EP44 - Boris Kievsky - Featured

Episode 44: Nonprofit Website Trends for 2022, with Boris Kievsky

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 44

Nonprofit Website Trends for 2022, with Boris Kievsky

In this Episode:

What website trends should nonprofits be conscious of in 2022? The last two years have dramatically changed the way that the world connects and does business.

Everything possible went online in 2021, and with it, the noise level has made it harder and harder to capture attention, make a connection and inspire action.

If nonprofit websites don’t keep up with visitors’ expectations, they’re likely to lose more potential heroes than they gain.

In this episode, Boris looks at the 5 biggest trends from 2021 and 5 ways nonprofit websites must respond if they are to achieve their goals.

[00:00:06.350] – Intro Video
Welcome to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video broadcast and podcast where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more heroes for their cause and a better world for all of us. Da Ding!

[00:00:23.230] – Boris
Hi everybody. Welcome back to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. My name is Boris Kievsky. I am your host every week. Today, I am also your guest. Well, I guess my own guest. I wanted to do a special episode, if you will, one where I’m going to be talking about the latest trends in the—really the online space and how they affect nonprofit websites.

[00:00:44.310] – Boris
As some of you may know, I am going to be teaching a course at NYU. It’s part of their Digital Certificate in Fundraising program that they now have, which is a really cool program, I recommend everybody check out. And starting February 2nd of this year, 2022, and hopefully then again some other semesters, I will be teaching how to develop high impact websites for nonprofits, really rooted in storytelling, although also of course getting into some of the technology. But what is the strategy of building a website for a nonprofit that’s going to have high conversion rates so that you don’t lose that many visitors when they come to your website. And instead, get them to take the actions you want them to take, the actions we all need them to take to create a better world for all of us.

[00:01:28.090] – Boris
So I wanted to share a presentation that we recently did in promotion of the program. I did it with co-host Liz Ngonzi, who is actually the creator of the program at NYU and a good friend of mine. We did it as a LinkedIn Live. It got some great reception and some really interesting questions. So I thought it would be wonderful to share it with all of you guys, my listeners. I am doing an on-screen presentation. So if you’re watching this on my website or on YouTube, you can see the presentation. If not, you should head on over to NPHF Nonprofit Hero Factory nphf.show… I should know my own website. nphf.show/ep as in episode 44. And you’ll get all of the show notes. You’ll even be able to download this entire presentation as well as some other resources that I’m going to recommend.

[00:02:17.340] – Boris
With that, let me go ahead and share my screen and get started on this presentation. All right, so Nonprofit Websites in 2022, What’s New, and Five Things To Do. Let’s get started. First of all, what’s new, what happened in 2021 and what to expect in 22? And I broke this down into five things as well.

[00:02:41.030] – Boris
The first is MORE NOISE. Everyone shifted everything online in 2021. You guys know that it all started with the pandemic in 2020, people were scrambling, not sure what to put where. Then in 2021 people thought, well, we’re going to go back to normal, whatever that might look like going forward. And it didn’t really work out that way. At best, things went hybrid, but everything shifted online. There was a lot more noise. 80% of business-to-business marketers say that their website is the most widely used channel for driving virtual events registrations. Well, virtual events, as you know, became the most popular thing to do in the last two years.

[00:03:22.990] – Boris
Besides that, though, social media has had a huge explosion. And I don’t just mean TikTok, but everyone went online to meet with their friends, right? Whether they were trying to do chats on Zoom or catch ups on Zoom, or they were doing it on social media to see who’s doing how, whether they were even posting their status updates about COVID and how they felt about it, or if they were actually sick with it.

[00:03:50.530] – Boris
Well, at the same time, over 160,000,000 businesses use Facebook every month to communicate with their audiences, and 93% of social media marketers use paid Facebook ads. What does that mean? That means even though you’re trying to communicate with your friends or you are trying to communicate with your nonprofits’ audience who have said that they like your work and want to hear from you, you’re competing for those eyeballs. Facebook is a complete pay-to-play platform, and as such, it’s incredibly difficult to get your message across.

[00:04:23.220] – Boris
The average Cost Per Action, CPA we call it, for Facebook ads across all industries went up to $18.68. Now, that’s not just to get them to click on something, but to actually get them to go through to your website, for example, to take some sort of action that you want them to take, but not even necessarily a donation. This is just to get them to do something. The average click through rate for Facebook ads less than 1%, 0.9%. So it’s an incredibly noisy and competitive landscape out there.

[00:04:56.340] – Boris
Podcasts. I love podcasting and hopefully you’re enjoying this podcast. Well, there are 850,000 active podcasts at the moment, with over 48 million total episodes. So thank you for those of you that are listening to this as a podcast, for devoting some of your time to listening to this show. I’m very glad that it is helpful to you guys and informative to you that you’re devoting some of your time and spending it with me, even if like me, you listen to it at 1.5x or 1.6x. Luckily, I do talk fast because I’m a New Yorker.

[00:05:26.970] – Boris
And then there are events. As I mentioned before, virtual events increased in popularity by 35% from 2020 to 2021, and they’re not slowing down anytime soon. Video has become increasingly popular. As the barrier to entry for video has lowered, so inversely has the number of hours of YouTube video uploaded every minute. It is now 500 hours. More than 500 hours of video just to YouTube is uploaded every minute. That’s not including TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, everywhere that you might be looking. Everywhere that anybody might be looking. Video is getting very saturated. So those are the noise concerns.

[00:06:11.700] – Boris
Well, there are also website concerns, of course. There are MORE WEBSITES and MORE CONTENT up on those sites. There are currently 200 million active websites. That’s not counting all of the websites that are just sitting there that have been semi-abandoned or domain names that are registered and no website is up there. This is actually websites that are currently up and active with 56.5 billion web pages indexed through Google. Now, of course, this includes social media pages that are indexed and other non-corporate or individual websites, but greater conglomerate sites if you will. But consider how much noise there is and how much competition there is for attention, even when somebody is Googling information about something that you guys are experts on and you’re hoping that they find you.

[00:07:02.730] – Boris
WordPress, which is the Content Management System or CMS that is the most popular in the world right now, controls 41% and I don’t mean controls. It really is the platform for 41% of all websites online and nearly 65% of all CMS based sites. Now, WordPress is my favorite platform to build on. I have worked with organizations that use other platforms, even ones that are self-builders like Squarespace. At the same time, WordPress is much more powerful. And because it is more powerful, it is more popular and it’s easy enough to use. It is also one of the biggest targets for attacks because people know a lot of things about WordPress and how it works. And it is a community-built open-source platform, so lots of different people are contributing to it and sometimes vulnerabilities do sneak in.

[00:07:58.770] – Boris
75% of consumers admit to making judgments on a company’s credibility based on that company’s website. This is actually not a new statistics for 2021 or 2022. This has been known science. It’s been studied in individuals, in user testing, and it is still incredibly relevant today. Think about it, your website, if someone is first trying to find out information about you, they might Google you, they might discover you on social media, but ultimately they come to your website to really learn more about you. And if they don’t find a website, it kind of diminishes your credibility. If they do find a website and it doesn’t look right, it doesn’t work well, then again they think, oh, this is not a very professional organization. This is not people who have it together so therefore I’m less likely to support them, to trust them with my time and my money.

[00:08:51.510] – Boris
I’ll add to that that there are studies that show you have less than half a second before the first impression is made. And we all know the importance of a first impression. So as your website loads, the first thing people see within half a second, they make a snap judgment. After that, you have about 8 seconds to actually connect with them in some way so that they don’t hit the back button. Some studies show it’s up to 15 seconds. It really depends on the website, maybe the person and how they did the study. But at most, let’s say you’ve got 15 seconds to make a connection on your website, or people will hit that back button and go to the next thing in the Google feed or their newsfeed or wherever it might be.

[00:09:30.690] – Boris
Next, we have MORE THREATS. This is number three. Well, as I mentioned, we all went online, including people working from home. There is now, therefore, more remote work, which means more online access, more ways to access your company’s resources online, whether that’s your website or other back-end databases or systems that you guys are using, people have to be able to access it more ways from home, which leads to more vulnerabilities.

[00:09:58.770] – Boris
The truth of the matter is that the weakest link in any technology chain is usually not always, but usually human. There is an incredible rise in phishing attacks, which is attacks that are trying to impersonate someone on your team. Maybe they’ve hacked your password. Maybe they have been logged into your email account and tried to impersonate you. I know a lot of organizations that have been attacked in this way with funds being diverted from their work to either restoring their data, if it is a cyber attack where they basically ransom your data, or there are many attacks now where they will simply impersonate someone in your organization and monitor your email thread. See how you’re communicating, see how you authorize payments, and then get in there and intercept something that looks like a regular communication, but actually diverts funds to someone else. And when a nonprofit loses the trust of their supporters because they lost their hard-earned money or their data, it’s really taxing on an organization.

[00:11:14.500] – Boris
2021 saw the highest average cost of a data breach in 17 years, with the cost rising from almost $3.8 almost $3.9 million to $4.24 million on an annual basis. That’s according to an IBM study. So this is a major threat. And if you think that it’s just big-data organizations or some large corporations that get packed and that get ransomed, it’s not the case. More and more cybercriminals really don’t care. All they care about is vulnerability. If they could make 100,000 from you versus a million from someone else, they’ll just target both. It really doesn’t matter to that. So there are definitely a lot more threats to be aware of.

[00:11:57.430] – Boris
We’ve also gone more mobile and more global, right? Mobile now accounts for 54% of web traffic worldwide. Your potential avatar, your potential heroes, are now everywhere around the world. They are global and they are accessible, which means that you need to be aware of where you’re communicating messages to, where people are seeing your messaging, how they’re responding to it. Of course, there’s some language issues, but there’s also issues of inclusivity, which is incredibly important, and I’ll mention that again. It also means that they’re bombarded with more content than ever before, because now everyone has gone online, everyone has tried to make things more mobile-friendly, more phone-friendly, and has tried to send notifications, text messages. WhatsApp messages, right? All of these emails, of course, to people’s phones. So we’re constantly now more than ever. And it’s almost redundant to say that because every year it seems to be more than ever, nobody sees any decline in the number of notifications and distractions that we’re all getting every year. So it’s just something to be aware of. And I’ll talk a little bit about how to mitigate that in a few minutes.

[00:13:13.410] – Boris
Number five, nothing specific to do with websites, although it does tie in, but there is MORE CRYPTO CRAZINESS, right? Crypto donations have skyrocketed. 45% of crypto owners donated $1,000 or more to charity in 2020, compared to one third of all investors. The numbers for 2021 aren’t fully in yet, but every indicator says that it has been an increase. For example, Crypto Giving Tuesday alone, which is done by the Giving Block, which I have a whole episode about. If you’re interested, you could check out on the website or on YouTube, wherever you consume this podcast, on your podcast players, of course, with Alex from the Giving Block, and they sponsor an event called Crypto Giving Tuesday. Obviously not Giving Tuesday itself, and they raised $2.4 million in that one day, which was a 583% increase from the year before. So clearly that is a growing field.

[00:14:13.230] – Boris
NFTs, Non-fungible Tokens are dominating headlines. If you haven’t heard about them, you’ve probably been trying to avoid them on purpose. A lot of people still don’t understand them, but essentially you could think of an NFT as a certificate of ownership or a ticket to something. So it is not an actual physical object, and it does not register a copyright or anything like that. But it identifies you as the rights holder to a particular object, and it could be a work of art, it could be a course, it could be anything that is digital or even physical. Sometimes NFTs really confer rights to something that’s physical out there. They are now a great way for artists to make money, for nonprofits to actually fundraise. And I’m happy to talk to you guys more about that, if anyone is interested. I’m getting heavier and heavier into this world of blockchain technology, because I think it’s going to really impact the social sector as well and it’s already really starting to.

[00:15:15.230] – Boris
All of that, cryptocurrency and NFTs are built on blockchains, and the blockchain is the foundation of what is being called Web 3. So, Web 1.0 was when anybody could put up a website, or most people could put up a website. Web 2.0 was when it wasn’t just a website, but it was bi-directional communication with social media apps and things like that. Now we’re moving to Web 3, which, if it works, will become a much more decentralized internet, a decentralized way of sharing information, of having access to certain things, including finance and including tickets and rights to things like NFTs confer.

[00:15:54.930] – Boris
But we’re really just at the beginning of what Web 3 can offer us based on blockchain technology, which hopefully will also add some security. But honestly, it’s probably going to open up new vulnerabilities as well. That’s just how technology works. But crypto is a new avatar, and I don’t mean Krypto like the dog that is in the Superman cartoons. Of course, I’m talking about cryptocurrency. It has spawned a new avatar. It’s millennials who are expressing elevated interest in both charitable giving, as we now know, and cryptocurrency investing. They are the largest group of cryptocurrency investors at the moment, and they feel a need to give back to social causes. So they are very much interested in organizations that will accept cryptocurrency in order to offset some of their gains in the realm of taxation by first donating to organizations that they care about. So something to very much be aware of.

[00:16:56.190] – Boris
So if those are the five things that you guys need to know about the state of things in 2022, let’s talk about five things that you should do in 2022 to respond to those and other elements of storytelling and technology currently evolving online.

[00:17:13.440] – Boris
The first is to STEP UP YOUR STORYTELLING. And by that, I mean with all the noise, you have to tell better stories and be sure that they’re targeted to the right avatars. Again, avatar is the term that I use for what other marketers will call target persona. But it’s really the hero that you want to activate for your cause. And your storytelling includes, of course, your organizational storytelling and program storytelling.

[00:17:39.530] – Boris
A lot of organizations have a tough time putting together their big-picture story, especially if they do many different things. And I can understand that it feels difficult, but it is absolutely critical again, on your homepage, for example, there has to be some representation of your overall organization in some sort of a storytelling form on your program pages. And whenever you’re communicating information about your programs, again, there needs to be a great story that will hook people in your target heroes. It’ll hook them in and drive them through your story, activate the hero inside of them, get them on that hero’s journey. You can also, in order to help with that, ramp up their individual stories. And that would be things like testimonials, videos, quotes, all of those things from your stakeholders and constituents, from your donors, from your board members.

[00:18:30.450] – Boris
All of these stories that will help people connect to you on a personal level, right? People don’t really connect to abstract organizations. Sure, you might have an affinity towards IBM or Nike or some big brand, but if you really want to connect with someone, that’s what you’re going to do. You’re much more likely to connect with a person than an idea of a company. So individual stories are huge right now and amp up your avatars.

[00:19:02.270] – Boris
So because we’re all being bombarded with messaging all the time, with the attempt to get our focus and our attention right, it’s a competition for eyeballs and time, if you will. You’ve got to be super, super specific about who your avatar is for each and every one of your programs at different stages. And maybe there’s a different avatar for your supporters that are donors versus supporters that are your volunteers. Right? Each of those could be different avatars, and they have entire worksheets on the different types of avatars that you can define. But you’ve got to be as specific as possible. You’ve got to really understand them as clearly as possible so that you could relate to them, and then they will relate to you. You’ve got to speak their language. You’ve got to talk to them about the things that they care about and not just your work. Right? You don’t want to come and talk to them and just preach about the great work that you’re doing. You want them to feel like they are heard and understood as well. And that’s the power of Web 2.0. It’s bi-directional communication. Web 3 is going to be even further, hopefully.

[00:20:14.490] – Boris
And of course, representation matters. I could have also put this as a big trend in 2021, but in 2022, more than ever again, I’m almost tired of using that phrase, but it’s so, so salient. Representation is critical. Diversity, equity, and inclusivity is really a must today. It not only helps people feel included, it also shows that you are someone, an organization that prioritizes inclusivity that wants everyone to feel welcome, not just the stock photo individuals that you might have had before on your website.

[00:20:55.000] – Boris
Oftentimes when I look for stock photography on websites, there’s a lot of great shots that some of them look very stock, if you will, and some of them look more natural. But more often than not, they’re frankly of white people, of blonde women, of white men. And that is really unfortunate because then others who don’t just fit into that one category will feel like you’re not really talking to them.

[00:21:23.820] – Boris
We always resonate best with people that we feel an affinity towards. Now, that doesn’t mean that all we ever see is race or ethnicity or gender. We do see other things, and we relate to people in many different ways. But the more you can vary up the types of imagery that you’re using, the types of stories that you’re sharing, the more you’re going to allow more people to feel included, to feel welcomed into the work that you’re doing. And then they will be much more likely to support you and help create a better world. And hopefully your better world includes a more diverse and accepting world where we’re all not just treated as equals, but feel like we are equals and have the capacity to do anything that we want to do based on our energy, our character. Of course, to use one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s most important words. So Diversity, equity, inclusivity. Take a look at your materials, take a look and see are you doing the best you can to make everyone feel welcome?

[00:22:33.510] – Boris
Number two, we talked earlier about the increase in cybercrime, STRENGTHEN YOUR SECURITY. More so than other types of businesses, nonprofits live and die on trust. As I’ve said, I’ve worked with organizations where that trust has been broken, sometimes through no fault of their own, often through no fault of their own, except that they let something slide and therefore something bad happened. And it takes a lot to regain the trust of supporters. Oftentimes you’re going to lose a lot of them. They’re going to either move on to another organization that’s doing similar work, or even worse, they might lose faith in the nonprofit system as a whole, feeling like they’re wasting their time and money. That’s the worst thing that we could do for the entire do-good community.

[00:23:23.250] – Boris
One of the things you could do, of course, is turn on multi-factor authentication. It’s not expensive. It is a pain in the butt. I agree. I have resisted in some cases from turning it on. I always have super secure passwords, but I have now converted everything to multi-factor authentication, certainly for my clients, but also for my own peace of mind with my own accounts. It’s absolutely vital today, any roadblocks that you can put in the way of a hacker is going to discourage them much more than just a random password or something that they might encounter less security on another account and therefore move on to them because they’re going to also try to take the path of these resistance.

