The Social Trend That Nonprofits Cannot Ignore

Maybe you’ve done it before: You pass by someone, a complete stranger, and wonder what their life story is all about.

And then…you keep walking, never to see that person again.

There has been a movement on Facebook to take a portrait of a random passerby and ask them their life story. It’s called the Humans of New York…or India, or Rome, or Pakistan, etc.

Posts from Humans of New York illustrate how a Facebook post can provide a snippet of a life story.

In what looks like the work of a journalist from ages ago, the new-age movement is described as a way of “humanizing” strangers through social media.  The page’s tagline is, “New York City, one story at a time.”

For example, one boy tells the struggles of being bullied at school for his weight and love of reading. Launched in 2010, the page has rocketed to 1.7 million followers.

What This Means

Social media lets you tell stories like never before. A powerful photo, coupled with text, can tell a touching story–and sometimes all it takes is a smart phone. Because it’s all about storytelling.

For example, nonprofits can go beyond the traditional donor testimonial in their annual newsletters and use content from their Facebook or Instagram. Integrate an Instagram photo of a person, who was helped by a gift, in a newsletter along with a caption much like the creators of the “Humans of” movement.

Your Next Steps

Nonprofits have stories in spades—not just mission stories, but the stories behind those who support it.

  • Identify a staff member to feature in a portrait for Facebook and Instagram.
  • Ask them why they believe in your organization’s mission.
  • Take a picture of that person.
  • Use a filter on Instagram, if possible.
  • Post the picture and text to Facebook and Instagram.

Photos tend to generate more interaction on Facebook.


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