Celebrity Partnerships for Social Good: The Value of an Emotional Appeal in Storytelling


by Corey Goldstone

In evaluating the role that storytelling has in issue advocacy, the importance of big-name partnerships cannot be overstated. However, not all messengers are created equal, and like every skill, effective storytelling takes practice. The challenge is to make sure that the celebrity stays on message and conveys a genuine passion for the issue he or she is advocating for. In the case of Amy Schumer this summer, a lot can be learned from the timing and messaging of her emotional appeal for gun safety.

Storytelling is not a new concept. In fact it was an old Native American proverb that said, “Those who tell stories rule the world.” However, it is not learned overnight, and many passionate people have failed to be effective messengers for very worthy causes. After President Obama tried every tactic possible to pass gun safety legislation in the wake of the 2012 shootings in a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, it was clear that he needed all the help he could get to communicate the need for reform to the American people.

Obama has said that his biggest frustration in office was his failure to reduce gun violence. That is why it is increasingly clear that he needs effective outside-the-beltway advocates to make an successful emotional appeal.

“Those who tell stories rule the world.”

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York has been passionate about reducing gun violence since passing Assault Weapons Ban legislation while serving in the House of Representatives in 1994. But besides a couple minor victories along the way, it is clear that the leading opponent of gun control, the National Rifle Association, has had the upper hand in message strategy in the last 20 years. Why is this?

Advocates for reform like Schumer believe they have had the winning message, because on the merits, the statistics about gun violence are disturbing to most people. The United States accounts for about one-third of mass shooting tragedies around the globe, despite having only about five percent of the world’s population. That is why 92% of gun owners support universal background checks. While these numbers are compelling, the arguments that win the conversation on issues that are this personal, tend to speak to a side of our brain that are not effected by bar graphs.

When speaking about guns, visceral emotions come into play. So for fundraising appeal and citizen engagement campaigns, the progressive community needs to remember that a compelling storytelling narrative is the most likely way to capture the hearts of the intended audience in the modern day flood of shareable content and links that occupy social feeds. People with the ability to create, find and share quality stories will build larger followings and can use this to their advantage.

AmySchumerChuck Schumer came to understand that the NRA and other, more radical gun organizations like the Gun Owners Association of America have convinced moderate gun owners that gun-safety advocates are trying to take away all firearms. This ‘slippery slope’ argument has effectively driven a paranoia that has given the gun lobby tremendous power to achieve unprecedented political victories, particularly on the state level.

When Senator Schumer teamed up with his comedian cousin Amy Schumer, he knew that he was not going to have success by heaving another quantitative analysis at the wall in the hopes that this one will stick. If the media would even cover that broken record appeal, people in the American heartland would see it for what it was – another attempt by the Harvard educated politician to look down his nose and judge rural Americans for clinging to their values.

He enlisted Amy Schumer because she was personally affected by a mass shooting in a Louisiana movie theater in July, as it occurred during the premiere of her film called ‘Trainwreck.’

At their joint press conference, Amy Schumer referred to the two lives that were tragically lost that night at the Grand Theater and said she thinks about the victims every day. Her point was that these shootings were preventable. This shooting and the one this summer at a Charleston church could have been avoided if there was a system in place to prevent the mentally ill or citizens with serious prior convictions from obtaining lethal weapons.

Putting this into perspective – the difference between winning and losing an issue campaign comes down to nuances in messaging. “Americans are all in on stricter background checks on gun buyers and on keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of a Quinnipiac poll taken in the wake of the mass shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school. “But when it comes to ‘stricter gun control,’ three words which prompt a negative reflex, almost half of those surveyed say ‘hands off.’”

This is a very important distinction.

As media attention saturated the Schumers, she took her message to The Daily Show. Thanks to her brave advocacy and her genuine passion for the issue, an entire new audience became aware of a three-part legislative gun control plan that would make it more difficult for mentally ill or violent persons to obtain guns.