[00:24:09.450] – Boris
Next, train your staff on protocols. As I said earlier, the weakest link in most technology security chains is actually human beings. We are not naturally predisposed to understanding cyber security. We’re not naturally predisposed to understanding security in general, but we can see it in the physical world, we know to lock our doors, at least most of us do in most communities, we know to hit the lock button on our cars as we’re walking away. But when it comes to cybersecurity, we don’t see it. It’s not as tangible and therefore real to us. But believe me, when you get hacked, if your Social Security gets hacked or if your organization’s website gets hacked, it becomes very real, very quick. So train your staff on protocols so that they know the best practices.

[00:25:00.390] – Boris
And as I mentioned earlier, passwords are still one of the weakest entry points. I cringe when I am working with clients and they send me credentials to log into something. And I see that it’s a very simple password, like their organization initials with the year that they’re working. Well, guess what? There are a lot of very smart AI bots that will go in and they will plug in thousands of combinations of keywords and dates and numbers in a second to try to get access. And if you happen to have a password that’s a combination of any of the most common terms that they know to try, you’re going to get hacked and you’re going to get hacked quickly and not even know it.

[00:25:52.730] – Boris
So most people don’t want to use very complex passwords. If you use a password manager and the one I use is KeePass, I’ll link to it in the show notes for this as well. It’s free, it’s open source, it’s very secure. All you have to do is remember one preferably very complicated password, and then it’ll generate for you all kinds of passwords. It’ll even let you keep them associated with specific websites. You can then click and it’ll open up the website for you. It’ll populate the username and password for you so you never have to even remember them. All you have to do is remember your one master password. I love KeePass. I’m not plugging it as this is the best tool out there. It’s the best tool for me. Anything though, is better than a spreadsheet or a piece of paper with your passwords on it. So use a password manager, whatever that might be.

[00:26:43.350] – Boris
Then, MOBILIFY YOUR MESSAGE. This is number three in five things to do. Okay? As I said before, your avatars are everywhere. Your stories reach them on their phones before anywhere else. So a few years ago it was all about mobile-friendly design, where you wanted your website to look good on a mobile device. But you were first using desktop to create the website and it looked best on website. Well, now, 54% I think of all internet traffic is on phones. Not only that, most discovery is on phones. So the first time that they’re going to find out about you or something that you want them to see is going to be scrolling through Facebook or LinkedIn or TikTok or whatever it might be on their phones. They’re going to click through hopefully, if you’re telling a great story and telling them something that they’re talking to them about something they’re interested in peaking their curiosity and they want to learn more. They’re going to click through. If they click through and reach a website that is not great looking on mobile, they’re going to say, oh, maybe I’ll come back when I’m on my computer later, or they’re just going to go back and forget about it. Either way, you’ve lost a potential hero. You’ve lost a potential action of support that you worked hard to get.

[00:28:00.790] – Boris
So today it really should be mobile first. Even if most of your donations still come on desktop and they do. Today, still, most donations come through desktop. That might be because it’s still too difficult to donate on mobile. So think about what you can do to make that mobile experience easier. Design for mobile first.

[00:28:19.870] – Boris
And in line with video and mobile, create vertical video. So I am a recovering actor and filmmaker. I’ve always been taught make landscape 16 by 9 is the standard high definition aspect ratio make landscape video and I still do. This episode right now is being filmed in landscape in 16 by 9 format. However, on social media, I’m then going to reformat some of this video into vertical , into square so that I could put it on Instagram and some other platforms, Facebook, even where people are going to be able to consume it in a more mobile-friendly format. You can, though, go straight to vertical video at this point, if your messaging is more personal and direct, you can just start on TikTok or start on Instagram video and get your message recorded there, and then adapt it for other platforms from there. So really think about vertical video as your—if not primary, then a secondary must for your work.

[00:29:27.690] – Boris
Number four, SIMPLIFY SUPPORT. So I still unfortunately see a lot of organizations limiting the experience, limiting the ways that I can support them. For example, you might not be accepting cryptocurrency still, you might require people to jump through several hoops to fill out a lot of information. Make it as simple as possible. The donor is always right, so let them support you however they want, when they want, from whatever device they want. Right? We’re on mobile first. Make it as easy as possible to click a button, and all the other elements are filled in for you as easily as possible for the donor, so that they could take action quickly, or team up with a platform that will let you do it in a very simple way. Even text-to-give that is still working today.

[00:30:17.750] – Boris
So be as accessible from a supporter perspective as possible. Remove all friction. Take out any additional steps that people have to make that are not absolutely necessary. It’s much better to follow up with somebody afterwards than to ask them too many questions and lose their information beforehand. Lose their donation beforehand.

[00:30:40.620] – Boris
There is a common now known aspect of psychology that comes from behavioral economics and behavioral science as a whole that the best way to get somebody to take action is not actually to reward them for it or to threaten them into doing it, but it’s actually to remove as much friction as possible so that they are defaulted into it. So assuming they don’t object to it, they will just do it. This has been incredibly helpful in all kinds of situations. Governments have adopted this strategy. Employers have adopted this strategy to get people to save more money so it can really be used for good. And I encourage you guys to do as much of that as possible. Look at what are the roadblocks or hurdles that people are facing before they can take the actions that we want them to take and remove as much as possible and reassure with social proof.

[00:31:32.810] – Boris
Again, there’s a lot of noise out there. There’s a lot of scams out there today, right? People are spamming us with all kinds of offers, and they’re attempting to not just get our attention, but also to trick us. So one way to help reassure people is with social proof, which is in the forms of testimonials, which is in the forms of accreditations that you might have awards that you may have won. Make sure that those are, if not front and center, at least just off to the side, so that if you’ve got my attention, I’m reading the story. I’m following along. I can then see, oh, there’s someone who has done this before me, meaning another supporter or another client perhaps, who has gone through this process and become a hero with the help of the work that this organization, your organization is doing. So reassure me with as much social proof as you can.

[00:32:21.610] – Boris
And as I said earlier, accommodate cryptocurrency. It’s not that difficult today. As I mentioned before, The Giving Block is a great company that’s making this as easy as possible. You don’t need to use them. There are plenty of other ways that you could do it, including just setting up your own wallets. It requires a little more technical knowledge, but honestly, it’s not that difficult. You can do it and then start accepting donations directly and addressing them like you would any other donation of stock or similar assets. It’s not considered a financial donation at this point, because cryptocurrency is considered an investment vehicle right now.

[00:33:01.590] – Boris
And then CREATE MORE CALLS TO ACTION. Give your audience more opportunities to become heroes for your cause. This is the fifth and final thing that I have to say you need to be doing on your website and really everywhere but on your website in 2022. The number one place where you’re going to convert your avatars into heroes is your website. Because there’s fewest distractions, there are fewer things tugging at them in different directions. You have the best chance of telling your best narrative and giving them value before they even think about donating, before you even ask them to donate or take some kind of action.

[00:33:37.830] – Boris
So you’ve done all the work to drive them to your website. Now give them as many opportunities as possible to become heroes for your cause. And by that, I don’t mean overwhelming them. Don’t give them a million different options. Give them one, two, three at most options, but do it frequently on all kinds of pages. Every piece of content you put out, every website page or blog post should have a call to action. That is the next logical step for a potential or even an existing supporter to take once they’ve consumed that content, resonated with that story in one way or another, felt indebted to you for giving them that opportunity and sharing that story with them. Now invite them to action and do it everywhere. As I said, on every single post that you have, on every single piece of content you put out, on social media, there should be some sort of a next step they should take. Now, that doesn’t mean that every photo you share should say now donate. But it should offer a way for people to learn more to dive deeper into the story if possible.

[00:34:39.790] – Boris
And then, of course, make it easy. Remove that friction. Remove all kinds of psychological friction where people have to think about, oh, do I want to do this or not? Is it too much work right now? Should I come back to it later? Make it easy psychologically, make it easy physically and chronologically timewise, as streamlined as possible. Those are the five things that you really need to do for your nonprofit website in 2022. I hope you enjoyed that part of it, the presentation.

[00:35:14.570] – Boris
There is one last thing that I do want to talk about, which is the NYU course that I’m starting in just a couple of weeks now, February 2nd through March 9th. We’re going to meet once a week. There will be some homework. It’s not going to be too crazy. But by the end, you’re going to learn how to create a complete website strategy, including formulating your goals, your calls to action, and your key performance indicators, your KPI, how you’re going to measure your success. That’s one of the aspects that we’re going to focus on.

[00:35:42.980] – Boris
Another is going to be creating your target hero avatars and user journeys. We’re going to really dig into how to identify your ideal heroes and in a way that’s going to resonate with them, that they’re going to want to take action, that they’re going to raise their hands, and then we’re going to guide them down their hero’s journey, which is a user journey in technology, we all call it that on apps and websites.

[00:36:08.150] – Boris
So how we’re going to guide them through that process, that journey to becoming a hero in their own world and of course, in the mission of your organization, we’re going to talk about the hero page framework for all kinds of landing pages. This is a framework that I developed adapting storytelling structure specifically to nonprofit website landing pages, how to get that attention quickly so that they’re not going to jump off within 15 seconds, how to then get them engaged and working down that page and taking the actions that you need them to take.

[00:36:42.770] – Boris
We’re going to talk about and formulate your organizational storytelling Hollywood story framework. And by that I mean, how do we figure out that big picture from your mission to your work, including all of the different things that you do if you do more than one thing or if you’re planning on expanding or if you’re just doing the one thing, what’s the big picture story and how do we tell it in a way that still resonates with our individual avatars? Right? You can’t talk company to person. You’ve got to speak somehow on a direct storytelling, personal level narrative.

[00:37:20.310] – Boris
We’re going to create home page storytelling wireframes and donate page storytelling wireframes. So you don’t have to be a designer. You don’t have to be a web developer to take this course and to learn a lot from it. In fact, this is really targeted for people who are in development, in communications, in marketing that don’t necessarily have those IT skills. If you do have them, great. It’s going to take you to a whole other level. But regardless of where you are right now in your journey as a communications or fundraising professional, we’re going to raise you to that next level of storyteller across digital media and websites specifically.

[00:37:59.140] – Boris
So we’re going to create wireframes. I’m going to teach you guys how to do that. And those wireframes will basically lay out what’s going to be on the page without worrying too much of a design. And then you’re going to be able to handle those wireframes to whomever is building your website or implement them on website builders like WordPress or Squarespace or whatever it is that you’re using.

[00:38:20.130] – Boris
And then we’re going to finally create a website sitemap. And this is not necessarily in order how we’re going to do it in the class, but we’re going to figure out what the entire site structure looks like, what the point of each page is going to be, and how that works with SEO, how we’re going to describe each of the pages. All of that is going to be in at least one of the projects that you’re going to be doing.

[00:38:43.690] – Boris
By the end of the course, by March 9th, you’re going to have a strategic plan for a nonprofit website. Whether you’re currently working with an organization and want to work on their site, or you are considering working with an organization, or you just want to go out on your own and start doing some of this kind of work, you’re going to have a finished presentation that you can take to an organizational leadership, which could be, again, yours or another organization, or you could even make up an organization that you want to be doing this for. And by the end, have a clear roadmap to how to tell your story on your website that you could hand off, like I said, to a professional website development shop or agency, or do it on your own with the skills and tools that you have. That’s it. That’s the entire pitch for the course.

[00:39:34.100] – Boris
If you’re interested, you can go to dotorgstrategy.com/nyu, New York University, and that will redirect you actually directly to NYU’s page, where you can learn more about the program and enroll, if you wish.

[00:39:49.650] – Boris
On the screen right now, for those of you watching, is the QR code to take you to that page. If you are not watching right now, and are listening on your podcast, thank you again for spending your time with me today. You can head over to NPHF standing Nonprofit Hero Factory nphf.com/ep44 to get all of these show notes and all of these links right on the screen and make it easy for you to, of course, take action on all the things that we’re talking about today. Let me stop sharing my screen and thank you again for joining me today for this special episode.

[00:40:28.630] – Boris
I hope you learned some things, some practical tips and advice on what you can do with your organization’s website this coming year to take advantage of the trends and what’s happening out there in the world so that you can better tell your stories, communicate with your ideal avatars and of course, get them to take the actions you need to become heroes for your cause and create a better world for all of us. We’ll be back next week with another guest that’s going to share their knowledge on how to do better.

[00:40:59.350] – Boris
I believe next week we’re going to be talking about email onboarding sequences actually, that’s what we’ve got planned. So be sure to tune in for that one. It’s a very important topic. Until then, thank you again for joining me. If you like this show, please, please, please this is my call to action for you. Leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite platform or wherever you’re consuming this content so that more nonprofit professionals can discover this show and learn from experts not just me, of course on how they can do more and have a greater impact on the world. Bye bye, everybody.

[00:41:36.690] – Outro Video
Thank you all for watching and listening to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. We hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating more heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes Spotify or your favorite podcast platform and let us know what you think by leaving a review.

Concepts and Takeaways:

Top trends to consider from 2021

  • More noise when everyone shifted everything online (2:41)
    • Social Media
      • Over 160 million businesses use Facebook
      • 93% marketers use Facebook Ads
      • Cost per Action (CPA)’s average is $18.68
      • Average click-through rate is 0.9%
    • Podcasts – 850,00 active podcasters and over 48 million episodes
    • Events – Virtual events increased by 35%
    • Video – YouTube has over 500 hours of video uploads every minute
  • More Websites, more content (6:11)
    • 200 million active websites
    • 56.5 billion web pages indexed through Google
    • WordPress – market share continues to grow. Now 41% of all websites.
    • 75% consumers judges company credibility based on their website
  • More threats – as more things have gone online, security efforts haven’t kept up. And nonprofits are in a particularly vulnerable spot. (9:30)
    • More remote work > More online access > More vulnerabilities
    • The biggest weakness in most technology systems is people.
    • Phishing attacks are on the rise, as is the cost of a data breach
    • Highest cost of data breach in 17 years
  • More Mobile + More Global (11:57)
    • 54% of web traffic is from mobile devices
    • Your potential hero is global and easily accessible on their devices
    • More distractions and more competition for attention
  • More Crypto Craziness (13:13)
    • Crypto donations have skyrocketed
    • NFTs are dominating headlines
    • Web3 is coming
    • Crypto donors are a new avatar who wants to give back

5 Things To Do in 2022

  • Step up your storytelling. With all the noise out there, it’s increasingly critical to be able to communicate your message quickly and effectively. This includes your big-picture storytelling and your individual storytelling, and it all starts with really clearly defining or updating your avatars. (17:13)
    • People don’t connect to abstract organizations, they connect with other people.
  • Strengthen security. Nonprofits live and die on trust. Once lost, the trust of your supporters can be impossible to regain. And if you lose their money to a cyber criminal, it’s twice as challenging. (22:33)
    • Turn multi-factor authentication
    • Train your staff
    • Use password managers
  • Mobilify your message. Your avatar is everywhere and they’re on their phones. So think mobile first. Design for mobile and tell your stories in mobile-native formats, like vertical video. (26:41)
  • Simplify Support. Make it as easy as possible to support you in the donor’s preferred method—including cryptocurrency. And bring in social proof to reassure people that they’re making the right choice. (29:27)
  • Create more calls to action. Don’t make people guess what you want them to do. Give them every opportunity to become a hero, and make it clear how. (33:01)

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Boris Kievsky

Boris Kievsky

Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy

Boris is an entrepreneur, recovering filmmaker, and relapsed geek. As the the Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy, Boris helps nonprofits harness the power of great stories amplified through the right technology to reach the right audiences, create meaningful connections, and activate the inner hero in each of them.

Connect with Boris Kievsky

EP35 - Boris Kievsky - Featured

Episode 35: What Nonprofits Can Learn from IKEA to Increase Support & Impact, with Boris Kievsky

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 35

What Nonprofits Can Learn from IKEA to Increase Support & Impact, with Boris Kievsky

In this Episode:

Can asking your supporters for their help and input actually raise the amount they’re willing to support your nonprofit’s work?

There’s a phenomenon in psychology, studied and demonstrated by behavioral economists, in which people consider something they’ve taken part in creating to be worth more than the same thing made by a professional. This cognitive bias is called the IKEA Effect

In this episode, Boris discusses strategies for nonprofits to capitalize on the power of the IKEA Effect to form a stronger connection with supporters, increasing your perceived value and raising more money for your work.

[00:00:07.250] – Intro Video
Welcome to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video broadcast and podcast. Where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more heroes for their cause and a better world for all of us. Da-Ding!

[00:00:24.210] – Boris
Hi, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Nonprofit Hero Factory. On today’s show, I’m going to dig into a cognitive bias — a known, seemingly illogical bit of human psychology — that nonprofits have to understand and take advantage of if they want to grow their community and their support base. Many are already doing it, are taking advantage of it without realizing it (including probably your organization one way or another) but they’re not using it nearly to its potential. And today, I really want to dive into all the ways that you can do that to maximize your support base and create more heroes for your cause.

[00:01:02.730] – Boris
Before I do, though, I’d like to tell a little story — and bear with me for a couple of minutes — because I promise, it is actually relevant to what we want to talk about. This weekend, as most people in the U.S. were celebrating Halloween, I attempted to assemble and hang an IKEA set of cabinets for the fourth time. It’s the KALLAX, if you guys are familiar with all the different IKEA ones, where you could configure it into different, kind of, arrangements of drawers and shelves with doors and knock doors.

[00:01:33.570] – Boris
And I’ve assembled dozens probably, by now, of pieces of IKEA furniture over the years. This one didn’t seemingly present a challenge either, to put together at least. I put the two KALLAX boxes together, and then it was time to attach the mounting rails on the wall. If you’re familiar with the system and relates, okay. If you’re not, I’m not trying to advertise IKEA here, but they have these special metal rails that you attach to the wall, and then you can just hang the cabinets onto the rails.

