Here is a fake statistic that feels plausible to me. More than 90% of nonprofit stories star the same two characters; the person receiving the service and the provider of that service. IT IS SO PREDICTABLE. The kid and his tutor. The recovering addict and the counselor. Been there heard that.
Usual messengers = same old same old
That formula worked for a while because it’s intimate and emotional but it’s fatiguing. It’s becoming less effective every day. And if you don’t do work on the ground—if you are a funder or a think tank—then who are you supposed to talk about? You might tell stories that aren’t even yours because you think the old formula is the only one.
The remedy? The unusual messenger.
This video (not approved by the American Jewish World Service) is a great example of getting unlikely messengers to share an organization’s accomplishments. It isn’t storytelling and it’s a bit long but it’s still pretty great. Bonus, this is a philanthropic organization owning its own work.
Unusual allies generate less skepticism
The funny thing is that so many advocacy organizations talk about the need for allies—those people outside the marginalized group who use their influence for positive change. Put those hardworking peeps front and center! Let them talk about why they fight for you when they don’t have to. Their stories will endure less skepticism because there isn’t a direct benefit to them. Being unexpected is the name of the game and an unusual messenger can pull that off.
So take the risk, Bubbeleh.
Recruit some unusual messengers. The ones who say, “I hate volunteering. It’s inconvenient and thankless. But I make one exception and volunteer with Organization X because they know how to…” Or, “I’m not a woman but I support the feminist Organization Z because they are fighting for…” Just try it. You might score some new fans because they see themselves in the unusual messenger better than they see themselves in you.
Are there any unusual messengers that have worked on you? Besides the most interesting man in the world selling you Dos Equis? Please share!