However, it was partly a missed opportunity because she seemed to be tired of the spotlight and wanted to change the topic to a lighter conversation with Jon Stewart. The problem is that if supporters felt compelled to act by her strong appeal, they would not know what to do.

Schumer would have received extra points for delivering one of the key components of storytelling, according to research by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication. If she had taken her advocacy to that important next step, her story would “convey emotions that move people to act, and marry these with clear, easy-to-find pathways to get them to those desired actions.”

An action-oriented appeal could have taken this from a publicity-driven campaign to raise awareness on the issue of gun violence and taken it to the next level of results-driven issue advocacy. A plea to donate to an organization like the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence or to call congressmen to support her cousin’s legislation would have improved the results of this ask. There are many good organizations that are acting now to implement commonsense gun legislation including the Brady Center.

In the end, public interest organizations were happy to welcome a popular comedian and actress like Amy Schumer to their team. Her ability to tell a story at a time when the country needed it provided a valuable service, even if her ultimate goal has yet to be realized.

Student Research Assistant Profile: Ariel Durgana

ad-meet the team-2Ariel Durgana is the CSIC Student Research Assistant, where she is responsible for providing key support on the Center’s priority initiatives–ranging from leading an impact-gathering project to supporting cutting-edge social impact research. Ariel is also a student in Georgetown University’s master of professional studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program.

Center for Social Impact Communication: Tell us a little bit about you and how you’ve ended up in your current position as the CSIC Student Research Assistant. 

Ariel Durgana: It all started in the South Side of Chicago. I was teaching through City Year and it became alarmingly clear that urban schools do not get enough resources, funding or overall support. Through the Deloitte Mentorship Program, I was able to work with my mentor to bring consultants to the South Side and be a professional presence for my students. It gave them something to look up to and it changed the way they pursued goals others wrote them off for. The same thing went for my middle and high school entrepreneurs at the University of Notre Dame. My mentor from Chicago sponsored my students to come to the Downtown Office where they presented their business plans in exchange for pro-bono consulting. It was an incredible experience for both parties. My students felt a sense of worth and the consultants felt a sense of agency. This is why I am so passionate about corporate social responsibility and social impact. Being the Student Research Assistant at the Center for Social Impact Communication allows me to research all the incredible ways organizations are advised to give back to the community and get first hand knowledge and research on what the next megatrends are, both incredibly important for making a real change.

CSIC: How did you first hear about CSIC?

AD: I first heard about CSIC while working in at the Center for Student Engagement, a branch of Georgetown University’s Student Affairs Division. I was the Graduate Student Advisor and constantly used CSIC as a resource for my graduate students interested in how communication plays a huge role in social impact.

CSIC: What aspect of the CSIC Student Research Assistant position are you most excited about?

AD: I am a huge nerd when it comes to learning best practices. I love the idea of seeing what others done and either replicating it or building upon it. So researching the capstone projects that revolve around social impact and giving back to the community makes me so excited about coming into work every day!

CSIC: Do you have any advice for students who are interested in getting involved with CSIC?

AD: GO ON THE FIELD TRIPS! These are incredible opportunities to see what’s going on in your neighborhood and a great way to get involved with corporate social responsibilities. These field trips take you to some amazing organizations and really open your eyes to the good that is going on in the DMV area.

CSIC: You’re taking Cause Consulting this semester; what are you most excited about exploring in that course?

AD: I am the most excited about working with my client, Girls, Inc. They are an incredible organization that stands for something even greater. Inspiring young women to be strong, bold and smart is incredibly important to me, especially having two younger sisters. It is important for young women to know they can be anything, do anything and want anything they work hard for.

Practitioner Profile: Kyle LeBlanc, Director of Corporate Partnerships & Cause Marketing, National Parks Conservation Association


0a1249cKyle LeBlanc is a seasoned fundraising professional specializing in the strategy, design, and execution of high-impact and fully integrated corporate partnerships for diverse industries including: retail, consumer packaged goods, restaurants, foodservice, media, and consulting. She’s currently bringing her passion for corporate social responsibility to the National Parks Conservation Association as Director of Corporate Partnerships and Cause Marketing. By night, Kyle is Founder and Chief Moxie Officer at Resumoxie. Connect with Kyle on LinkedIn.