[00:02:04.710] – Boris
Easy enough in theory. Of course, good practice says you should find studs to drill into and to screw the mounting rails into. And I did try to find those… but this wall, as it turns out, doesn’t seem to have studs, at least not in the area that I wanted to hang. The wall is actually adjacent to the garage, so the other side of the wall is inside our garage, the outside is leading towards our den. And it’s a long wall where we wanted to have two, kind of, cabinets on the bottom with large doors and drawers; and then up top, we wanted to have hanging, these additional cabinets to put stuff away out of view. Because, you know, when you have three kids in the house, there’s always things everywhere, and you want to find ways to stow them nicely and hopefully in an organized fashion.

[00:02:51.510] – Boris
Anyway, maybe because it’s the other side of the garage door — the garage wall – but this wall was clearly built differently somehow, and there were no studs for me to screw into. So, I went back out to the hardware store and bought toggle bolts. Which when you push into a wall, there’s a little butterfly thing, or a plastic thing that you could pull back, and it really presses against the back of the wall, keeping anything from pulling through or ripping down. I bought the bolts, drilled the hole, and pushed the toggle bolt in… and hit the garage wall instead.

[00:03:27.990] – Boris
So, apparently there’s a gap between our den wall and the garage wall, and it’s not long enough for the toggle bolt to actually go in and be able to spring open. I tried a couple of different types of bolts, none of them worked. Go back to the hardware store again. This time I buy plastic anchors and metal anchors to screw into the drywall that will hopefully hold a lot of weight. They’re rated 75 pounds each, there’s four per cabinet, two cabinets, but each one would then, theoretically, be able to support 300 pounds —which we have no intention of actually testing — but, should do.

[00:04:08.010] – Boris
So I got those in, and using them, was able to attach the rails to the wall about an inch lower than the ceiling, or actually, where the cabinets would hang about an inch lower than the ceiling. I got the cabinets up with a little bit of heft and some assistance. I was able to actually get them onto the rails and then noticed something a little odd again. Whereas the back of the cabinet was about an inch down from the ceiling, the front of the cabinet was actually literally touching — pressed up against — the ceiling.

[00:04:46.230] – Boris
Now, this would not have necessarily been a problem. I could have let it go, if not for the fact that we want doors on these cabinets and the doors swing out. Which I tried, just to confirm, but makes them actually bump into the ceiling and can’t even open. So unless I’m willing to cut open a section of ceiling, which I’m not prepared to do, I had to think of something else. Either lower the cabinets— which might make them look even stranger, hanging off the wall lower down — or find a way to, kind of, make them vertically level.

[00:05:19.170] – Boris
So I wound up coming up with a solution, which was to use washers. I put washers in as spacers between the wall and the railing, in order to try to get it flush, level with the… Well, 90 degrees to the floor and ceiling, and so the top of the cabinets will be more parallel with the ceiling. That meant, of course, going back out to the hardware store, buying longer screws, buying all kinds of washers because oh yeah, of course, the wall is not consistent to itself. I need a different number of washers in different parts of the wall… quality construction I live in. And after multiple experiments, was actually able to get the rail up relatively straight, relatively vertically straight, and mount the cabinets onto it, in such a way that they were parallel to the ceiling, and parallel and lined up with each other.

[00:06:15.510] – Boris
And the final test… was I able to put the doors on? And voila, hallelujah, they finally opened. Now, you might listen to this story and either think, “why in the world, A) is he telling this story? But B) why didn’t he just call a professional, either to put them up in the first place or when it didn’t work the first time, call someone who knows how to do these things… a handyman, a carpenter, a drywall person, I don’t know. Somebody who actually understands the principles of these types of construction and can do it quicker and probably better in the long run?”

[00:06:52.950] – Boris
Or you might be thinking of a similar experience that you had. Whether it was like me, putting together some piece of IKEA and maybe having extra parts at the end. Or having a Lego set that was incredibly challenging to put together, like the one that one of my kids loves to do. And the interesting thing is that whatever you undertook, as long as you were able to complete it, you’re probably looking back on it with pride. As I do, now every time I walk through that room, basically to the den, I look at those cabinets and I think “there’s something that I was able to do, there’s something that I achieved”.

[00:07:34.230] – Boris
And it actually makes me value them more than if I’d had someone else assemble them and put them up. Which is a little bit odd, but luckily, this is not evidence that I’m crazy (nor is it evidence to the contrary, of course). But luckily for me, this is a phenomenon that has been studied and actually aptly named The IKEA Effect, and this is the cognitive bias that I want to focus on today.

[00:08:03.750] – Boris
A litte over ten years ago, behavioral economists Michael I. Norton, Daniel Mochon, and Dan Ariely set out to examine this phenomenon that had actually been observed and used by marketers and companies, like IKEA, for decades. In their experiments, they had individuals who were not particularly skilled at assembling furniture or other tasks, to assemble IKEA furniture or build a Lego set that was complicated or fold origami for the first time. They were then asked how much they would pay for the resulting creation, the product of their efforts, and how much they would pay for the same item created by a professional.

[00:08:40.770] – Boris
So if you’ve got some work of origami that you created versus someone else created that is a professional that clearly looks better and more structured, more well-built, whatever it might be, in case of furniture. Overwhelmingly, the participants agreed to pay more — as much as 63% more — for the one that they created, even though their final product was not as well done as the professionally created one, and they were able to see that and admit it. Then they took people who were not part of the creation process and brought them in and asked them the same question about the value of the object. They were asked the value they would assign to someone, to an object, that was professionally assembled versus one that an amateur was assembling.

[00:09:30.750] – Boris
And guess what? They didn’t have the same bias, they preferred the professional one. It seemed to them worth more and more valuable. Well, this is perhaps a strange phenomenon, but if we think about it in a few different ways, we can actually understand it. And nonprofits can harness that same cognitive bias, as it’s called in behavioral science, to create stronger connections and raise more money. The fact is that once someone has participated, as the study shows, in the creation of something — and in your case, the furthering of your mission or the creation of a program — their personal narrative, their identity, expands to include that they are now someone who supports your cause.

[00:10:13.830] – Boris
And with that new identity, they’re more likely to keep supporting through volunteering, amplifying and donating, and raise their support level as they feel more invested and a stronger connection to the results. Positive changes that they want to see in the world. So the more you can make them a part of the process, the more you could involve them in helping you understand what people want and deliver on those things, the more they’re going to take ownership of it, the more — there’s another effect called The Endowment Effect — the more they’re going to endow your work with value and therefore feel it’s more valuable to support.

[00:10:54.450] – Boris
So here are a few ideas that I put together that will hopefully get you thinking about how you can capitalize on the power of the IKEA Effect to create more heroes for your cause. If you will, ways to engage your current and possible new supporters in the work that you’re doing and get them more and more invested in it. The first way is to simply offer more volunteer opportunities. Even in a time like a pandemic that we’re going through now, where not everybody is able to, or interested in, getting together to do something in person, to volunteer.

[00:11:27.630] – Boris
There are ways to get them to volunteer online, to do certain things on your behalf. It will somehow forward your mission. This is a good time to point out that next week, when we get back to our regular type of interview show, we’re going to have on the show Dana Litwin, who is a volunteer engagement expert and will be talking to us about some of the ways that we can activate more volunteers online to get them more connected with our work.

[00:11:56.010] – Boris
The second way is to create behind-the-curtain experiences. If you’ve ever gone to see a Broadway show or any kind of theater, really, and then gone backstage to see how it all works, there’s a certain level of mystery to it. But when you get back there, it doesn’t just go away. It’s not “oh, it’s a trick.” There are no illusions, per se. There are ways that we make things happen in theater and are actually fascinating to see. “Oh, wow. That’s how that puzzle came together. That’s how Mary Poppins was able to fly.” Right? Those are the behind-the-curtain experiences or meet the cast.

[00:12:31.230] – Boris
Well, in your world, you can invite them — physically or virtually — to see how their support is helping further the cause. Helping to create certain results in the world and let them participate in that feel-good moment of service delivery. There was an organization, it still exists — the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization — that I was a part of when I was in high school. And every year, they probably still do this, they have a Passover food drive where they will assemble care packages for folks who cannot go out and buy their own Passover goods, whether they are not able to leave their house or they can’t afford all of the different things that it takes to have a proper Seder, which is the celebratory meal on Passover.

[00:13:20.370] – Boris
So they would invite high school students, like myself and my friends, to come and put the packages together. And then for those of us that had cars, which in my last year of doing it I did, actually go out and drive these packages, deliver these packages to the folks who needed them. Let me tell you, that was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I still recall knocking on doors and elderly people opening the door and seeing this package and the gratitude in their eyes and in their voices was just so incredible for me to experience that, it probably laid a strong foundation for all the other volunteer work that I’ve done since then.

[00:14:04.230] – Boris
It is an incredibly powerful thing to be able to firsthand witness the accomplishment of a mission in some small way. Which, by the way, you could also do virtually. I didn’t have to necessarily go there to drive. If you are delivering goods like that, for example, maybe you can have a camera and have that moment captured on camera. When someone receives the benefit of a donation or some kind of support. Right? Then you could share that out with the people who helped make it happen.

[00:14:38.130] – Boris
The next thing that you could do is a variation on the behind-the-curtain experience, which is invite them to Town Halls. There, supporters can get an inside view and possibly the opportunity to play a part in anything, from the planning of a new program, to the direction of the entire organization. So if you think about your board, for example, they take part in a lot of the decision making and setting the direction for your organization.

[00:15:05.070] – Boris
They are also the most invested supporters for your cause and for your nonprofit. Well, what if you could offer, basically another level of that, to other supporters. To people who do care about the success of your mission. Maybe they’re part of the community, and you can poll them on what services they want, or how they want something delivered, or how something’s working for them, and let them then have that voice that gets incorporated. Now, the danger is, of course, ignoring them if you do ask for suggestions, because then they’ll feel disenfranchised. But this is essentially enfranchisement. Where you’re drawing them in, making them feel like part of the process and the solution. Again, more invested. They will be more likely to want to support it going forward.

[00:15:52.590] – Boris
The next idea is to help connect your supporters to beneficiaries. Now again, in the case of the deliveries that I was doing, it was a very direct experience where I could interact with one of the beneficiaries, and it doesn’t have to be that person-to-person. Although by the way, that could also be done online, where you could set up calls between beneficiaries and benefactors, where there could be some sort of interaction and some sort of personal connection.

[00:16:20.430] – Boris
There’s another organization that I volunteer with, where I get to work hands on with a beneficiary and see their transformation over time — which I can’t take full credit for, but I do feel a sense of pride in — and want to keep supporting. So whether it’s through in-person or indirect through digital means, connectivity, or just through great storytelling, where you could tell the story of the impact that my work or my support has been responsible for, in a way. Then you’re going to once again make me feel more invested in the work that you’re doing.

[00:16:59.070] – Boris
Similar to how every time I walk by the IKEA shelves or there’s a project in the basement where… required some creative plumbing after certain contractors left things, let’s just say, not done. It took me several trips to Home Depot, but I was able to get it done. And every time I go down to the basement, even though most people can’t see it, and to be honest, it’s crude and not pretty, I still feel a sense of pride and accomplishment every time I go down there. So connecting someone to the results of your work and in this case specifically to beneficiaries, forges a really strong bond and makes them want to keep supporting you and donating more.

[00:17:37.290] – Boris
The next one is to give people more agency. What do I mean by that? I like to say that good storytelling, especially on websites and in digital media in general, is a choose your own adventure. Not a linear novel or movie that you can’t touch. Similarly, when we’re talking about trying to engage our supporters, if we give them options of how they want to proceed on their hero’s journey with us and how they want to support the work that we’re doing, which might be, of course, asking them if they would prefer to volunteer or to donate or both.

[00:18:15.810] – Boris
And oftentimes we ask them to donate after they’ve volunteered and to volunteer after they’ve donated. Right? Both of those are, one can easily lead to, or trigger the other. So that’s one way to give them more agency. Another way is even when just asking for donations, which program do they want to support or which result do they want to see? One of the ways that you can really boost your donations is to just simply tie specific numbers, so $50, for example, to specific results. Like supply school supplies for an entire classroom of kids for a year, or a month, or whatever it might be. $50 might not be realistic for a whole year.

[00:18:59.890] – Boris
So if you can tie that, and then show me that my donation has had that impact. Hopefully even connect me in one way or another, and again, it doesn’t have to be direct one-to-one or in-person. It could just be through video or other types of content, storytelling. Connect me to the beneficiaries and the results that, the impact that it’s had on their lives. Well, now I feel like I decided what to do. I.E. Support this particular program or make this particular donation and it had this result, something that I could feel good about and creates reinforcement for me going forward.

[00:19:41.710] – Boris
The last one that I want to share today is, well, if you know me and this show, then I’m all about storytelling. And as I mentioned, the choose your own adventure stories. You have to tell the right kinds of stories, better. As much as possible, use stories to connect your supporters actions to visible, tangible (as much as possible), results in the world.

[00:20:04.210] – Boris
Tell them the stories of impact that their time, their money, their support, whatever way it came in helped make possible. And whatever you do, don’t say, “hey, we did this”. Don’t even just say, “we couldn’t have done it without you”. Be direct. Say, “you did this. You achieved this. You donated this and it created this result” as much as you possibly can. There is a caveat that I want to touch on real quick, which is, don’t ask for too much. Whether you’re creating a volunteer opportunity or you’re asking for a donation.

[00:20:37.870] – Boris
If you ask for too much and/or promise a result that won’t necessarily be achieved, then you’re going to have the opposite effect — the Disenfranchisement Effect — where I’m going to, let’s say I wasn’t able to put together those shelves and hang them, those cabinets. Then every time I walk by there, I’m going to feel like, “oh, this was a failure”. It’s a negative association with the entire process, with IKEA, with mounting things, with my house, whatever it might be. Right? All the opposite effects from what you want to have with your organization’s supporters.

[00:21:11.470] – Boris
So make sure that it’s a donor size problem or a volunteer size problem, that can be achieved. And then, of course, tell them how much their work was able to do, how much change it was able to create in the world. You don’t have to remember all of this and you don’t have to take extensive notes. Of course, we have show notes for everything that I’m talking about in this episode. I also have a blog post called The IKEA Effect on the dotOrg Strategy website that you could check out. Again, it’ll be linked in the show notes for this.

[00:21:46.270] – Boris
If you’re interested in learning more about how to incorporate behavioral science in your organization, in your work, I highly recommend that you check out Episode 19 with Dr. Beth Karlin, where we talked about several different cognitive biases and elements of behavioral science, psychology, behavioral economics that you can use and should be, at least, aware of in your communications and your work as an organization.

[00:22:13.870] – Boris
Be sure, of course, to check back next week where we’re going to have our interview with Dana Littwin, talking about the ways that you could do the first thing that I talked about today in terms of increasing supporter investment, which is more volunteer opportunities online during times of pandemic or all year round.

[00:22:32.590] – Boris
In the meantime, if you enjoyed this episode and I really hope you did, please be sure to subscribe to the show on YouTube or your favorite podcast app so you can know when new episodes come out and please leave a review on iTunes, so that more people can discover this program and we can help them activate more heroes for their cause as well. As always, thank you so much for all the work that you do to make the world a better place for all of us, and I look forward to seeing you again next week. Bye bye.

[00:23:02.410] – Outro Video
Thank you all for watching and listening to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. We hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating more heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform, and let us know what you think by leaving a review.

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • Boris shares a recent personal example of the IKEA Effect. (1:12)
  • Placing a higher value and attachment on items that someone has built themselves is known as the IKEA Effect. (7:45)
  • Once someone has participated in the furthering of your mission, their narrative expands to include that they now support your cause. (9:56)
  • Invite your supporters to participate in the feel-good moment of seeing how their support is helping further the cause. (12:30)
  • It’s powerful to experience the accomplishment that comes from a mission being completed in some way. (14:04)
    • An example of this being seeing someone receive a donation, whether it’s in-person or digitally through a camera.
  • Allow your supporters to have a voice. Taking part in processes and solutions for your organization leads to greater investment. (14:45)
  • Connecting someone to the results of their work creates a bond and leads to continued support and donations. (16:20)
  • Provide supporters with options regarding how they want to proceed on their hero’s journey and how they want to support the work being done. (17:55)
  • Connect your supporters’ actions to visible and tangible results in the world using stories about the impact that their time, money and support made possible. (19:55)
  • Asking for too much or promising a result that is not likely to be achieved results in a negative effect. (20:37)
  • Cognitive biases and elements of behavioral science, psychology, and behavioral economics you should be aware of as an organization are discussed in Episode 19 with Dr. Beth Karlin. (21:56)

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Boris Kievsky

Boris Kievsky

Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy

Boris is an entrepreneur, recovering filmmaker, and relapsed geek. As the the Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy, Boris helps nonprofits harness the power of great stories amplified through the right technology to reach the right audiences, create meaningful connections, and activate the inner hero in each of them.

Connect with Boris Kievsky

EP34 - Boris Kievsky - Featured

Episode 34: Nonprofit Storytelling the Hollywood Way (part 3 of 3), with Boris Kievsky

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 34

Nonprofit Storytelling the Hollywood Way (part 3 of 3), with Boris Kievsky

In this Episode:

The power of storytelling lies in its ability to connect people and share experiences. Regardless of how great a story you tell in the middle of the forest, if no one’s there to hear it, it doesn’t make an impact.

In this third and final part of our exploration of Nonprofit Storytelling the Hollywood Way, we’re going to focus on elements of story craft that make stories more impactful, give them greater reach, and keep people coming back for more.

[00:00:16.190] – Intro Video
Welcome to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video broadcast, and podcast. Where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more heroes for their cause and a better word for all of us. Da-Ding!

