts more relatable.

By more effectively telling your brand’s story, you showcase your organization’s history and distinct life-altering experiences. You’ll carve out a unique space in the hearts and minds of your audience(s).

Now, all this isn’t to say data and analytics aren’t entirely critical elements of a well-rounded nonprofit marketing strategy. But overemphasizing numbers – or not giving them their proper place – often causes organizations to lose sight of simply telling a great story to DRIVE MEANINGFUL ENGAGEMENT.

Grand River Agency is a strategic-communications agency headquartered in Olean, NY, specializing in nonprofit marketing and community outreach. GRA is a NANOE Enterprise Member and NANOE’s preferred nonprofit social media marketing vendor.

Grand River Agency Put NANOE Ahead of The Social Media Curve was first posted at NANOE

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Grand River Agency, NANOE's Social Media Experts
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