Center for Social Impact Communication: Describe your career path and your current position.

Kyle LeBlanc: I always wanted to be in nonprofit, and my first job out of college was in communications at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation in Chicago. I moved to DC a few years later for a fundraising role at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where I worked in donor relations, major gifts, and planned giving. The family foundation component there led me to my next position at No Kid Hungry in corporate foundations, which is where I fell in love with corporate partnerships and cause marketing – eventually focusing 100% of my time in that capacity. After a few years, the opportunity arose to assume a more senior role at the National Parks Conservation Association as the Director of Corporate Partnerships and Cause Marketing. I’m about 90 days in, happily learning about a terrific cause and helping a talented staff launch a best-in-class program.

CSIC: What is your best piece of career advice?

KL: Get on LinkedIn and use it! Whether you’re looking for connections to corporate funders or searching for a new job, it’s your best friend. LinkedIn is the industry standard for making and growing business connections, and other fundraisers or job applicants are using it strategically. (I have a side business called Resumoxie that’s dedicated to resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles – the LinkedIn package is especially popular because people realize the value of a strong LinkedIn profile and presence.)

CSIC: What career accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

KL: I’m especially proud of a corporate collaboration I led in a past role, which produced research that revolutionized the way the organization spoke about a key program priority. It made a huge media splash upon release – a victory for the organization and the corporate partner… even the First Lady cited it! The partnership’s behind-the-scenes comradery was also fantastic. Lines blurred and (in the best way) we forgot who was working for who and really melded together as a team.

This partnership is my personal gold standard because it proves that corporate support can and should culminate in a true win-win.

CSIC: What can someone do early in his/her social impact career to secure a position similar to yours? 

KL: Corporate partnerships and cause marketing constitute a growing field in nonprofit, so positions are definitely out there. But if you’re early in your career and not in one of those jobs yet, be aware of how your current expertise pertains to the field so you can best position your qualifications when the time is right. For example, many fundraising positions involve special events, which are often anchored in corporate sponsorships with benefits delivery. Similarly, a major gifts fundraiser likely deals with donors who are business leaders and speaks their high-level, impact-driven language. Corporate foundations work is especially relevant because the most integrated partnerships have a mission component. Business and/or agency communications and marketing backgrounds are also great, simply because that’s who you’ll be working with when you’re on a corporate partnerships and cause marketing team!

CSIC: What skills are necessary to work in corporate partnerships and/or cause marketing? 

KL: People skills are an obvious must-have. More importantly, however, you need to understand corporate industry landscapes, target markets, consumer bases, and business objectives. Keep in mind that all those things are constantly evolving, as are the ways an organization’s assets can be authentically leveraged to create a win-win alliance.

Creativity is also a huge help, as is keeping pace with the changing legal practices that govern the way cause marketing promotions are communicated and reported.

CSIC: What is your go to source to learn about cause communication trends? 

KL: Lots of places – various LinkedIn influencers who share my love of CSR, the Cause Marketing Forum, marketing and advertising industry blogs, and my personal network.

CSIC: Is your organization hiring? 

KL: Yes! Check out the National Parks Conservation Association’s open positions!

Attracting (and Keeping) Sponsors: It’s All About Engagement

by Sara Dal Lago

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

streetsenseThis is what Street Sense does by providing economic opportunities to the homeless community in Washington, D.C.