[00:00:20.150] – Boris
Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. Thank you for joining me once again. Unlike most episodes, this one is going to be a solo show, so you just get to hear from me today. Most of the time, you get to hear from amazing experts in all manners of nonprofit fields like fundraising, marketing, technology and, of course, storytelling, which is what I wanna focus on today.

[00:00:40.970] – Boris
This is actually Part Three of our exploration of nonprofit storytelling lessons from Hollywood and beyond. Whether you’re new to nonprofit, new to storytelling or been working with both for years, my hope is that these concepts can help you refine your strategy and spark ideas for new ways to share your important work with the people who need to hear it.

[00:01:00.110] – Boris
Now to get the full story, so to speak, go watch or listen to part one, which is Episode 22, which focused on the questions and elements you have to have in place before you even begin to tell your story, such as establishing all the different characters and voices in your story and the goals that you have for all of them because you can’t have heroes if they don’t have calls to action and goals.

[00:01:22.490] – Boris
And then Part Two, which was Episode 29, there we covered the story style, structure and layout tips. I think there were 16 or 17 of those just in there. All of the little aspects that you could use to tweak how you tell your story to keep it more engaging, captivate your audience, maintain their attention and get them to do the things that you want to do so they become heroes for your mutual cause.

[00:01:47.210] – Boris
This installment, Part Three, is the final installment where we’re gonna cover the tools and tricks of the craft that will help you polish your story, really get it ready for mass consumption. At least we hope it will be mass consumption. And then the packaging or the elements you need to get your story out to the world, get people interested in it, get them to click that link, get them to scroll down, read it, and get enraptured in enough to take the actions you want them to take.

[00:02:14.810] – Boris
The first of the two parts that we’re gonna be talking about, of course, is craft. And storytelling, a lot of people tend to think of as an art, which there are many artistic aspects to it. But there’s also the craft side of it. And that is that a great screenwriter or novelist or nonprofit writer has to know how to use the tools that can make the movie or, in your case, your story more believable, more focused, more sticky, and keep people coming back for more. And there’s a set of tools that I learned from my time in Hollywood that I want to share with you.

[00:02:50.270] – Boris
And the first one is that you’ve got to establish credibility. Now, whenever you’re telling a story, hopefully the people who are listening to you take you at face value and know that you are the expert that you are.

[00:03:03.650] – Boris
Some of them may have already used your services or donated to your cause. They’re already members of your community in one way or another. But your goal is to, of course, bring in new people all the time. And those people may not know of the work that you do, of the impact that you have, right? Or of why they should trust you really.

[00:03:26.090] – Boris
So you wanna establish why we as first time visitors or relatively new visitors should trust you with our time, our money, et cetera, our resources, really our voice.

[00:03:37.730] – Boris
So how do we do that? Well, on any given page, depending on what it is that you’re trying to share, you can have various types of social proof. And essentially, that comes down to either testimonials or logos or some sort of endorsement, third party endorsement that might even be a guide star rating that you include on the bottom of your homepage or even your URL. Your website address could have the name of the cause right there.

[00:04:06.770] – Boris
There are little quick shortcuts and signals for us to understand that you are nonprofit, that you deserve our attention, and hopefully that you know what you’re talking about. Maybe it’s numbers like, how many people you’ve already impacted, what past successes you’ve had that people can attest to. Those are all types of social proof.

[00:04:27.830] – Boris
Movies use stars on their posters, right? To establish credibility. There might be certain stars that when you see in a movie, you’re nearly automatically gonna go see because you really like their work, at least until they disappoint you, which I hope your stories never disappoint your listeners. Similarly, what does your organization, what does your story offer as social proof, as a way to establish credibility?

[00:04:52.790] – Boris
Then this is a tactic that I borrow from Shakespeare, which is, “Say it thrice” aka three times. Now, in Shakespeare’s time, any important lines that their characters have to say, in one way or another, they would say them three times. I don’t mean they repeat “here ye, hear ye, hear ye,” which of course they did. But they would actually repeat the same concept multiple times in a given speech or certainly throughout the scene in order to be sure that the audience got it.

[00:05:22.010] – Boris
Now, Shakespeare was at a couple of disadvantages to us in that he couldn’t really control the way that the audience would respond to things, including, of course, throwing tomatoes if they didn’t like a speech. He also couldn’t control whether or not they’d be noisy or rowdy. So for him, it was necessary to have characters repeat things multiple times.

[00:05:42.530] – Boris
There’s also a theory that they said it three times because the stage was a thrust. I got to do a monologue on Shakespeare—on the Shakespeare Globe stage in London, and I can attest to it. It does have audience on three sides. So people said, you’d have to turn to one side, then walk to the front, and to the other side in order to be sure that everybody heard you.

[00:06:02.810] – Boris
Today, of course, we don’t have those same challenges, but let’s think about the challenges we do have. We have a million distractions. We have people multitasking whether they want to or not. They might be watching your video or reading your story, but also getting things on their phones or their kids might be coming in. Their dog might be barking, or an alert might be coming in from one of their emails or social media apps or something, right? There’s endless distractions.

[00:06:26.570] – Boris
So while I’m not saying repeat yourself verbatim at least, do introduce a concept multiple times and define it in different ways so that people really get a chance to absorb what you’re saying throughout your story.

[00:06:39.950] – Boris
And then the next tactic I advise is to kill your darlings. This is an odd one, and it’s difficult for most writers, including myself still to this day, but especially when I was first starting to write. It essentially means that there’s often times when we will include something that we think is just so poignant, so witty, so on the nose that it’s gonna make the show, make the episode, make the—in our case, blog post or whatever video so much more salient.

[00:07:13.790] – Boris
Unfortunately, we are often too close to the text, to the subject, to understand that from an outside perspective, it may not really be as resonant. Every line, every moment in your content needs to be filled with things that are going to engage and further the character, the reader as a character in your story.

[00:07:35.810] – Boris
I remember the first play I wrote. I was working with a playwriting teacher. He was actually a great playwright and screenwriter. And I had a line in there that I just loved. I thought it was hilarious and it was witty and it was poignant, and he read it and very politely looked at me and said, “Would the character actually say this, or is this Boris trying to sound intelligent?”

[00:07:59.450] – Boris
Now, you may not have the same problem as I had at the time, but you may have certain terms. You may have certain inside language that really makes sense to you. How many times have I read mission statements or vision statements that are just full of jargon and rhetoric that sounds so refined, and it doesn’t actually make a lot of sense to someone who’s reading it for the first time.

[00:08:22.850] – Boris
So take a look, take a close look at whatever language or fascinating or witty things you may be including in your content, and think a couple of times about whether or not you should actually remove it to make it more interesting and relevant to your audience.

[00:08:42.530] – Boris
The next is to introduce spin offs. So if you follow any of the Dick Wolf TV series, for example, Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, Chicago PD, all of those launched sequentially. I’m not sure of the exact order, but they were introduced first in one show and then they would have it in another show. They would have—mention of another show before it actually launched. They would bring the characters in, establish them in that world.

[00:09:12.830] – Boris
So spin offs, in your case, might be if you’re telling one type of story and you have another piece of content or another place where you want people to follow you for more content, you can introduce it in the story that you’re currently telling, sort of as a spin off or a new series that you’re going to be sharing somewhere else down the line.

[00:09:37.050] – Boris
In that same vein, we wanna tease what’s to come. Now, in a previous episode, I talked about cliffhangers, where you come to a point and stop in the middle of your story at the most exciting climax portion of the story. And you want people to tune back in next week or in the next reel in the case of the double feature. “If you like this, you should really tune in next time because we’re going to do this and this and this.”

[00:10:05.370] – Boris
Similarly to how when I ended the first episode or the second episode of this series of Hollywood storytelling for nonprofits. I also said, “Tune in next time or be sure to check in with us for the next episode, which is coming in a few weeks.” At least, I think I said that. I hope I said that. So tease what’s to come in your own storytelling to keep your audiences coming back for more.

[00:10:29.910] – Boris
And then pick your shots. You know, in actual filmmaking, we pick our shots long before we ever even cast an actor. We actually storyboard the entire thing as best we can to see exactly what we’re gonna show in any given shot. In this case, I’m talking more about your visuals, right? What is it that you’re going to show in the context of your article or your blog—or your blog post or your video?

[00:10:58.350] – Boris
However, you’re going to share this content except, of course, in the case of podcast like this one. What are the visuals that you’re going to include to make people instantly transport into the world that you are trying to establish for them, to engage with the story in a way that pulls them in and helps them resonate with the character, feel for the characters that are going to be in it, and perhaps picture themselves as one of those characters?

[00:11:28.650] – Boris
Remember the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It may actually also be worth thousands of dollars if you’re able to help people connect with the cause, connect with the world and the problems in the world that you’re establishing that they likewise want to solve.

[00:11:46.590] – Boris
And then the last part of the craft before your story is ready to go public, is to do a private screening. Now, I’ve been fortunate to work in a couple of movies that had larger premieres, let’s just say. But even before they had that, long before they had that, they had multiple private screenings where first, just the director and the producer or even just the director and a few close friends would come in and watch and see: Is this movie working? Is there anything extra? Is there anything we could do to tweak, to tighten, to really make it more powerful and engaging at any given point?

[00:12:22.230] – Boris
So if possible, run your story by some trusted advisors. Now, maybe it’s somebody else on your team. Maybe it’s your board of directors or board of advisers that you could send out. If it’s an email, send it out to them first. Let them take a look at it and give you any feedback possible.

[00:12:39.630] – Boris
Or maybe it’s even a group of superheroes to misuse the term. But people who are so entrenched and engaged with your community that they’re happy to be the first eyes and ears for your content and let you—give you feedback if there’s anything that they think doesn’t quite work for them, and therefore audience members like them. So test and refine your content before widely distributing it.

[00:13:10.290] – Boris
Now that we’ve established who our characters are, what questions we need to answer before we even start writing our story, how a plot works and how we can apply it to our own storytelling? All of those in parts one and two. And then what are all the devices that we could use? And what are all of the different elements of craft that we could incorporate in order to—or take advantage of in order to make our story as great as we can.

[00:13:36.810] – Boris
Let’s talk about the packaging. And this is really going to the idea of how we’re going to market our story. But before you can even market it, you have to have what in marketing we call the collateral, which in movies might be the posters, the trailers, the billboards, right? All of those things are packaging or originally, of course, in the terms of DVDs, it would be the package on the DVD. What is the—What does the cover look like?

[00:14:04.890] – Boris
As much as we like to say, we don’t judge books by their covers, we really do. And we do judge movies and your own stories by the initial presentation that we’re given of it. It helps us decide whether or not we’re going to dive any further, give it any more of our attention, spend any more time to engage with your content in the first place.

[00:14:28.350] – Boris
So the first thing you wanna do, is actually give it a great visual. That visual, like we were talking about before, needs to really speak to the audience that you want to reach, and it needs to tease the story that’s going to be there. We absorb visuals 60,000 times faster than we do text.

[00:14:47.970] – Boris
So even if you think the text is the most important thing there and you’ve got great text, if there’s not a visual you’re missing out. And if the visual isn’t impactful in engaging, if it doesn’t pique my curiosity or start transporting me into the world of the story, then you’re actually losing me.

[00:15:05.070] – Boris
There are studies that show we have about 8 seconds to engage someone when they reach a piece of content. If you don’t, they’re going to hit that back button or they’re gonna tune out and move on to something else. Again, we’re all multitasking these days, and there’s no shortage of things trying to grab at our attention all the time. So you’ve got to use every resource you can.

[00:15:26.130] – Boris
Then once you have your visual picked, yes, the next most important thing is the title. The title of the movie goes a long way. The title of your article goes at least as far. Your title is the first thing people will really use to frame and contextualize your story.

[00:15:42.570] – Boris
Even if your visual is very clear, the title can direct things in a different direction or really point us into what we’re going to be talking about. And it should be in some ways exciting or informative, so that we know that again, this is a story that we want to go on with you.

[00:16:00.750] – Boris
Then, once you have your title, you want to give it a tempting tagline. In the world of movies, again, a tagline might be something like. “in space no one can hear you scream.” Which was the tagline for Aliens. In Alien, there was—the poster really just had a dark space cape, I guess you would call it. And there was something coming through it. There was something a little different there, but really just the title of the movie Alien.

[00:16:29.590] – Boris
It could have been about anything, including at that time it could have been about the show, Alf. But it clearly wasn’t. It was a suspenseful thriller and the tagline, “in space no one can hear you scream,” really made it powerful and showed what it’s going to be about.

[00:16:46.570] – Boris
Similarly, in your own work, if you could add a tagline that helps explain what the story is going to be about, that might be catchy, that might capture some interest or pique some curiosity, but also inform, maybe even strike an emotion. You want to get that oxytocin released as early as possible, but without really trying to press those buttons because people will feel if it’s artificial.

[00:17:11.290] – Boris
Anything you can do in those senses to create—to create those elements in a tagline is going to really serve you well. So it could clarify the title, but it has to build interest and pique some curiosity to get people really excited to consume the content.

[00:17:30.790] – Boris
And now that you have all those three things—all those—yeah, those three things, you want to put them together into a poster, which is going to be combining your title, your tagline, and your visual into some sort of configuration. Now, I understand we’re limited in a lot of places where we might have a template that we can’t superimpose one thing on top of another.

[00:17:53.230] – Boris
The most important thing to bring first is usually the title and the visual. There are studies that show that the title should be first, but I prefer combining one over the other any way that both can be seen quickly within the first 8 seconds. And hopefully the tagline is going to be the most powerful combination that you can make. So whether it’s a photo for your post, the thumbnail for your video or your podcast like this one, it has to work with the other elements combined to make an irresistible poster for your audience.

[00:18:24.370] – Boris
Think about if you’re driving down a highway and you see a billboard. Now in Hollywood, all the billboards pretty much—unless Apple is releasing a new product—are for a movie or a TV show that’s about to come out. This is a unique thing in the world of Los Angeles that every single billboard pretty much is about a show or a movie.

[00:18:46.210] – Boris
And its goal is as you’re driving by to capture your attention long enough to make an impression in your mind. Hopefully when you’ve seen those a few times, so the marketing agencies of the Hollywood Studios hope, you’re going to want to check out the website or find the trailer on YouTube or open the email that might be coming to you about that show.

[00:19:10.450] – Boris
If you’re subscribing to Netflix, for example, they’ll send you, you know, new things on Netflix or HBO to watch, right? So you want that poster to make an impression that’s somewhat sticky so that we are excited to consume the content. And when we see it on social media, we’re gonna want to click through to learn more. That’s your poster.

[00:19:33.190] – Boris
So those are the—those are the packaging elements, the marketing elements that you need to have for every single piece of content you have. If you think about a social media post, it is entirely a poster. You don’t have usually a lot of time and space in a social media post to give an entire article, for example.

[00:19:52.670] – Boris
But you do have the room to put an interesting title to put a visual together with it, which every piece of content you share from your website should have a visual. If not, then you could just share a photo or share something else on social media that will stop the scroll, which is a common expression now in marketing, and you want them to click through.

[00:20:12.590] – Boris
So you have to have your call to action in there as well, which in social media is often implied. It’s “go ahead and click on this poster because we’re going to take you to the website.” It’s also what that text right below your visual is going to say “here’s what the website is really about” and tease a little more content there.

[00:20:30.090] – Boris
Now you have your three different parts to this series. With the three of them, I’m hoping that we’ve given you enough elements that will help you think about how to tell your story in every manner of media so that you can capture the attention and actually activate heroes. Remember, you have to have a call to action every piece of content you have.

[00:20:53.370] – Boris
I hope you enjoyed this show. I hope if you haven’t yet, you go back and view or listen to parts one and two. See all the takeaways which we’re going to have for this one as well on our show notes at nphf.show. I think this is going to be Episode 34. Don’t hold me to this. I can’t remember right now, but it’ll be in the show notes and it’ll be in the links on this YouTube on any place that you discover it.

[00:21:19.110] – Boris
You can also download the full entire eBook that I’ve assembled with all of these tips and more. If you visit the website, there’s a quick little form that you can fill out there. That’s my call to action to you is, go ahead and fill out that little email space to download your own eBook and then you’re going to be on our newsletter list, which means you’re going to get notifications when we have new articles, new free programs, and new podcasts like this one which coming back next week we’ll have a guest talking about their expertise.

[00:21:52.050] – Boris
Thank you so much. Please, if you do enjoy the show, give us a rating. Give us some sort of a review on iTunes or follow us on Spotify on any of the major podcast platforms and most of the minor ones. We’re there on all of them. And please, please, please, share it with others who can benefit from content like this so that I and the guests that come on the show can reach more folks. And as we like to say, activate more heroes for their cause. Bye bye, everybody.

[00:22:42.630] – Outro Video
Thank you all for watching and listening to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, we hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating more heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform and let us know what you think, by leaving a review.

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • Storytelling is as much craft as it is art, and there are tools of the craft that anyone can learn and use (2:19)
  • Establish credibility and trust through social proof with testimonials and endorsements, as well as seals of approval or accreditation from third parties (2:50)
  • Repeat your most important points three times, in three different ways, to make sure it sticks. (4:52)
  • Avoid language that sounds lofty or uses insider terms that may alienate people unfamiliar with your work. (6:39)
  • Use one story or medium to introduce others. When launching something new, share it organically with the people who already like your work. Give them the chance to discover new work or new other places that they can interact with you (like social media channels, newsletters, etc.). (8:42)
  • Tease future content that may be of interest to someone interested in this story, so that they are eagerly awaiting your next installment. (9:37)
  • Choose your visuals wisely to draw people deeper into the story. (10:29)
  • Test your story before you share it widely. Have trusted staff, board, or supporters review it and share with you any feedback on how to make it stronger. (11:46)
  • We do judge books by their covers and movies by their posters, so choose a great cover visual that will quickly tell people something about the world of the story and get their attention long enough to check the title. (13:36)
  • The next thing that we notice is the title, which should tell us what this story is going to be about. (15:26)
  • The tagline (often called a subheading or subtitle) should then give more clarity and context to the title, and tease the story to increase curiosity. Bonus if you can start to set the emotional stakes in there as well. (16:00)
  • Combine the title, tagline and visual into a poster that will resonate with your intended audience and make them excited to dive in or to take the next step in learning about your work. (17:30)

Action Steps: What Now?

