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Extending the story arc: How animal welfare organizations are sharing community impact

Through the years, animal welfare organizations have told moving stories of rescues, rehabilitations and rehomes. And donors have responded—giving to appeals that call for them to step in when another animal needs their support.  

This approach has worked, and worked well, for animal welfare organizations for many years. But as my friend and colleague David Miller shared recently on our blog, there’s a shift happening among animal welfare programs as they look to tell their full story. 

Today, we’re moving beyond rescues and rehabilitations to tell the 360-degree stories of the impact that animal welfare organizations have on their entire community. 

The challenge: Telling these program-driven stories in a manner that still moves animal lovers to give to your cause. 

Let’s dive into a couple of ways we’re exploring this for our animal welfare partners. 

Extending the story arc 

We used to tell the story of one changed life. One animal who was rescued from a dire situation and rehomed to a better place. 

Now it’s time to extend the story arc. What was once a rescue story is now a 360-degree narrative of impact that shares the entire scope of what your cause does for the lives of those animals it saves. 

Animal Welfare Story Arc

It may start with an animal rescued, who then received veterinary care while in your shelter. From there, the animal was able to go back to its family, who also received the education and services they needed—like food from your pet pantry—to give the animal the love and care it deserved. But the story doesn’t end there. The impact a pet can have on its home family is often so great, we’re left wondering, “Who’s saving whom?”  

By expanding the story arc and shedding light on the full picture of your programs and their impact on your community, you can educate donors and build deeper levels of support.  

Showing proof of impact 

So, what does that look like in action? 

Based on research, we know that today’s donors are looking for more than just an offer or a single story. They want to know not only that their gift saves a single life—but that it also enacts meaningful, long-term change. 

Take the example below for Michigan Humane. In this appeal for mid-level donors, we told the story of Little Baby, who was abducted from his home. Michigan Humane was able to track down, treat and return Little Baby safely to his owner. In addition, they took the story a step further, sharing a behind-the-scenes look at how they worked alongside the attorney general to enact justice and ensure safety. 

Michigan Humane Example

The most powerful approach for this 360 storytelling is done through an omni-channel donor journey, as RKD recently did for SPCA of Texas. In this email, we expanded the story conveyed in direct mail to include a look at the support serviceslike vet wellness care, food assistance and educational resourcesthat the organization can provide to the community thanks to a donor’s generosity. 

SPCATX example

These are just two examples of how we’re adapting our messaging to tell the full picture of community impact and connect with donors in more meaningful ways. 

If you’re interested in diving deeper into this concept, I recently hosted a webinar on building stories around your content. You can check out the recording below:  


Billy Vaudry

Billy Vaudry is an award-winning creative professional with 27 years’ experience in direct-response fundraising and marketing for nonprofits. As Senior Vice President, Creative Services, at RKD Group, he specializes in serving domestic humanitarian organizations, including rescue missions and food banks. Billy's unique combination of critical, business-minded and imaginative thinking has enabled him to lead top performing teams, developing and executing integrated strategies to drive revenue and donor growth for hundreds of nonprofits.

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