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A Southern Home for a Southern Bird: Success Through Nonprofit Storytelling

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Special to the Philanthropy Journal BC/DC Ideas

The Brown-headed Nuthatch, a southern bird born and bred, needs your help to find a good home. These darlin’, squeaky birds need more nest boxes today, so we can enjoy them for generations to come.

BCDC Ideas LogoFrom human services to public health, animal welfare and education – every nonprofit has amazing stories to tout their impact and success. How can effective storytelling be used to motivate your supporters and reach your organizational goals?

It’s simple. Find your own Nuthatch.

On the surface, Audubon North Carolina personified the story of a ‘darlin’ squeaky bird’ in need of a special kind of home. Beyond the initial story was a campaign to reach an impressive goal – install 10,000 nest boxes in just two years.

In order to activate their loyal supporters while engaging an entirely new audience of backyard birders and everyday conservationists, the campaign tasked North Carolinians to “Make a Home for a Brown-headed Nuthatch.” And it worked!

Blending storytelling and science, the campaign co-created with BC/DC Ideas, not only motivated thousands of supporters to take a single action for birds, it increased the organization’s audience engagement, grew brand recognition for its Bird-Friendly Communities initiative and achieved conservation success for a bird in need.

With a dose of southern charm and a wallop of creativity, Audubon North Carolina has proved the power of nonprofit storytelling. When your organization finds the right story; you can achieve amazing results.

Large Goals Through Simple Actions

“You too can make a home for a family of nuthatches in your own backyard.”

Photo credit: Justin Cook

Photo credit: Justin Cook

In 2013, Audubon North Carolina set out to install 10,000 nest boxes to provide more specialized habitats to the Brown-headed Nuthatch – a priority species facing population declines. This lofty goal could only be accomplished through effective audience engagement. While avid birders would be primed for activation, to reach 10,000, the campaign needed to appeal to a wider, more diverse target.

Small, simple actions allow every-day citizens to engage in bird conservation. Bird conservation became accessible to every bird lover with the help of a southern bird with southern charm. The campaign was successful in appealing to a sensibility of home, sparking an affinity for a common backyard bird, and bringing conservation into every backyard.

Ultimately, Audubon North Carolina harnessed the art of nonprofit storytelling to cultivate a sense of responsibility for a bird losing its home – a call to action that could be supported by a growing number of supporters rallying to reach the 10,000 nest box goal.

Replicating Success

The key to success was finding a story that appealed to all of Audubon NC’s supporters from the avid citizen scientist to the life-long bird lover and even the backyard bird watchers who just wanted to feel involved in a larger effort. BHNHThis success can be replicated with a few simple steps.

Understand Your Audience: Every organization has a story to tell – the challenge is to identify what appeals to your key supporters or attracts a few new ones. You don’t have to have a fuzzy bird to reach your own level of success. Find your own nuthatch and set your own goal to measure success for your organization.

Identify Your Story: The right story can spark a movement or elevate the success of your existing campaign. Whether it’s a challenge that needs to be solved or an issue that needs a groundswell of support, to effectively engage your audience through storytelling, be sure the story has elements to compel your audience to act.

Call to Act: Donate, sign a petition, attend an event – be sure your story includes a clear call to action. Make sure your audience knows what is asked of them. With a clear call to action, you’ll see more success to satisfy your goal and collect more outcome stories to celebrate over time.

Track Your Outcomes: Measure success and achieving goals. Storytelling can provide many long-term opportunities to communicate with your audience and celebrate your success. By keeping your supporters engaged beyond the initial ask, you’ll see even greater success for your cause and support for your organization’s mission.


BC/DC Ideas, headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, is a creative agency that specializes in strategic communications planning, social media, advertising and marketing, public relations, and video production for nonprofits. Our team draws on extensive experience in nonprofit and corporate communications, marketing and advertising to bring creativity to the nonprofit sector.

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