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How nonprofits can apply Human Truths to ideate and engage

In today’s rapidly changing nonprofit landscape, innovation is critical to staying relevant and achieving impact. However, with limited resources, it can be challenging, daunting, or downright unrealistic for nonprofits to pursue groundbreaking new ideas.

Fortunately, sometimes the very best way to innovate is to evolve existing ideas by looking at them from a different perspective or introducing new elements. Tweaking and refining ideas allows for incremental improvements that can lead to more significant changes in the long term. For organizations with limited resources, evolving existing ideas can save time, energy, and resources while still generating fresh concepts. Evolving ideas helps maintain continuity from past efforts and allows teams to build on work already done.

One way to do this is by applying the Human Truths framework, which considers universal human motivations to create compelling, inspiring messaging that engages with your audience on an emotional level. Because as fundraisers and humans alike, we know firsthand that emotion is what really drives behavior.

Applying the Human Truths framework at your nonprofit

Teams can use these Human Truths prompts as inspiration to explore and improve their ideas:

People are easily distracted: How can you get straight to the point and keep people’s attentions? (Example: Use a single, concise call-to-action in your email campaigns to drive your desired outcome.)

People want autonomy: How can you empower people and make sure they don’t feel manipulated? (Example: Offer multiple giving options so that donors can choose how they want to contribute to your cause.)

People respond to beauty: How can you inject beauty into your idea? (Example: Look for opportunities to replace long passages of text with a single, striking image.)

People yearn for belonging: How can your idea help people feel that they are part of a community? (Example: Host in-person or virtual events that reinforce your values, mission, and culture.)

People appreciate recognition: What are creative and unique ways to recognize people? (Example: Create short video spotlights and share them on social media, adding appropriate tags to boost reach.)

People desire safety: How can your idea help people feel secure or protect them? (Example: Ensure your website uses secure payment methods and displays security badges to reassure donors.)

People seek meaning: How does your idea help someone become the person they wish to be? (Example: Highlight how your idea is advancing a cause that matters to your audience and how their support makes them a catalyst for change.)

People value self-expression: How can you let people express their personality? (Example: Organize social media takeovers to elevate the unique voices and experiences of your constituents.)

People are playful: Are there ways to make your idea more playful? Can you incorporate something fun or unexpected? (Example: Organize a charity scavenger hunt that engages participants in a lighthearted competition while raising funds.)

People crave connection: How can you create opportunities for genuine connection? (Example: Create highly personalized thank-you messages for supporters to convey appreciation for their individual contributions to your cause.)

People have opinions: How can you create a platform for people to share their lived experiences? (Example: Invite supporters to submit stories and quotes about their experiences with your organization, which can be used for testimonials and marketing materials.)

As the astute reader that I know you are, you’ll notice that using the Human Truths framework requires a deep understanding of your audience. Indeed, to use the Human Truths framework effectively, you need to understand the motivations, needs, and preferences of your target audience, as well as their individual experiences and values. Evaluate the interactions your target audience has had with your brand, and study how they interact with other organizations. Talk to your constituents frequently and ask questions to help you better understand them.

A real-life example

Consider this example of a prominent all-girls school in the northeast. Their head of school was embarking on a nationwide tour to promote their campaign and wanted a creative and meaningful way to engage their alumnae. Upon reflection, the team agreed to tap into the Human Truth that people value self-expression, and decided to find ways for participants to express themselves.

After some brainstorming, an idea was born: they would invite attendees to write a haiku about their time at the school. It was simple to facilitate, interesting, and aligned with their identity as a school. They knew their alumnae would be energized by this activity and it would be memorable. Most of all, it would be a unique opportunity for alumnae to express themselves.

Six months later, they have conducted more than a dozen of these small gatherings with tremendous success! Alumnae have indeed been eager to express themselves and have left the gatherings with a renewed sense of community and enthusiasm. And, as a bonus, the communications team now has a small library of beautiful haikus written by their very own alumnae, which they have been able to use in their donor communications to great effect.

Closing Thoughts

The Human Truths framework can help nonprofit organizations maximize their efforts and ensure their ideas are effective and impactful, even with limited resources. These tools can identify the best ideas, refine existing ones, and even generate new solutions. As you look for creative ways to engage your audience, consider the Human Truths and invoke the universal human motivations that drive behavior. With practice, they can become part of your everyday thought process, becoming second nature for you and your team.

What do you think?  Are there Human Truths I’ve missed? Can you see your organization using this tool? I’m sure you have an opinion on the matter. After all, it is a human truth.