  • Start implementing!

About this week’s guest

Boris Kievsky

Boris Kievsky

Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy

Boris is an entrepreneur, recovering filmmaker, and relapsed geek. As the the Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy, Boris helps nonprofits harness the power of great stories amplified through the right technology to reach the right audiences, create meaningful connections, and activate the inner hero in each of them.

Connect with Boris Kievsky

EP29 - Boris Kievsky - Featured

Episode 29: Nonprofit Storytelling the Hollywood Way (part 2 of 3), with Boris Kievsky

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 29

Nonprofit Storytelling the Hollywood Way (part 2 of 3), with Boris Kievsky

In this Episode:

Welcome to part 2 of our exploration of nonprofit storytelling lessons from Hollywood and beyond. This installment covers 15 elements of style and structure, and another 6 tips for laying out your action. Each concept can be directly applied to better telling your nonprofit’s stories.

When most people think of storytelling, they tend to think of it as a freeform art. While that’s true to some extent, most every great story relies on specific structural elements and clear stylistic decisions. Of course, within that structure and those guidelines, there is endless room for creativity.

Whether you’re new to nonprofit, new to storytelling or have been working with both for years, these concepts can help you refine your strategy and spark ideas for new ways to share your important work with the people who need to hear it.

[00:00:04.720] – Intro Video
Welcome to the nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video broadcast and podcast where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more heroes for their cause and a better world for all of us. Da-ding.

[00:00:21.930] – Boris
Hey, everybody, welcome back to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. This is another episode in our series on Hollywood Storytelling Tips for nonprofits. I began the series about a month ago now helping organizations figure out some of the key storytelling elements that every great story should have. I’m basing everything, of course, on the Hollywood formula because it is one of the most successful formulas of all time, arguably the most successful and certainly in terms of revenue. You know, if you’ve ever enjoyed a movie, been inspired or moved by a movie by what you saw or even just greatly entertained and appreciated that entertainment, then you’ve experienced the power of a great story, specifically in the way that Hollywood has put it together.

[00:01:05.390] – Boris
It doesn’t mean that those stories have to be on video, that they have to be big budget. In fact, so many of the great Hollywood stories are not on a big budget. They’re told with low budget cameras and actors who may not even be at the top of their game yet. And yet they can come together and create a story that’s really exciting and fun to watch. I don’t want the term Hollywood to make people think that this has got to be big budget blockbuster, superheroes fighting with special effects.

[00:01:35.820] – Boris
Sure, that’s one type of story, but there are so many different ones. And in the first part of the series, I covered how to set up your stories by first framing your goals and then really understanding your audience and the characters involved. Once you know what you want to achieve and whom you’re speaking to, who you want to step up and become the hero of the story. Now it’s time to take a good look at how you’re going to tell it. This is where that “do we need a blockbuster?” part comes in.

[00:02:03.940] – Boris
In the end, you see, all stories work on similar principles, and any story can theoretically be told in countless different ways. Today, let’s look at what story structure looks like and the elements that we want to include to capture and keep attention as well as to inspire our audience to hopefully become heroes for our cause by taking the actions we need them to take. And that starts by thinking about what style you’re going to be telling your story in.

[00:02:31.730] – Boris
Now again, it doesn’t have to be a blockbuster. There are rom-coms, there are documentaries, there are thrillers, there are action movies. All of them have their place, and all of them can tell a story in a different way. In fact, you could theoretically take the same story and frame it differently, tell it a little bit differently, using different dialogue, different staging, whatever it might be, and suddenly turn it into a different genre. Some of my favorite clips on YouTube are actually taking known movies and remixing them into something that looks and sounds completely different, oftentimes adding a different sound track, which is also an important part of the Hollywood storytelling system, which you can use sometimes in your own productions. Obviously, music plays a role.

[00:03:16.010] – Boris
But what’s key is to first start by picking your style and shifting styles midway through is often disorienting. If you’ve ever watched a movie that started out as a comedy but then shifted into a horror film, I don’t think that he has happened and have been made that way, but if you’ve ever seen a movie that starts with one thing and then turns into another and you feel kind of lost in the story or it’s trying to mix too many styles, right?

[00:03:43.100] – Boris
Oftentimes that happens at the risk of actually keeping an audience focused and following along because it’s very disorienting. First start by choosing your style and then choose your genre. Right? Your genre is specifically whether it’s a Rom. Com or a sitcom, if it’s a TV series. Think about, is this a feel good story? Is it a tragedy? Is it a romantic comedy, a documentary or a cautionary tale? Right? Those are all valid genres, and you want to be really careful because you never want to seem like you’re telling a tragedy in the sense that this is bleak and this is how things are.

[00:04:27.090] – Boris
You always want to be, including some element of hope, some element of progress. That people are not just going to always be in this situation, but that with my help or with the audience’s, the heroes’ help. People are going to be in an improved state of life. They’re going to either be more educated or they’re going to have more food and not worry about where their next meal is coming from or have shelter or have arts, whatever it might be. You want to have that kind of hope in every single story that you tell, especially if it’s the story of one of your beneficiaries so that you don’t feel like you’re just trying to tug at heart strings, but also to inspire people that change is real.

[00:05:17.160] – Boris
And then you want to be true to your medium. So as I said before, not every story has to be on video. It doesn’t have to be a big movie. It could be a podcast, it could be a video series, a webinar, it could be in a sequence of emails or a single email. It could be a blog post. Any of those things and all of the different other media types that are available and increasingly becoming available to all of us as consumers and as creators, they all have their own elements of structure and their own constraints.

[00:05:50.890] – Boris
Remember? One of my favorite expressions is, creativity loves constraints. So embrace the limitations of whatever medium you are telling your story in and then feel free to play with them and see how you can use them to your advantage. Every weakness is actually a strength, if looked at the right way. So be true to your medium, but then also know when to break the rules. So you don’t always have to follow proper etiquette when it comes to storytelling, because sometimes breaking with that etiquette will get the attention you want.

[00:06:27.560] – Boris
You always, of course, want to be careful that you don’t break etiquette for the sake of breaking etiquette, and you don’t offend people whom you definitely don’t want to offend. Often, certain politicians and organizations might—I don’t see this very often with nonprofits, but they might actually vilify somebody and put other organizations for other people down in order to make their point. That’s not the kind of etiquette that I’m talking about, you should break. I don’t personally believe in that. I believe in uplifting people instead of putting them down.

[00:07:00.900] – Boris
But you do want to break out of norms sometimes. Whether it’s your voice… So if an organization has a particular voice that they usually tell their stories, and sometimes a change of voice might be just the thing you need to start attracting new attention or to sort of dislodge people from the groove that they’ve already been in with your organization, get them to pay attention to anew. And then you want to know your POV. Now POV is a common term. It comes from—I believe it comes from Hollywood, where there’s a POV shot. Maybe I’m wrong there maybe actually came to Hollywood from somewhere else.

[00:07:37.800] – Boris
But the point of view is often decided before a movie is ever shot. Every movie has what’s called a shot list where they’re going to talk about… Okay, first, we’re going to have a third-person point of view where we’re going to have a medium shot. Let’s say then we’re going to have an over the shoulder POV shot, and that’s going to be approximately through the character’s eyes through one of the characters eyes looking at the action or looking at another character.

[00:08:01.700] – Boris
Similarly, in your own stories, it’s never an objective third party person that is just watching and relating a story. That person has a point of view. They have their perspective on things, and it’s totally valid. Whomever your narrator is, should have an opinion. Maybe they’re happy about something that’s going on, or maybe they’re disappointed with the state of the world today. Or maybe they’re excited by the possibilities. Right? But either way, they have a perspective. And oftentimes if it’s someone who is on your staff, that perspective is one of authority because you are an expert in your field. You are someone who knows—or the staff-person speaking knows—something that the majority of people don’t know. So that’s a valid and important point of view that they could be taking. And that instructs how that story might be told.

[00:08:53.440] – Boris
So once you have those elements now, we could really look at how a story is structured. So what do I mean by that? Every Hollywood movie follows a formula. Now they don’t all do it perfectly. In fact, they often times will break with the norm on purpose.

[00:09:10.830] – Boris
And we’ll talk about that a little bit more. But there’s a reason why they do it. Because within that structure, they can do a whole lot of different things, including even improvisation. Movies aren’t always completely scripted, and that’s okay. But knowing it well helps you organize your thoughts in order to then change them around in any way that you want to make the story more interesting and more compelling. So let’s talk a little bit about that. Of course, the classic story structure is simply a beginning, a middle and an end.

[00:09:43.680] – Boris
Every story must have those three things in order to really feel like a story to us. If it’s something that doesn’t have an end, then we feel kind of left wanting and a little disenchanted with the storyteller. If it doesn’t have a beginning, we might start off confused, which sometimes is intentional. And if it doesn’t have a middle, if it just jumps from the beginning to the end, then we’re often left unmoved because we’re not sure how the transformation took place. And that’s another thing that every story must have.

[00:10:13.650] – Boris
So people often don’t have the patience, for example, for a slow start. So don’t feel like you have to go all the way back. You can begin anywhere you want to begin. In fact, some of my favorite movies and plays don’t begin at the story’s beginning. But the plot, the action starts somewhere later on, maybe even at the end. In the case of one of my favorite places, Betrayal by Harold Pinter or the movie Memento, where it’s actually being told in reverse chronological order in a really interesting way.

[00:10:42.890] – Boris
Those are all great devices, but within those stories, if you were to take them apart, you could actually reshuffle them back into an order of beginning, middle and end, because all those parts don’t need to be covered. That said, you want to tell a complete story or a complete part of a story. So whatever point you start at and order you choose to go in, make sure to paint a complete picture by the time you’re finished, or give the audience a quick way to learn the rest, for example.

[00:11:12.810] – Boris
So if you’re doing short form storytelling on social media, you’ll often have that link to deeper content that they could find on your website or on YouTube or wherever else you create your content. You’re essentially telling a short version of the story, a teaser for the story and saying, hey, you want the full thing? Great. Go find it over here. We’re happy to share it with you. Right?

[00:11:32.960] – Boris
And then one thing that I advise people to do when telling stories because there’s a lot of different stories you could tell, and sometimes it’s hard to think of all of them is to celebrate victories. So, whenever you’re watching a movie that does have any sort of action, and that could include romantic action, there are ups and downs. There are highs and lows. Those ups are victories. The characters have experienced something that has made them feel better, made their world better, has somehow been a success. You want to be sure to celebrate those because they might not happen every day. But that’s even the more reason why they’re so important to show people that victory is possible, that there is hope for the future. And together we can get there, right? Every step forward is a step toward achieving your mission.

[00:12:22.200] – Boris
But you do want to acknowledge setbacks, and this is the next tip. Movies and their heroes don’t have a straight path to victory. In fact, if you could see my hand, it kind of goes up and down, up and down. New highs, new lows, new highs, new lows. Because stakes are constantly being increased. If a character knew everything that they had to do at the end in order to succeed, they would probably be too scared to do it in the first place so they wouldn’t get started.

[00:12:52.370] – Boris
They would never become a hero. The world would never change. There are setbacks along the way, and that’s okay because you’re going to then show people how you help them overcome those setbacks. One of the quotes I like is that the measure of a hero or a person, a man—I think it was originally said, I don’t like to use those gender specific terms—is not how many times he or she falls down, but how many times they get back up, right? So that’s acknowledging your setbacks.

[00:13:21.860] – Boris
One other thing I want to say about that is that failures are normal. We all fail. We all have setbacks in our lives. And when you’re telling specific stories of a specific person’s journey, hopefully it is a journey that leads them through transformation and gets them to a better place in life. But if you don’t show along the way the challenges that they have or the challenges where they started or along the journey. If you’re not able to show those, then the people are not going to feel three dimensional and they’re not going to feel relatable.

[00:13:56.070] – Boris
There are scientific studies that show that when someone opens up and shows their vulnerability, they actually elicit a response in—a neurochemical response in our brains. That is the release of oxytocin. That oxytocin is the chemical that helps us feel trust and compassion both at the same time. And aren’t those the very things that you want people to feel when they’re thinking about your organization? So when you’re opening up feeling vulnerable, talking about the vulnerability, people will relate. They’ll feel like you’re a human being, right? No one wants to give money to Nike, but people do want to feel something based on the shoes and the experience around the clothing.

[00:14:42.140] – Boris
No one wants to give money to an organization that is just some umbrella name. They want to give money to people working in an organization for a cause that we all believe in and want to succeed. So acknowledging those setbacks helps us feel like you’re a human being and this is human to human, which is ultimately everything that we want to achieve.

[00:15:06.740] – Boris
The next thing you want to do in storytelling, and this is a fun device is foreshadowing. So if you are telling a story that may take a little bit longer, let’s say to get to the end, you want to maybe hint at what’s coming down the road that opens up a loop in our brains. We naturally want to close that loop, and we will be much more likely to stay tuned to the end to get that loop closed, to feel that piece of information filled in.

[00:15:36.860] – Boris
We don’t like having these question marks hanging in our minds. So it might be like something along the lines of now, before we tell you how this person did this, let’s start at the beginning. Oh, wow. This person was able to do this, and you’re going to tell me how that opens up that loop. You’re foreshadowing what’s going to happen later. That’s just one example or you could say, “but more on that later,” in some way, at some point in your story. And I do that oftentimes, even in my interviews, they say, hey, you know what? We’re going to come back to that later. But first, let’s expand on the issue that we’re talking about, right? So it gives people an incentive to stay tuned and stay focused on your story.

[00:16:18.350] – Boris
The next tip that I find very difficult to do, to be honest, is to take the time to make it short. So Mark Twain once signed a long letter of his in which the PS, I believe, was, I apologize, and I’m paraphrasing this, But Mark Twain said, “Please forgive me for the length of this letter that this letter is so lengthy, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” And that’s kind of funny. It sort of in Mark Twain’s way, makes you think and put some question marks up in your brain. Why does it take longer to write something that’s shorter? The truth is, it’s easy to ramble.

[00:17:04.760] – Boris
It’s easy to go on and on. It’s easy to include much more than someone needs in a story. But everything that’s not critical, that’s not serving a very specific purpose in your story—that is an opportunity for someone to become distracted, to tune out. To… as one of my theater director teachers used to say, that gives them the chance to start counting the lights in the theater, and as soon as they’re counting the lights, you’ve lost them. Movies are often made in the editing process. They are edited and reedited and condensed and re-condensed in order to make them as efficient as possible.

[00:17:44.380] – Boris
Every little scene. Basically, every word has to contribute to the objective, the super objective and the plot of the movie otherwise is cut on the editing room floor. So take the time to edit it down to the essentials. But of course, not so much that you’re removing the human factor.

[00:18:05.650] – Boris
The next tip that I have is to feed them elephants. Now, of course, I don’t advise anyone ever actually elephants. I love them. They’re beautiful creatures, and they should be protected as they often are. So what do I mean by feeding elephants?

[00:18:21.080] – Boris
There’s a quote that says, “how do you eat an elephant one bite at a time?” It’s by Creighton W. Abrams, Jr. And I confess I don’t know anything else that Creighton Abrams said or wrote, but that one has really stuck with me. The story of our organization, of our work, of our lives… it’s long. It’s very long, and that if you’re trying to boil it down and just get it to one small thing in the way of making it short, you might miss out on a lot of different things.

[00:18:55.620] – Boris
So instead of trying to boil down someone’s life into a sentence or into a two minute video, you may just want to focus on one specific element and then have people come back for the next installment… the next element of the next tale from their lives. So feel free to focus in on one particular part of a journey or one particular transformation that your programming has had on a particular person or your own experience with your organization. Zoom in on one thing and tell that story in a short, compelling way. Then people are much more likely to come back for the next bite of that elephant. The proverbial elephant.

[00:19:38.440] – Boris
One more device to add to that in the realm of keeping people coming back, is throwing in some cliff-hangers. Now, cliff-hangers—some of us that are old enough to remember these types of movies now—are actually the end of a movie. The end of a double feature… the first part of a double feature, oftentimes where the hero is literally left hanging on a cliff. That’s why it’s called a cliff-hanger.

[00:20:03.630] – Boris
And you want to know what’s going to happen to that hero. You’re excited, you’re scared, you’re angry, perhaps even that the hero is there in that position. And so you’re much more likely to stay for the second half of the double feature, past the other reels that might come in between the commercials, whatever it might be, go out and buy some more popcorn. Really, that’s what the theater wants you to do, right? You want to know what’s going to happen to this person. So a cliff-hanger is the term for stopping a story at a very exciting point and saying, I’m not ready to tell you the rest of it just yet. You’re going to have to come back later.

Very effective advice. Don’t overuse it, because when you do people will stop tuning in. I’ll give you an example. When The Lord of the Rings movies came out, I hadn’t read the books. My mistake. And I saw the first movie and I loved it. I watched it. And when it got to the end, it didn’t end. It just stopped. And that was upsetting to me because I wanted some sort of conclusion, some sort of wrapping, some sort of bow on that present that they had given me. And I didn’t get that experience.

[00:21:13.720] – Boris
I was upset. I didn’t go see movie number two in theaters. I waited ’til three came out, and then I watched one and two back to back and then went to go see number three. Don’t overuse Cliffhangers and make sure that they are exciting and that you’re not going to leave me waiting for much too long because chances are I’ll forget. And then I’m not sure if I’m going to tune back in for the second part. So that’s on cliff-hangers.

