3 min read

Nonprofits have a role in strengthening civil society. Today, they can focus on telling their story in hopeful, positive ways to spread “some good news.”

Still regret binge watching Tiger King on Netflix? Well, unfortunately, I can't help you with that, but I can share some wisdom from a couple of crowd favorites: 

Jim Halpert: See, you're always saying there's something wrong with society, maybe there's something wrong with you?

Michael Scott: If it's me, then society made me that way.

(And they say Netflix is a brain killer.)

I think it is safe to say we are exhausted from the newsreel showing us the many ways the world is ending today, tomorrow, next week. It’s tempting to respond to all this negativity by consuming your weight in cake and alcohol—I’ve seen the empty grocery aisles. But that’s not the answer. Nonprofits need to disrupt the negative narratives with constructive and encouraging solutions.

We all need “#SGN"

Three weeks ago John Krasinski (Jim Halpert in The Office) decided to inject some hope and joy into the world with his 20-minute YouTube series "SGN" (Some Good News). His first episode was watched over 16.7 million times. He shared clips of people around the world thanking health care workers, a sweet husband singing Amazing Grace through a window to his wife with Alzheimer's, and a good samaritan giving away toilet paper (gasp) to delivery drivers.

My personal favorite, 15-year-old Coco's friends and family practiced social distancing by lining the streets in cars as she arrived home after finishing her last chemo treatment. 

Stories like this encourage all of us to keep fighting for what matters most. And I can't lie; Coco caused the tear ducts to leak a bit.

Three things nonprofit should do to spread #SGN

Nonprofits are always key to a healthy civil society. With society today so stressed and anxious, nonprofits can play a special role spreading good news by engaging donors in positive ways.

  1. Create messages that interrupt the cynical narrative

Everyone knows that things are crummy. Acknowledge the storyline and provide context, but don't forget to bring to the forefront how your organization is “slaying the dragon,” as Iain Bernhoft describes. Remind your donors and online audience why your work is worthy of their financial investment. Show them how your organization is fighting back and moving the needle—whether it is toward relief and recovery or strengthening civil society in any number of other ways. Even if your organization isn’t fighting problems related to coronavirus, it’s still important today and once this pandemic passes.

  1. Display effects through graphics

Once your message is crafted, it is effective to show your work through graphics, as well. For instance, an organization that feeds the hungry typically chooses an image of starving children. However, right now, you might mix things up with an infographic showing the number of families fed or a photo of lines of families being served. Help your audience see the urgency and effectiveness of your work through the graphics you choose. Don’t use your graphics just to show the problem; show your solution.

  1. Expand your audience with sponsored content

Maybe you need to cut back on expenses and have decided to pull an acquisition mailing or two. Instead of pausing all of your acquisition plans, invest some money in social media advertising and sponsored content. More people are active on social media than ever—use that to your advantage. Invest some money in targeting online leads and invite them to join you with content that shows you understand the issues and are part of the solution. If done well, this will also increase your subscriptions and email lists, to keep them on your radar even once all this passes.

The main point is this: Don't focus too much on the villain. People need hope, too. Nonprofits: share some good news, and more than likely, you'll be rewarded for it.


For the next several weeks, Philanthropy Daily will be a resource for fundraisers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Check back daily for new articles addressing news about coronavirus and philanthropy and providing strategic and practical recommendations for weathering this storm as a fundraiser.

And please join us on Thursday afternoons at 2:00 Eastern time for a webinar on “Fundraising During Uncertain Times.” American Philanthropic leadership and Philanthropy Daily authors are hosting this weekly webinar to discuss the impact of the pandemic on fundraising and to answer your questions. Sign up here.


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