Last week was the May event for the Portland 501 Tech Club.  We had a great opportunity to hear from Roger Burks of Mercy Corps who presented on the art of storytelling around and about crises.  It’s an interesting topic as many organizations who work in advocacy or aid find that their work is driven and their membership engaged around crises, but it is in those times that staff time can be the most strained, causing communication to suffer.

Roger laid out a story plan for organizations to use when a disaster strikes:

  1. Breaking news and details (can also include stock photos of the area or maps, etc.) – Day 1
  2. What the organization is doing (include stock photos or any photos coming out of the area) – Day 2
  3. From the field reports (include personal photos/videos from place of reports) – Day 3
  4. Updates (includes news stories, organization involvement and field reports with any photos and videos that accompany) – Day 4 and beyond
  5. Real-time field journals/blogs (great ways to send out short stories, updates, photos from the field with organization staff and partners working in the field) – Day 4 and beyond
  6. Beneficiary stories (help tell the story of those the organization is serving/helping) – Day 4 and beyond
  7. Community fundraising stories (help tell the story of local people and organizations working to fundraise themselves) – Week 1 and beyond
  8. Partnership stories (explain how the organization is partnering with other organizations and individuals) – Week 1 and beyond
  9. Milestone stories (1 month, 3 months, 1 year, etc. are great time-based milestones for reporting on the situation and progress) – Month 1 and beyond

It is important to create a place on the organization’s website for those looking to donate, a button that is clear and obvious and does not navigate the user to more stories or content but to the donation form.

Sending out emails to your membership is a great way to keep them informed of the above information, but keep in mind the balance of information and asks (asks = fundraising calls).  You gain loyalty from your membership (new and old) and create a presence as an information agent by providing quick and truthful news that isn’t tied to fundraising every time.  Try separating your emails into news-information and updates-fundraising, where the first may include news updates, links to more information, and firsthand reports from organization staff, while the second includes information about what the organization is doing to help, how it is partnering with other organizations and individuals to be more effective and ways the membership can help (which includes donating).

Has your organization responded to a disaster either locally or internationally by integrating the website, email notifications, and staff reports?  What did you find most useful in fundraising?  What did you find most useful in connecting users to information?

Mercy Corps’ Story Arc
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