[00:21:37.200] – Boris
Then, cross promote. So this is something that TV shows will do often times if you watch any of the Chicago series, Chicago PD, Chicago Med, right? And Chicago Fire. They’ll often cross promote each other. They’re all part of one television universe. Similarly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will do the same thing where they’ll cross promote each other’s movies. It different movies in the universe. That’s a great thing to do. And in your stories, you could do something similar where, when your audience is enjoying a story, be sure to tell them another way to get similar content. Now that could just be telling them: if you sign up for my newsletter, then you’re gonna get more of this type of content really soon.

[00:22:24.970] – Boris
Or if you like this story, you’ll really love this other one that we shared just recently or one that we’re going to have soon. Right? Cross promoting. And sometimes it could go even beyond just from story to story. You could cross promote programs. You could cross promote all kinds of things as long as they are relevant to the audience that you’re working with. And remember, we talked a lot about keeping things relevant to the specific audience in the first installment of the series. I encourage you to go back and listen to that again, if you need to or haven’t heard it yet.

[00:22:57.700] – Boris
So, if you’ve told your story well, and we’re going to talk more about the action of a story in every movie, we’ve got the end of the movie, the credits, right? Don’t forget that your movie, your story has credits as well. So the show your audience that this is a team effort. The credit belongs to your heroes. Now that might be the narrator of the story, or it might be whom the story was about, or it might be that the donors who made this possible, or the volunteers who slaved day after day to make this actually happen.

[00:23:37.120] – Boris
They deserve the credit. And you want to share that credit because it’s going to help us all feel like we can be heroes as well. Because if people like us are in the credits, then we could also be heroes in this world. Speaking of supporting credits and giving credit where credit is due, see this series and everything that I talk about wouldn’t be possible without some of the great storytellers throughout the ages, including people like JJ Abrams and Shakespeare and Robert McKee and Crayton Abrams and my favorite theater, film and writing teachers. All of them were heroes in one way or another in my life, and I’d like to give them credit.

I give credit actually oftentimes to my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Krupitsky, who taught me so much about writing and about storytelling in fourth and fifth grade. She actually was my teacher for both of those. Right… give that credit. It makes you look humble. It actually encourages you to be humble and grateful to the people who make things possible. So now that we’ve established the style and some of the structure of storytelling, let’s look at the action.

[00:24:51.350] – Boris
So the action of a movie is all about the conflict to save the world of the protagonist. Again, that doesn’t have to actually be planet Earth. It could just be a marriage. It could be a relationship. It could be a child coming into their own and having their transformation in one way or another. But for their mission to be successful, a hero has to rise up in the face of all obstacles and win the day. Sometimes begrudgingly. But they do have to. Right? And we talk about calls to action a lot.

[00:25:21.340] – Boris
Before we have those calls to action, we have to establish the back story. And that is what is this world like? How have things been up to this point? What is the history of the problem problem? Chances are, if you are running a nonprofit, you are focusing on one or two specific problems in the world. Now that might include a bunch of different programs that you’re running. But there should be an overarching mission that unifies all of the things that you focus on. That is the big picture problem.

[00:25:53.480] – Boris
If you are familiar with old movie trailers, they all used to start with in a world where there’s certain kind of injustice, there is a man or a woman or a child who has to take on the seed of power, overcoming… Right? That dramatic voice talking about the world that we live in. Similarly, in the first few minutes of a movie or any story in the beginning of it, you establish that this is the world, but there’s something wrong. If there’s not something wrong then, frankly, no one needs to do anything, everything is fine, and we can all move on.

[00:26:28.470] – Boris
That’s not the case for your organization or your mission. So what is the back story for this particular story for this particular segment of your storytelling, novel or whatever we want to call it series?

[00:26:42.120] – Boris
Then you want to go ahead and map out the journey. If your heroes take action, if your potential heroes take action and stuff up to become heroes, what will that journey look like? What are they going to have to do? How long will it take? How many paths can they take? Right?

[00:27:00.780] – Boris
So you might have multiple programs. They all should help with your overall mission and goals. Well, they are different paths to success, and I might want to take one path versus another, depending on how you’ve described it and what resonates best with me. This is the part of storytelling that really differs from Hollywood in the case of your organization. In this case, you want to make the potential hero their own agent of change and turn this into a choose your own adventure rather than a prewritten story.

[00:27:33.970] – Boris
So map out the journey, perhaps telling me how long this might take, what I’ll have to bring, what I should be prepared for so that I don’t feel like I’m turning a blind corner and unsure what’s going to happen to me. If I go ahead and volunteer or go ahead and donate, you want to make it super clear for me. The next thing to do is to set the stakes. So what will happen if in this world that you’ve established, the hero doesn’t take action? The potential hero doesn’t become a hero.

[00:28:07.720] – Boris
What’s at risk are more people going to fall to prey to a certain pandemic or phenomena? Are fewer kids going to grow up having a certain opportunity or be able to do something with their own lives? Are future heroes not going to be able to realize their own potential, essentially, right? So make it clear why this is a battle that really must be won. What’s at stake? And then create a clear call to action.

[00:28:38.810] – Boris
So I talk about this a lot. A lot of organizations that I’ve worked with, they assume that people will know what to do or that the best call to action is to donate money. That’s not always the best thing. Depending on where you are in your journey, where I am as a potential supporter or an existing supporter, there are different actions that I might want to take. But if you don’t tell me clearly that this is the next best step. Or here are one, two or three. I really wouldn’t go over three possible steps that you could take next to become a hero. That would be fantastic.

[00:29:16.660] – Boris
Ideally, I recommend making those steps a scale, a ladder, if you will, where someone can do one thing that takes almost no personal commitment. Like, for example, signing up for a newsletter, or they can donate their time or teir voice or their money. And different calls to action will have a different level of commitment. So if I’m already well-invested in the stories that you’re telling and in the organization, the work that your organization is doing, then a greater call to action might suit me just fine. Whereas if this is the first time I’m meeting you, don’t ask me to marry you before first date. Go ahead and ask for my number or ask for my email address.

[00:30:01.700] – Boris
Actually, either one these days people will ask for, if you want to run an SMS campaign or an email. Usually email is easier. Or maybe even it’s just join you on face group for something or sign up for an event. Any of those are perfectly valid and it gives me the sense of control that I can decide what to do next. But don’t assume that I’m going to automatically start looking on your website or on your social media wherever I find your story for what can I do now? Don’t count on me to be that moved and inspired, making as easy and frictionless for me as possible.

[00:30:36.640] – Boris
Then you want to slowly build to a finale as I was motioning before, for those of you watching this on video… the stakes get higher and higher. The successes and failures will feel higher and deeper. Ultimately, there is supposed to be in every story a final battle. Now, again, this doesn’t have to be a superhero movie. It could be a rom-com. It could be a buddy comedy, it could be a documentary, but it comes to a head to a climax and the battle for the fate of that world—whatever, however you define the world—will be at stake. So you want to slowly build to it.

[00:31:21.640] – Boris
As I was saying a minute ago, your calls to a should rev up over time, depending on my engagement and affinity for your work. But you do want to keep raising them on me over time. Give me the opportunity to do more and more. Hopefully, if I’ve already taken action in the past with you, I have seen that action pay off. You have kept me informed. You have told me what my actions have yielded in the world that we both see has an issue in it, so that next time you could say, you know what doing that achieved this, right?

[00:31:56.500] – Boris
X achieved Y. If you do X + 2, we’re gonna achieve Y x 3. Great. Your return on investment is going to be even greater. So slowly keep building to that final battle.

[00:32:08.720] – Boris
But do, and this is the next step, make it a winnable fight. There’s a concept of a donor-size problem where you don’t want to ask for somebody from somebody who can’t afford to give you a million dollars. You don’t want to ask them for a million dollars because they’ll feel like, oh, well, I can’t actually solve this problem.

[00:32:25.700] – Boris
You want to make this a winnable fight by giving your audience something that they could do that’s going to have an impact that’s going to pay off. And that the culmination of the support that I’m going to give, plus this community that you’re building around your cause is going to give, the culmination of those is going to make this a winnable fight and we can achieve our mission and the vision of the world that we want to see, together. So make it a winnable fight before you ask me to actually jump in.

[00:32:59.610] – Boris
Those are the elements that I want to talk to you guys about today that will really help you set up your narrative, your structure and the style in which you’re going to tell the story. Combined with the audience and understanding how they work and what types of characters you should have in your story, you should now have a great foundation and even a structure with the beginnin- middle-end, whatever order you want to put it in, that’s going to engage your audience. That’s going to attract new audiences, hopefully, because you’re going to resonate with them specifically and you’re going to tell it in a way that’s going to keep them interested and wanting to hear more from you and keep coming back for your content.

[00:33:41.240] – Boris
Whether that’s on social media, on email, on your website, however, you want to serve it to them, including, of course, on a podcast. I hope you enjoy this show. I hope if, you haven’t yet go back and view or listen to part one, see all the takeaways which we’re going to have for this one as well on our Show Notes page at NPHF.show. And you’re going to then want to come back for more. That’s my hope, because if you don’t, then I’m not going to be able to give you more value and I’m going to lose the ability to help you do even more.

[00:34:13.790] – Boris
So hopefully I’ve done a good job of teasing that this is part of a series and that in the next part of the series we’re going to talk about specific elements that you could introduce to really make your audience pay attention and take action, make sure not to lose along the way. And all combined, you’re going to have a great idea of how to tell a great story, the Hollywood Way, but specifically for nonprofits. Thank you for joining me.

[00:34:39.210] – Boris
Next week. We’re going to have another guest on the show as we do most of the time. This is part of a special series of Hollywood storytelling tips for nonprofits, and I look forward to seeing you with a guest next week. Bye bye.

[00:34:51.510] – Outro Video
Thank you all for watching and listening to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. We hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating more heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform and let us know what you think by leaving a review.

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • Start by picking your style and genre and be careful not to change part-way through. (2:10)
  • The dangers of making the story a tragedy. (4:14)
  • Staying true to your medium and knowing when and how to break the rules. (5:17)
  • Understanding and acknowledging your own point(s) of view. (7:25)
  • How stories are structured. (8:53)
  • Telling complete stories, whatever the length. (10:57)
  • The vital importance of celebrating victories and acknowledging setbacks publicly. (11:32)
  • Use devices like foreshadowing to keep attention through longer stories. (15:06)
  • There should be nothing extra in a story. Work hard to remove everything that doesn’t serve the story arc. (16:18)
  • How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Don’t try to tell people everything you think they should know in one story. Break long stories into shorter installments whenever possible. (18:05)
  • Use cliffhangers to get people to come back for the conclusion. (19:38)
  • Take the opportunity within or at the end of a story to pique interest in other stories (21:37)
  • Give credit where credit is due. This is your chance to demonstrate community and gratitude to the people who make your work possible. (22:57)
  • In some way, every movie is about saving the world. And so is your organization. What’s wrong with the world today that you need others to step up and become heroes? (24:51)
  • Tell your audience how you’re going to help them succeed and make the world a better place. What can they do? What options do they have? (26:42)
  • Make it clear why this is an important battle by letting people know what’s at stake. (27:54)
  • Call your heroes to action explicitly. Make it clear what you want people to do, and make it easy to do it. Offer options if appropriate. (28:38)
  • Don’t make the challenge too great or ask for too much at once. Give people the chance to take a small risk and get an easy win first. Increase the stakes and investment slowly. (30:36)
  • Make it clear that this is a fight that you can win, together. (32:08)

Action Steps: What Now?

  • Start implementing!

About this week’s guest

Boris Kievsky

Boris Kievsky

Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy

Boris is an entrepreneur, recovering filmmaker, and relapsed geek. As the the Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy, Boris helps nonprofits harness the power of great stories amplified through the right technology to reach the right audiences, create meaningful connections, and activate the inner hero in each of them.

Connect with Boris Kievsky

EP22 - Boris Kievsky - Featured

Episode 22: Nonprofit Storytelling the Hollywood Way (part 1 of 3), with Boris Kievsky

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 22

Nonprofit Storytelling the Hollywood Way (part 1 of 3), with Boris Kievsky

In this Episode:

What does it take for a nonprofit to tell a great story? In this episode we’ll start at the beginning: 16 fundamental questions to ask yourself about your organization, your goals and your characters before you start crafting a story.

We know that great stories are the most effective way to connect with others, take them on a journey and inspire them to action. A nonprofit has potentially hundreds of stories to tell. Hollywood tells thousands every year. No two are identical, but they all have fundamental elements in common. In this series on Hollywood Storytelling Tips for Nonprofits, we’ll focus on those elements and how they can inspire your stories and take your storytelling to new levels.

[00:00:00.880] – Intro Video
Welcome to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video broadcast, and podcast. Where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more heroes for their cause and a better word for all of us. Da-Ding!

[00:00:16.100] – Boris
Hi, everybody. Welcome to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, I’m Boris Kievsky, the host of the show. I am the self-described Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy. Most weeks I have guests on to talk about the various things that they’re seeing out in the world of nonprofit in terms of marketing, communications and fundraising, ways that organizations can improve their reach and their impact, activate more heroes for their cause, as we love to say on this show.

[00:00:44.270] – Boris
Today, the episode is going to be a little bit different. I don’t have a guest on this week. Instead, what I’d like to do is talk to you a little bit about what I focus on and the Hollywood storytelling formula, and how that could be applied for your nonprofit’s communications in order to really hone in on the exact audiences that you want to reach, get them to resonate with your messaging, and then hopefully take the actions you need to make the world a better place, making them a hero along the way.

[00:01:15.880] – Boris
I want to start with one section, which is laying out the plan for your story. So, every story that you’re going to tell, before you ever tell it, you should already have many of the questions answered before you even put one word down on a screen or record something into the camera. And today we’re going to talk about what those early foundational aspects are that you should know before you get going.

[00:01:46.490] – Boris
The first one is really knowing your audience. Now, every client I’ve ever had, whether for-profit or nonprofit, I always ask them, who is your ideal avatar, your ideal audience? And every single one of them without fail says, oh, my offering, whether it’s my product or my service, it really can be applied to everyone. Everyone can benefit from it, whether they’re eight years old or a hundred and eight years old.

[00:02:15.170] – Boris
And that may be true, but not all of them will be able to take the actions you need them to take. In fact, not all of them may even be capable, like an eight year old, of actually signing up for something or enrolling in something. And an 80 year old might not have the ability to really navigate their way around a computer—because I do focus on digital—in order to even access your content. That’s just the broad scope of it. But really, no two people on this planet are identical, not even identical twins. And no two groups of people can really understand each other as well without a lot of experience with each other, a lot of contact with each other. Right?

[00:03:00.800] – Boris
In fact, that’s some of the issues that we have in the world today is people don’t necessarily even speak the same language, even though they might be neighbors. And I don’t mean language as in English versus some other actual language. I mean contextual language. I mean frame of references that they have to which they could resonate. I can’t talk to my teenagers the same way I could talk to my fiancée. I can’t talk to my parents the same way that I could talk to my grandmother. Right?

[00:03:29.540] – Boris
Everyone has different frames of reference, different vocabulary that they use for certain things. I’m always learning new vocabulary from my teenagers. So you really have to know your audience before you can even start trying to communicate with them.

[00:03:44.660] – Boris
And then, once you do know who they are, you do have to speak their language. You have to try your best. Even though my teenagers will sometimes laugh at me for trying to use terms that they use, if they don’t see that it’s their stepdad who’s actually trying to use those terms… if they just see some content on a website that somebody is saying or on social media, then they won’t necessarily have the same reaction they do when they laugh at me, but—or cringe sometimes.

[00:04:12.440] – Boris
But my point is, if you can’t use the same terminology that they’re used to, if I say certain things that they don’t really understand, because that’s not how kids talk today, they’re going to disconnect. Similarly, if I try to use the language of today’s teenagers to talk with people, my generation, Gen X, they’re going to think either I’m trying too hard or they’re not going to understand it, like I sometimes don’t understand the ways that the kids speak today. So you have to speak the language of the people to whom you are trying to connect—with whom you’re trying to connect.

[00:04:48.070] – Boris
The next thing that I encourage everyone to know before you even start to tell your story is to understand what the takeaway is. In other words, every story takes someone through a journey by the end of which they should be different than they were when they started. That difference isn’t part of the takeaway. It could be if you’re talking about fables, right. Aesop’s Fables or whatever they might be, it’s the moral of the story. But it could also be the practical tools that they can now incorporate into their lives, into their own world. So, for example, every time that I do a podcast or every time that I do a presentation or work with a client on any given session, by the end, I want them to have some takeaways that they can, well, take with them on their journey onwards.

[00:05:36.580] – Boris
So always know your takeaways. What do you want people to experience and how do you want them to feel at the end? What do you want them to think? Or what practical tools do you want them to have in their quiver or their toolbox, whatever you want to call it, whichever metaphor you prefer.

[00:05:55.790] – Boris
Next, you really need to consider your own motivation. In other words, why are you telling this story? So we talked about the takeaways and maybe you could do this before you even think about the takeaways. But you as an organization have goals. They’re part of your mission, I hope. With each story you tell, you have a motivation to maybe capture the attention of a particular kind of audience or to get them to take a certain action or to get them to feel a certain way, perhaps, or to contribute to your cause in one way or another.

[00:06:28.810] – Boris
So before you even start, as lots of actors like to say on sentence, become cliche when they’re talking to a director, what’s my motivation? How do I interpret what I’m trying to get at? Because that’s going to really impact my performance. I can say the same line 100 different ways, but if I know what’s driving me, if I know what my goals are with this, why I need to say it in this moment, then I’m more likely to deliver it in a way that’s going to connect with the material better. And hopefully have the impact that I want—we call them tactics all the time in acting—have the impact that I want on my audience.

