Why Didn’t The Narrative Project Work For Fundraising?

Why Didn’t The Narrative Project Work For Fundraising?

Alison Carlman, GlobalGiving

This is the third article in a three-part series about GlobalGiving’s experiments testing the findings of The Narrative Project. Read the first article here and the second article here.

When the results of our first test of The Narrative Project email appeal started to appear, I hoped they were just a fluke. But soon the numbers grew to statistical significance: the Narrative Project language was performing significantly worse than our control language in terms of dollars raised per email opened.  I suspected it could just be a matter of the particular cause featured in the email appeal, so then we ran tests with entirely different topics.  When that test copy also underperformed the control, I blamed it on my own writing. So in our final test we pitted language from another major nonprofit against phrases pulled directly from the Narrative Project User Guide. The Narrative Project language still failed compared to the control.

At the same time that we were running A/B tests, my GlobalGiving colleague was running experiments with stories in our database. We have more than 50,000 reports written over the past 8 years by nonprofit leaders detailing their progress for their donors. While these emailed reports don’t usually generate a high volume of repeat funding, it was still possible to detect that reports that were highly correlated with Narrative Project Themes generally underperformed other reports in a statistically significant way.

After all of our testing, we could not prove that stories and reports that contain the themes of independence, shared values, partnership, and progress drove any more funding via email and online donations than stories or reports that don’t. In fact, they performed worse.

Better Storytelling: What ‘Works’ in Global Development?

Better Storytelling: What ‘Works’ in Global Development?

Alison Carlman, GlobalGiving

This is the second article in a three-part series about GlobalGiving’s experiments testing the findings of The Narrative Project. Read the first article here.

When I first learned about The Narrative Project I was very excited (which reveals a lot about the depth of my nerdiness) because it was the first large-scale study that I’d encountered that demonstrated how positive narratives in global development could actually move people to become supporters. I’d seen plenty of evidence that pity-based narratives in fundraising appeals will motivate people to open their wallets. But it’s 2016, and there are many communicators in development who work to promote more respectful, nuanced storytelling that goes beyond the flies-in-the-eyes appeals we’ve all seen. So when I encountered the Narrative Project, you can see why I was so glad there was finally data to show that these alternative narratives might also work, and what’s more, specific tactics might help us improve the empathy-based approach we already use.

The promise of the Narrative Project was that messages and stories carrying certain narrative themes (independence, shared values, partnership and progress) would motivate certain segments of the population (in the US, UK, France, and Germany) to become (theoretical) supporters of global development. The goal was to change attitudes about aid at a very high level, and the data suggests that it can. But very few global development communicators who are employed by NGOs have the luxury of communicating for the sake of attitude change alone. Most of us are hired to tell stories that either move people to give or to take action for a cause. We need to share stories that work in other ways. And many of my peers were eager to start using the recommendations in their communications and fundraising.

I was one of ten nonprofit communicators who received a grant to test the Narrative Project in the wild. We wanted to find out how easy it was for nonprofits to adopt the recommended narratives, and then to find out how the Narrative Project impacted fundraising.

What did we find out? Did the Narrative Project work? Well, no. But also yes. It all depends on what we mean when we ask, “what works?”

Power Up your Programs with the Social Impact Academy

Power Up your Programs with the Social Impact Academy

Do your organization’s programs create the meaningful change that you intended? What do your constituents have to say about your projects? Are you comfortable talking about your organization’s social impact? And how do you get the support and resources you need to reach even more communities?

That’s where the Social Impact Academy comes in! Join us for a two-month online course led by social impact experts and nonprofit professionals from across the globe. The Academy will help you explore different theories of impact measurement and learn about practical tools and resources to design programs for social change, measure impact, engage your community, and tell your organization’s impact story! See below for a complete agenda.

Apply online by Friday, August 5 for one of only 45 available spaces – and don’t hesitate to email us at projecthelp@globalgiving.org with questions.

Evaluating our Youth Philanthropy Program

Evaluating our Youth Philanthropy Program

The Center for Arab American Philanthropy is a recipient of our 2015 Feedback Fund. Recently they shared these insights with us.

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Since its inception, our Teen Grantmaking Initiative (TGI) has focused on empowering high school youth to become leaders in their community. This year we implemented a new curriculum in partnership with YouthRoots, a youth development organization based in Colorado. With the new curriculum came a shift in our programming, which saw us focus more on the development of youth as strong individuals. We invested in their personal strengths and passions and used philanthropy as a tool to aid in the process.

Syrian Refugee Relief Match Campaign Begins July 12th!

Syrian Refugee Relief Match Campaign Begins July 12th!

In the past 5 years, millions of refugees have been displaced after fleeing from their homes. GlobalGiving is supporting our nonprofit partners who are responding to the crisis with our Syrian Refugee Relief Fund. Beginning July 12th, 2016 at 9:00 am EDT (2:00 pm BST), GlobalGiving will be matching donations at 50% and providing bonus prizes for projects focused on providing relief and support to the refugees.

GlobalGiving is committed to supporting our nonprofit partners invested in these communities and committed to long-lasting relief. Our nonprofit partners have a variety of missions from emergency aid to providing health and social care for refugees. The matching campaign gives organizations additional resources to support more refugees on the ground.