[00:07:09.570] – Boris
And then know your objective. So your motivation is why you’re telling something to this person, your objective is what you want them to do at the end of it. Oftentimes it’s going to come in the form of a call to action, which I’ll talk about in another section of this series. But in this case, I just want you to think about what is it that you want them to do by the time they’re done consuming this story, whether it’s in audio format and video or online, whether it’s social media or on your website or anywhere in between, what is it that you want them to do when they’re done?

[00:07:47.290] – Boris
And then there’s your super objective, which you also have to know. So your super objective may oftentimes just be your mission. It is overall the change that you want to make in the world. It’s everything that guides you. It’s your guiding light, if you will. There’s so many metaphors for this concept because it’s so prevalent in society.

[00:08:08.570] – Boris
In a play or in a movie, there might be lots of different scenes. And these—each scene tells its own story or part of a story in one way or another. But each character throughout the movie or throughout the play has what’s called a super-objective because in each scene to have an objective, something they want to do, but that objective has to somehow be in line with the super-objective. Because you don’t want to waste any time in a story going off track. OK, so your super objective is what’s your ultimate goal? For this avatar, for your series of stories, for your overall storytelling online or in any other format that you tell your stories.

[00:08:55.160] – Boris
And then consider the context. Now, I spoke a little bit earlier about how everyone has a different context. Everyone has their own personal experiences, their own histories, whether you grew up in the suburbs or you grew up in a big city, whether you grew up in the Midwest or the Northeast, whether you are in high school or in college or a successful professional with 30 years of experience, you have different context. Even talking about the same exact thing.

[00:09:24.640] – Boris
We could talk politics to everybody, but we have to be careful in all ways and we have to consider what context are they in and what’s going to resonate with them. So context is not just your experience, but also what’s happening in the world around you right now. If it’s politics that often changes from day to day and it also changes from area to area. Right? What resonates with someone today might actually alienate them tomorrow. Some of the same tools, some of the same terminology that we use one day might actually in a few years or sometimes seemingly overnight, have a different meaning to it. And we can’t talk to people the same way over time that we did a few years ago. So you have to consider your context and the audience’s context, specifically, how are they receiving this message at this time?

[00:10:20.640] – Boris
And then you want to know what makes it interesting. So there are lots and lots of stories out in the world and there is new stories being told every single day. But what is it about your story that right now, to this audience, is going to make it interesting? It’s going to hook their attention, hopefully, and keep it all the way through the story? They’re going to be able to connect to it for some reason or other. They’re going to be intrigued by it. What is it about this story that’s going to make it interesting to this audience?

[00:10:58.170] – Boris
And then what makes it relevant so interesting is about peaking curiosity, relevancy is about really connecting on an emotional level or on some sort of level where I need this information right now to improve my world, which might be as narrow as my life or my day, it could be as broad as improving my entire community. So what’s relevant about this story? And hopefully that’s connected to your mission and the lives of your audience at the same time.

[00:11:36.020] – Boris
So now that we’ve laid out the plan for our story, we figured out the types of people we want to be talking to, what’s going to make this interesting to them, what effects we’re going to have on them? Now, let’s talk about who these people really are, OK? Who are the characters in your story?

[00:11:56.180] – Boris
The first and perhaps most important one is your hero. So who is the hero of this particular story, this particular chapter of the story? However you want to look at it, you want to have a specific avatar in mind for this particular story that you’re telling. Again, as I said earlier, everyone is not going to resonate to the same pieces of content in the same ways. So in this particular case, who is the hero for this chapter that’s going to help you make the world a better place? And to be honest, it has to be that you’re going to help them make the world a better place at the same time, there needs to be some sort of affinity for your mission already by this time, if you want them to take the next step in the hero’s journey.

[00:12:45.380] – Boris
So, at any given time, you might have different heroes that you want to speak to. You might have your donors, you might have your volunteers, you might have your beneficiaries, your board, whomever it might be, but you can’t speak to all of them at the same time. In the same way, it’s OK to have different pieces of content targeting different people, really structured for and styled for different people that you want to be talking to. So with this story, who is your hero?

[00:13:19.620] – Boris
Similarly with this story, who is your storyteller? Now, most stories that I’ve seen by nonprofits and by a lot of for profits, to be fair, seem to be coming from this ominous third voice, this disconnected party. And that’s OK, but honestly, what was the last time you really connected to a company rather than to a human being? If a company like Nike spends enough money to try to get their campaign out, to “Just Do It.” It might be inspirational, but the ones that are most inspirational are the ones where you see a person on the TV screen or whatever screen you’re consuming it on, whom you can somehow identify with. Maybe it’s someone you aspire to be, or maybe it’s someone who you already see as a colleague or an equal doing the thing that you want to do.

[00:14:10.460] – Boris
It has a very powerful effect. So. It’s often helpful to identify yourself as the storyteller or whomever is writing the story as the storyteller so that it’s not just some random, ambiguous thing talking to me, but it’s actually a human, telling me about the experience. Now, this could sometimes be your hero, but it doesn’t always have to be. So a hero may be telling their own story in the form of, say, a testimonial or an article that they’ve written about themselves and their experience with the organization… making the world a better place, of course. But you might have someone who is interviewing your hero or you might have someone who is just talking about the hero. They have a particular point of view. They have a frame of reference as well. And if you can, it’s great to identify them so that I understand who’s telling me this story. And I could take it from there.

[00:15:11.290] – Boris
The next character that you want to identify as clearly as possible is your villain. Now, not every time will your villain be a human being. It might be a politician if you’re into that sort of work. But it might just be a situation out in the world. Your villains could be time. It could be about global warming and time is running out. There could be apathy that not enough people are interested and caring about something. It could be actual malicious intent, at least the way that you see it perceived by someone else out there or a group out there.

[00:15:52.200] – Boris
The clearer you can name your villain, the more likely I’m going to be able to respond and see whether or not I think that that’s a villain as well. The bigger your villain is, the more people it’s going to draw together, right? There’s an expression me against my brother, my brother and I against my cousins, my cousins and I against the world. I think it’s I may be misquoting it, but I believe it’s an Arabic expression.

[00:16:16.950] – Boris
And what that means is the greater the enemy, the more people it will unite. Unfortunately, this is a tactic that a lot of politicians do use and it tends to split people. But if used well, it’s not about dividing people. It’s about bringing them together around a great cause and a way to save the world.

[00:16:38.300] – Boris
Next, you want to give your hero a cape. What is the Cape, what is the Mjolnir’s hammer, if you’re into Thor or Iron Man’s suit or Spider-Man’s Web shooters… what is the item or the tool or even the knowledge, the skill that you’re giving your potential hero that they didn’t have before?

[00:17:00.370] – Boris
In a way, this is one of the benefits of your programing. I talk a lot in my work about the features and benefits of your programing and how to get those across, because people want a transformation in their lives. They don’t want to give you money. They want to make the world a better place, their world a better place, something that they care about. So what is it that you do that’s going to empower them more than they could, perhaps on their own in a better way that they could on their own? What is it that you allow them to do that, they can’t do without you as easily, as quickly.

[00:17:38.740] – Boris
Then you want to know what is your heroes kryptonite? So, switching a little bit here between Marvel and DC Universe. I hope you guys will forgive me, but Superman was the most powerful humanoid or whatever you want to call them, since he’s not from Earth in the world, in the world of DC, comic books in general and of course, in the Earth that they were talking about the Superman lived in and it became boring.

[00:18:04.190] – Boris
It became too easy to predict that Superman’s going to win because he has no weaknesses. And so the creators of Superman came up with kryptonite. It is this item, this meteorite, this rock from Krypton that when Superman is exposed to it, makes him lose his powers like he would when he was home before his planet blew up. So what is the kryptonite that your hero is facing?

[00:18:33.570] – Boris
What is it that right now is keeping them from becoming a hero? What is the fear that they have about stepping up and taking action, which oftentimes is what holds us back from becoming heroes in the world? Is it that they’re lacking some bit of information? Is it that they’re lacking some accessibility access to something or is it that they’re just afraid?

[00:18:55.320] – Boris
Once you know what their kryptonite is, then you can help them overcome that kryptonite. You can overcome their objections, you could overcome their fears in order to get them to step up and be the hero that they do really desperately want to be if they can just get past this. So know what their kryptonite is.

[00:19:14.110] – Boris
The next thing you want to do is give them a guide. Now, in the world of the hero’s journey. Every hero gets these calls to action and they reject those calls to action over and over again. Eventually, they take one up. We’re going to talk about calls to action, another section, but most of the time they can’t do it on their own. Very few of us could do anything really on our own.

[00:19:39.210] – Boris
We need the world around us. We need the people around us, our support team. Right? It could be our family. It could be our coworkers. It could be whomever we rely on in order to be able to do the things that we do. On the hero’s journey, the hero will often meet a guide. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker had two very prominent guides. He had Ben Kenobi, Obi Wan and he had Yoda. Each of them in different movies, gave him some sort of instruction, gave him some sort of empowerment, made him a more capable hero out in the world.

[00:20:18.380] – Boris
So Luke wanted to be a hero before he ever met Obi Wan, but he didn’t know how to do it. He didn’t have the ability to stand up against the forces of evil in his universe. He meets Obi Wan Kenobi and Obi Wan tells him there is a way you can do it and I can help get you there.

[00:20:37.910] – Boris
In another movie, he becomes Yoda, who needs to take him to the next level. So who is the guide that’s going to help your hero become the person that they want to be? Be as successful as you both want them to be. Then you want to introduce your supporting characters. So in Star Wars, there’s a big team around Luke Skywalker. In Harry Potter there is Hermione and Ron and Neville and all of the others who rally together and help Harry achieve the goal of defeating Voldemort. I’m not superstitious and do say his name.

[00:21:23.430] – Boris
So, who are the supporting characters that will help your hero in the face of adversity that have maybe done this before, that have in one way or another decided that they want to go on this journey together? Right? There is the proverb, the African proverb of if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. Who is it that’s going to join me if I’m the hero on this journey and make sure that I can succeed?

[00:21:50.650] – Boris
Those are the characters that need to be in every possible story. Now, you can’t always identify each one of them. Clearly that’s OK. But as much as you can think about whom these characters are and how you’re going to include them, weave them in to your story framework in order to capture their attention, encourage them to actually take the actions, make them feel and believe like they can succeed and whom or what they might need to overcome in order to do so.

[00:22:24.300] – Boris
Those are all of the things that I encourage you to think about before you even start writing your story. We’re going to keep this short and we’re going to make this a series that you guys can come back to over time if you do want all of these tips. And then there are 46 of them that I’ve assembled into an ebook, Check out the show notes for this page and you can download the whole thing so that you could reference it any time you want.

[00:22:46.410] – Boris
If there’s any way that I can help you with your storytelling, these are all of the questions that I help an organization go through these and all of the others that are in this ebook in order to figure out their Hollywood storytelling formula. Once you figure out the ways to tell your story and what your overarching story is, then it’s so much easier to be able to generate your content in a way that’s going to find—really target the audience that is going to resonate with it and is then going to be able to take the actions that they want and that you want to create a better world together.

[00:23:21.940] – Boris
So thank you for tuning in. This is just part one of the series on Hollywood storytelling tips for nonprofits. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please make sure to subscribe share this. And more than anything, I’d really love right now a review. This is your call to action. I’m asking you if you enjoy this type of content, help more people discover it by sharing your thoughts on Apple podcasts, on YouTube, on Google podcasts, on Spotify…

[00:23:50.150] – Boris
Wherever you consume this type of content, that’s where people who are like you. And we’re going to talk about this in another episode. People who are like you are probably in the same places consuming the content in similar ways. And so you sharing your information, your preferences and your interests and your appreciation for things like the show is going to help more people discover it there as well. Thank you so much for everything you do to make the world a better place. I’m Boris Kievsky and I will see you next time on the Nonprofit Hero Factory.

[00:24:22.270] – Outro video
Thank you all for watching and listening to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, we hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating more heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform and let us know what you think, by leaving a review.

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • Before you endeavor to tell a story, you need to know the answers to several questions. (1:15)
  • You can’t effectively communicate with your audience if you don’t know exactly who they are. (3:00)
  • Every story takes someone through a journey. At the end of that journey your goal is to impart the audience with takeaways that make them a different person than when they started. (4:48)
  • Your organization should have goals which are part of your mission. Which of these goals will this story advance? (6:28)
  • Considering the context in which your story is being received. (8:55)
  • The hero of your story may be the person reading it or the person it’s about, but it has to be clear. (12:45)
  • Identify your villain. It’s not always a person, it could also be a situation in the world. The clearer you can name your villain, the more likely your audience will agree and want to join your effort. (15:52)
  • What is the superpower your nonprofit gives its heroes to make it easier for them to take on the problems in their world? (16:38)
  • What’s your hero’s Kryptonite? What’s holding them back from becoming the hero they secretly want to be? (17:38) 
  • How will you be the guide or guru that helps the hero on their journey? (19:14)

Action Steps: What Now?

  • Start implementing!

About this week’s guest

Boris Kievsky

Boris Kievsky

Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy

Boris is an entrepreneur, recovering filmmaker, and relapsed geek. As the the Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy, Boris helps nonprofits harness the power of great stories amplified through the right technology to reach the right audiences, create meaningful connections, and activate the inner hero in each of them.

Connect with Boris Kievsky

Ep 7 - Boris Kievsky - Featured

Episode 7: Digital Tools and Strategies for Affecting Change with Boris Kievsky

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 7

Digital Tools and Strategies for Affecting Change with Boris Kievsky

In this Episode:

Boris hosts a special episode devoted to how nonprofits can and should use storytelling and technology to enact change in the world.

Introduction 0:02
Welcome to the nonprofit Hero Factory, our weekly live video, broadcast and Podcast, where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more Heroes for their cause. And a better word for all of us.

Boris Kievsky 0:19
Hi, everybody. Welcome to a special episode of the nonprofit Hero Factory. This is going to be a solo episode. Normally I do have guests on and I will have guests next week again. But today I wanted to take a few minutes and give you a short episode talking about something that’s really important to me. And I think to millions of other people in the world right now. And that is the injustice is going on and what nonprofits can and I believe should be doing to help address them. So this episode seven is titled digital tools and strategies for effecting change. And I want to focus on social advocacy and change making tools for non profits

Boris Kievsky 1:01
I just published a new blog post on the dotorgstrategy blog outlining a lot of the tools and strategies and there will be links to that in the show notes. But today, I just want to talk about the need for us to stand up and take action.

Boris Kievsky 1:18
There are people in this country who are both literally and figuratively taking to the streets right now to demand justice, to demand a better America and a better world for all of us. And I know that that is at the heart of what a lot of nonprofits are doing. If you’re not out to make the world a better place, then I’m not sure what you’re doing as a nonprofit, what else your mission might possibly have to say. And I think these causes, whether it’s what’s happening right now with Black Lives Matter and demanding justice for George Floyd and to many other African Americans in this country that are unjustly being murdered in the streets and in their homes, or it’s fighting pandemics.

Boris Kievsky 1:59
Like COVID-19 and misinformation around the issues that are going on out thereare literally dozens, if not hundreds of other issues that may not be at the forefront right now, but are critical to our nation’s future and our world’s future, you must be fighting for one of those, you must be looking to make a difference in one of those areas. And while I believe that most are doing their best and have great programming, that they’re trying to get out to as many people as possible, I think we can be doing more and I think we have to be doing more in terms of social activism, driving change through political and other activist measures. So with that, I wanted to talk about why this time is different, and what we can actually do. We’ve been here before, right? We’ve had protests, we’ve had riots for all manner of issues, whether it’s race, whether it’s other rights, basic human rights, women’s rights.

Boris Kievsky 3:00
Whether it’s just the way that our government interacts with other countries and people in other places in the world, or the economy, whatever it might be, we’ve had these types of protests before. So why is to borrow a question from Passover? Why is this night different from every other night? Why is today and this particular moment in time different from all the others? I believe it is because of technology, and the ability of technology to deliver more powerful stories to everyone out there today. Everyone is a broadcaster, every single person on on the street who has a smartphone is capable of starting a broadcast of sharing a video and of sparking a movement, like the one on the streets of the United States and around the world today. story is, as I always say, the most powerful agent for change and for inspiring action.

Boris Kievsky 4:03
Many of us watched the video of what happened to George Floyd. Someone happened to shoot that video, someone happened to be nearby, and was able to capture what was happening there and share it with the world based on that people were emotionally connected to what was happening regardless, hopefully, regardless of your, your race, your your beliefs, seeing another human being suffer like that needlessly unjustly has to spark some sort of emotion within you. It could be rage, it could be empathy, it’s likely both. But it has to actually affect you. That is part of the human condition that is part of our DNA. We evolved with storytelling we evolved with the ability to connect to others through story. And now technology exists, whether it’s video recording technology, or social media that allows those video recordings to spread like wildfire throughout our society, the technology exists today where we can actually do more than just witness and document. But we can actually push and inspire action that will that must lead to change. I’m sorry, if I’m sounding so boxy today, I obviously feel strongly about this. And I hope most of you out there do too. I want to take a few minutes and mention some of the different some of the different tools that are out there. And I have highlighted a lot of these on the blog that you can find on my website. But just quickly to mention them. There are apps that have been specifically designed for this purpose, like the UCLA mobile justice apps that I believe are state specific and can be downloaded for your state to document and report the activities of law enforcement or other injustice is going on. And also to help you know your rights. Should you be in a situation where you think your civil rights might be violated. Then there are private and secure messaging apps like WhatsApp and signal that encrypt your communications so that you don’t have to worry about government reprisal, or anyone’s reprisal in terms of what you are talking to your fellow citizens, your communities about.

Boris Kievsky 6:18
There is the app citizen, which is used for listening into 911 official alerts and reports, but also to contribute to those feeds to be able to document and say, hey, there’s a fire going on, or there’s an injustice going on. And the police need to pay attention to this and others in our community need to pay attention to this maybe come out and help and support and and help us fix the issue if it’s something that can be fixed in the moment, or just get enough attention that more people actually care and do something about it. Tik tok, you know, is a very powerful social media tool that can be completely frivolous. It can be all about, you know, the latest jokes or getting videos, but it is also a great way to share content with a younger generation. And one of the advantages of tik tok is unlike the algorithms on Facebook and Instagram, on Tik tok, you can discover new videos much more readily, not just ones that your friends have shared. So it’s a great way to help new people discover things that you want them to see. Because it was all video based. With that Facebook and Facebook Messenger are still incredibly powerful whether you want to go live on Facebook with a with a interview with one of your volunteers who has seen something or someone who is a victim of something or just your organization, how you’re going to step up or are stepping up and making change. Or if it’s Facebook Messenger where you can message a whole lot of your supporters or person to person peer to peer messaging. I know I’ve received dozens of videos over the last few days and weeks. About the Black Lives Matter protests and the COVID-19 situation, right? People are using these tools to spread information quickly, hopefully, accurate information. And that’s another issue that we have to always consider. But if you seed this content out there and it resonates, it will spread quickly.

Boris Kievsky 8:24
Then there are platforms for more social activism in terms of government change. usa.gov, where you could find your representatives, you could find ways to communicate with them. There are several websites that I also mentioned, where you can actually see how people voted on how your Representatives voted on certain issues and what they support and what they don’t even where they’re funded. There is do something.org this is an election year, do something.org is very, very focused on making sure that there is a great voter turnout that people can easily registered to vote there promises anyone can register to vote, assuming you have the right to vote within a few minutes. They also have a whole lot of different campaigns that are on there and you could start your own, you can partner with them to create a campaign to get younger, younger people, but really any generation these days to stand up and take action of some sort or other whether it’s in community on a national or even a global level. change.org is probably the most popular and famous petition site. There are several others where you can start a petition, you can find petitions to sign and when there are enough petitions signed, it gets forwarded to the appropriate representative in government, whether it be on a local or national level. We the people is the White House’s a site for petitions, I think the URL might even be petitions.whitehouse.gov. But you could just go to the people and it’ll take you there and that is a direct form of communication where if you have over 100,000 signatures within a certain amount of time, I think it’s 30 or 60 days, 30 days, I think the government promises to respond in one way or another to your petition. How far that will take you. Your mileage may vary, but at least people will see that these petitions are out there that the government is forced to acknowledge the desires of the population. Then, of course, there are crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe and many other Indiegogo, many other sites where a nonprofit charity can go on and start a movement in terms of attention and fundraising. The difference between a crowdfunding campaign and a regular donation page is that when you’re launching a campaign, you’re activating an entire community, and you’re trying to get them to also spread peer to peer, the importance of the mission that you’re trying to achieve in that particular moment. So it’s much easier in my opinion, to get attention to that cause beyond the community that you already supports you. It can reach a wider audience through not just search engines, but really through social media, people can easily say, hey, support this campaign. This is important. This is relevant to what’s happening right now. And that’s one of the key differentiators between a specific crowdfunding campaign versus a donate page that’s always up.

Boris Kievsky 11:20
Even sites like YouTube are currently being used for activism, whether it’s just posting videos, or what a lot of videos are now doing what a lot of video makers and channels are now doing is donating any advertising revenue from their YouTube streams to a specific charity to a specific organization like blacklivesmatter, or other organizations that are supporting social justice. What’s fantastic about that is it’s appealing to the Netflix binge culture, where if you just want to sit and watch on your couch, including of course the advertisements that sit and watch on your couch for hours at a time, you’re going to be watching hopefully interesting and relevant videos. Of course, but with those ads every time you watch an ad, the cause that that organization that that video channel is supporting is going to get a donation. And it’s a fantastic way to use tools and common culture that are out there for other reasons to help promote social change, whether it’s through awareness or actually driving donations.

Boris Kievsky 12:24
I said this was going to be a short episode, and I’m going to keep it that way. I’m just going to say that a couple final things. I’m sure most of you have most of your organization’s already have either released the statement or have instituted some begun some conversations within your organization, about blacklivesmatter about how we as a society continue to function, through the pandemic and post pandemic, about how we can make sure that there’s justice for everyone and that the information that’s being consumed by the world is accurate and hopefully positive in respect to where it’s trying to get our country and our society. That’s great statements are of solidarity are fantastic, but they’re not enough. Let’s start asking ourselves, how we can be more active, be a greater force for change, and then activating our supporters and new ones to join us on our mission on our hero’s journey, where we can all be heroes. We are citizens, a nonprofit organization, in many ways is a citizen of this country or whatever country that you are based in. And you have a tribe you have that’s a sensitive word these days, but you have a community that supports you, that will rally behind you. Of course, you want to keep it integral to your mission. You don’t want to suddenly completely shift because you will lose your base but I’m betting that some part of your mission also relates to something that the world needs to take action on and you can use these tools to do that all of the tools, again, are going to be referenced in the show notes. But with that, I’d really like to thank you from the bottom of my heart, for all that you are doing to make the world a better place. It’s not always easy, and it’s definitely not always fun, but it’s absolutely vital. And the fact that you’re out there doing it every single day counts. I hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies to bring up with your organization, hopefully implement all of the links and everything is going to be in the show notes along with this video, the audio and transcripts of the episode. And if I or dotorgstrategy as a whole can be of help doing these things, getting you moving and getting you in a position where you can actually activate change agents in your community, please let me know please reach out. I’m happy to do whatever I can. I offer consultations to any organization, especially one that is active and trying to pursue social change and justice in this world.

Boris Kievsky 15:04
With that, thank you all for watching and listening to this special and important I believe episode of the nonprofit Hero Factory. Please be sure to subscribe to the show on YouTube. Watch us on Facebook, join us there, follow us on your favorite social media platforms and subscribe and follow us on your favorite podcast platforms. We’re on just about all of them now. And that’ll be the best way to make sure you keep getting these strategies sent to you in one way or another, delivered in your favorite medium, and helping us all make the world a better place. And if you’d love what you see, by the way, please do leave us a review. Thank you Have a great weekend.

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • While statements of solidarity are great starting points, we have the power and responsibility to do more.
  • Storytelling—and video in particular—is the most powerful instrument for inspiring and inciting action.
  • Technology has the ability to amplify story and make it go viral through peer-to-peer sharing. It also has the power to organize and activate people in new ways.
  • Mobile tech has democratized media. Everyone is a broadcaster.

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Boris Kievsky

Boris Kievsky

Chief Storyteller and Nerd at dotOrgStrategy

Boris is an entrepreneur, recovering filmmaker, and relapsed geek. As the the Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy, Boris helps nonprofits harness the power of great stories amplified through the right technology to reach the right audiences, create meaningful connections, and activate the inner hero in each of them.

Connect with Boris Kievsky

Ep 1 - Boris Kievsky - Featured

Episode 1: Our Story Begins… with Host Boris Kievsky

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 1

Our Story Begins with Boris Kievsky

In this Episode:

In this first episode, host Boris Kievsky shares the goals for and personal inspiration behind this series.

Sharing his own personal story that brought him to this point in life, and why he now dedicates his time to helping nonprofit organizations.

Boris Kievsky
Hi, everybody, thank you so much for joining me for the very first episode of the Nonprofit Hero Factory. I’m excited about where this adventure is going to take us. As each week I’ll be welcoming experts and thought leaders in the fields of nonprofit digital strategy. We’re going to be talking to them about various things from their strategies that they see working out there and that they’re helping their own clients or their organizations and act in the realms of online communications, marketing, fundraising, their attempts at creating greater efficiencies and maximizing resources, developing and delivering new programs. For example, right now, as I’m recording this, we’re in the heart of the COVID-19 lockdown and a lot of non-profits have had to adjust their programming very quickly, and just the way that they serve their clients.

Boris Kievsky
So things like that not just within the lockdown and pandemic mode, but throughout their organizational cycles, as well as finding ways to generate additional revenue. So, throughout all this, we’re going to be keeping an eye on storytelling and technology, the reason being, well, I believe that those are the greatest tools that you can use to really increase your reach your impact and make a better world for all of us. Me, My name is Boris Kievsky. And I am the chief storyteller and nerd for good at dotOrgstrategy, where I help organizations do just that harness those powers at the intersection of story and technology. The reason is, I am a geek at heart. And one of the guiding principles of my career has been the quote by Archimedes that if you give me a lever long enough a fulcrum to place it on I can move the world.

Boris Kievsky
Really that’s my goal. And I know that that’s the goal for all of you working in nonprofit, to change the world in some way. Well, for me, the fulcrum is storytelling and the lever. That’s technology.

Boris Kievsky
Well, why story? Instead of just talking about my own theories about it, I’d love to share a couple of quotes. The first is from Daniel Kahneman. He is a Nobel laureate in economics, but he’s also the father of behavioral economics and behavioral psychology. Along with Amos Tversky, they published a whole lot of papers that are really fascinating. If you’re interested in the subjects I highly recommend them. The quote that I’d like to cite though is Daniel said, No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story. In their work together, they realize that people don’t make decisions very logically. They tell themselves stories in their minds and based on those stories, they take action.

Boris Kievsky
The second quote is by Yuval Harare. Author of Sapiens a brief history of humankind. Yuval actually credits storytelling specifically as the reason for our not just survival but dominance on the planet. There were a lot of competing animals, a lot of competing humanoids, hominids, whatever you want to call them. Why did homosapiens survive and thrive and become the dominant life form? He says it’s because we were best able to tell stories. So we use those stories to bind ourselves in communities, whether they be family units, tribes, or global societies. We tell stories and based on those stories, we bond we trust each other, and we’re able to move forward. It’s a really powerful tool.

Boris Kievsky
Technology. Well, technology allows those stories to reach a lot further for one, they, also allows them to find the exact right audience that you need at any given time to support your cause. Right? There are billions and billions of people on this planet increasingly more of them have access to technology, whether it be on their smartphone or on their computer or tablet, whatever it is. And they may have different interests and different concerns, your organization might speak to a very small percentage of the population of the world. But if you find that percentage, even if it’s point 1%, well, that is a whole lot of people, millions and millions of people who are there with you ready to support you and go up your ladder of support to becoming champions for your cause, and of course, becoming donors along the way. So together, technology and storytelling can really I think, changed the world for good if used by nonprofits who have the right intentions at heart.

Boris Kievsky
So with that, I guess I’ll tell you a little bit more about myself and why I really believe in those on a little personal level. I’ll try to keep this brief so we can move on to the other things that I’d like to talk about today, I was born in the former Soviet Union a country that no longer exists in Ukraine specifically. So now Ukraine is an independent country, of course. But back then, it was the Soviet Union, a place where everyone was supposed to be equal. But as we like to say some are more equal than others. Fortunately for me and my family, my parents decided to leave the Soviet Union when they could, which was not an easy decision to make leaving behind everything that they knew and everyone that they knew and loved. I remember the day that I found out we were moving to America.

Boris Kievsky
I didn’t know anything about America. I was just five years old. My sister, however, was already in first grade at the age of seven. And I vividly remember when my father told both of us, told my sister specifically that we were moving to America. My sister in her school uniform still just home from school, sat down at the kitchen table, and started crying. She started begging my dad not to take us to America anywhere but America. Preferably not a capitalist country, but if a capitalist country at all, please, Daddy, not America. Well, my father, he shrugged it off, laughed it off, whatever my whatever you might call it. And he asked her why. Why are you so worried about America? And she said that in her books, and her teachers have explained that in capitalist countries, parents don’t love their children, that they cast them out in America specifically, they cast them out to dig through garbage bins for little scraps of bread, and that’s how children have to survive in America.

Boris Kievsky
Well, obviously that wasn’t true. But that was the story that they were teaching everyone and it was a powerful story that lasted with my sister for a long time. Fortunately, we did come to America and it is an amazing place. Where we have a lot of opportunities. But to get to those opportunities, it took me a long road myself. As you might imagine, moving to Brooklyn in the 1980s, in the heart of the evil empire era, as Reagan termed the Soviet Union at the time, was challenging. There were not a lot of Russian speaking kids in my class, or even in my school or my neighborhood. I barely spoke English of course, when I entered public school, with a name like Boris with big ears, I definitely look different. I sounded different, and I was the enemy. If you watched rocky four, if you watched Top Gun or Red Dawn, right, the Russians, the Soviets, they were the ones who were going to destroy America and entire the entire world.

Boris Kievsky
So naturally, a lot of kids were afraid of me because that was the story that they heard. I got challenged to fights a lot chased home by gangs. Literally chased home from school by teen gangs who, well, let’s just say they didn’t want to be friends with me. I was fortunate that I developed two really good friends, Charlie and David. Charlie introduced me to comic books and the world of heroes, people who can rise up above their station, people who can do amazing things despite any kind of limitation. That was a fantastic world to escape to.

Boris Kievsky
The other escape came from my friend David. David was a computer science nerd before there was such a thing. He by the age of 10 was already programming in assembly language. And he encouraged me to learn the same. So with my birthday money for my 10th birthday, and a lot of help from my parents. I bought my very first computer a TRS80 color computer model 2, with I think it was 16 kilobits kilobytes of RAM can’t remember now. Computers became my escape, I was able to not only create worlds for myself with David, but we were also programming ninja madness and other video games. I was also able to later find communities online with these BBS’s bulletin board systems or early websites or forums, whatever you want to call them. I was able to meet a whole lot of people outside of my block my area of Brooklyn, people who had similar interests to me intellectual interests, political interests, exchange jokes, and ideas with them files sometimes those were exciting. And the best part was, no one knew my name. Not my real name. Anyway, no one knew that I was a Russian kid. No one even knew my age.

Boris Kievsky
It became such a great escape for me that I was in love with computer science very early on. It took me to one of the top science and math high schools in the country and one of the top computer science programs in the country. were much to my parent’s chagrin, I got burnt out. So technology took me very far. But halfway through my sophomore year, I felt like something was lacking. I was curious about the human side of things, the qualitative side of the world. And I took a very sharp 180-degree turn and wound up in acting, and theater. I studied theater for three years and graduated with a BFA in theater, then went to London and got a postgraduate degree in acting in musical theater.

Boris Kievsky
All the while, I loved diving into characters learning what it’s like to be someone else, not me, wondering what makes them different from me and what makes them similar. And I witnessed the power that stories through live theater and then later in film and television could have upon a viewer, a willing participant whether it’s just sitting back on a couch or active in a show, or even participating in improv, how living vicariously through other characters and situations, we can expand our worldview, our perceptions, our preconceptions, our insecurities, even and our ignorance and expand our minds to include others as humans, not just as someone else.

Boris Kievsky
I fell in love with that aspect of things. I eventually moved out to Hollywood where I was doing a lot of acting, but also started writing and directing and really studying the Hollywood version of storytelling, right. This is a formula that had been perfected over 100 years. And I say perfected because while not every Hollywood movie is a blockbuster hit. There are enough of them they make trillions of dollars a year. around the world that I think it is safe to say they know what they’re doing. And what I discovered was that every Hollywood movie, most movies in general, follow a Hollywood formula. And I’ll be talking about that in future episodes no time, no reason to spend time right now delving into it.

Boris Kievsky
But when it came time to stop acting, and there were various reasons why one of them was most of the roles I was getting was what my mother affectionately referred to yet another Russian mafioso. When it came time to stop spending more of my money than I was making in making movies, including a lot of documentaries that I was working on. I figured out a way to combine the two passions, the two sides of my life, the qualitative and the quantitative, the computer science nerd, and the storyteller who loves engaging with people on a one to one and one to many bases. And I found a job with a nonprofit organization where I could do their storytelling online where I could capitalize on my skills on both sides of things and help them with their websites, their social media, their newsletters, whatever it might be to grow their presence. And I found this amazing that all of these things that I’ve been working on throughout my life had these practical applications that had additional benefits for people beyond me and beyond the organization.

Boris Kievsky
I, at that point, started taking on additional clients on the side, eventually converting my in house job to a consultancy that I still maintain To this day, and I’m very grateful for the organization. So, my goal with this show is to help everybody realize the potential and the power of those two, those two elements of my ideal Archimedes lever So, you’ll be seeing people on this on this show on this podcast, if you’re listening online, that are going to be talking to all of these different things, they might be leaders in technology or experts in helping you talk to your board, or in fundraising and development, or revenue generation, they might even just be behavioral scientists whose approaches can really help nonprofits shape their internal culture and their outward facing engagement and communications really excited a lot of the guests that are already lined up. But if you think that you might be one of the people who can really add value to obviously this audience that I’d love to help, then please come on over to NPHeroFactory.com and fill out the form to become a guest.

Boris Kievsky
If you’re just listening, I hope you’ll go to NPHeroFactory.com and join our mailing list. Check out the show notes every episode is going to have including this one, where I’ll have recommendations for some of the books and authors that I was just talking about. Some action steps each every each and every episode is going to have action steps that you can take by going to the website or just tuning in and jotting them down to get your organization moving forward to increase your impact and helping more people. That’s really I want to say today, I thank you so much again for joining me. And I hope you will join me for many, many episodes to come. And thank you most of all, for doing all of the amazing work you do to help my world be a better place and everyone’s world be a better place.

Boris Kievsky
Take care

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • Why storytelling?
  • Why technology?
  • How do you combine the two?
  • What type of guests will you see in upcoming episodes?

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Boris Kievsky

Boris Kievsky

Chief Storyteller and Nerd at dotOrgStrategy

Boris is an entrepreneur, recovering filmmaker, and relapsed geek. As the the Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy, Boris helps nonprofits harness the power of great stories amplified through the right technology to reach the right audiences, create meaningful connections, and activate the inner hero in each of them.

Connect with Boris Kievsky