As part of the Strategic Event Management class in Georgetown University’s master of professional studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communication, I was involved, along with six other students, in developing a sponsorship-building plan for Street Sense’s annual Gala. Street Sense is a nonprofit organization, initially born as a newspaper, that gives a voice to the homeless in Washington, D.C., and it is repositioning itself as full-channel media organization. The Street Sense 2015 Fall Gala, “Home Is Where the HeART Is,” represents for the organization an opportunity to showcase its new media initiatives, and prove to the public (and sponsors) how its artists can achieve economic stability while using their natural gifts and talents.

ss2As most of my team, I truly cared about the issue of homelessness, and I had a chance to give back to the community. Street Sense fights a problem that affects the entire D.C. community, where all of us live, and it was in need of help to reach sponsors for their annual Gala, so this was a win-win opportunity for all of us.

According to an article by NPR, the District of Columbia ranks second in the U.S. for biggest percentage of discretionary income given to charity by typical households. However, Street Sense is located in a crowded market, as Washington D.C. is the leading hub for nonprofits. However, this positive trend makes it even harder for nonprofits to stand out from the crowd and attract donors and sponsors. According to the Nonprofit Finance Fund, in fact, 56 percent of America’s nonprofits could not meet their demands in 2013.

Street Sense wanted also to reach millennials as target audience at its annual Gala. According to an article by Nonprofit Hub, millennials care about issues, not organizations, and they want to see the direct impact of their efforts.

Street Sense has what it takes to reach sponsors and engage millennials: an inspiring mission and powerful storytellers. Therefore, we came up with tailored strategies and a personalized messaging platform for corporate sponsors and millennials. The word “engagement” resonates throughout our plan.

We had to be creative using limited resources to minimize the budget and external costs, which was sometimes a serious challenge. We also had to work on a tight schedule, having only four weeks to develop the plan, but we discovered how passion can make up for shortcomings. Working an average of five to ten hours a week on the project, we were able to gather as many strategies, creative materials and templates as possible, in order to make these plans actionable and, more importantly, sustainable.

Overall, we learned a lot from this project. We learned that there are a lot of nonprofits in the D.C. area looking for sponsors. There are also a lot of sponsors willing to support those organizations, but they need to prove that they are worth their investment with cohesive strategies, creative materials, digital engagement and targeted messaging. To distinguish themselves from the crowd, they need to emphasize the unique experiences their organization has to offer. 

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

This is what we, Claire Bennet, Linda Barnhart, Derika Crowley, Karina Valverde, Candace Kent, LaWanda White and I aimed to do by developing this sponsorship-building plan for Street Sense.

Thank you to all my awesome teammates for insights and feedback!



9 Ways to Use Social Media for Social Good

by Rochelle Ceira

sm4sgIf you’re someone who’s looking forward to bringing a positive change in the community, you’ve probably tried tons of ways to spread the word about your efforts. This could have been done through brand ambassadors, print media, or other promotional content. It can’t be denied that the most powerful source used to “spread the word” is the one welfare organizations thrive on to do their charity work. Today, our task to find this influential source is cut down because we have exactly what is needed to connect to a large audience—the social media.

How can we effectively use the social media for good? That is a brilliant question we are about to answer. It’s not a cinch to create a post that goes viral and thereby creates a movement. Very often, the most informative and useful posts get buried in an avalanche of so many other “news” items on people’s feeds. Even if it does make an impact, you’ll have to keep preserving and upholding the message before it starts to slip out of the public’s awareness and get replaced with another hot new topic.

Here are nine effective ways you can use social media for social good:

  1. To Network with Like organizations: One of the best ways to obtain useful information about a concern is by having a little chitchat with other contacts on the same page. Now, in a normal networking event, you are going to do the same by fishing through the crowd and finding like-minded people willing to give their two cents on a subject. On the social media, however, much of the effort to find and fish through the crowd is reduced. Regardless of which social channel you are using, you can join community groups/ like organizations, follow a relevant hashtag, or add to your list friends and followers that belong to similar organizations. Unlike traditional business, these organizations won’t be your competitors. They will be philanthropic organizations seeking to bring good to the community.
  2. To Connect With Donors: In a traditional non-profit business, where would you look for donors? Set up a stall with a jar of cash? Maybe go door to door and ring bells? Perhaps, ask UK dissertation online services to write about your cause? With the help of social media accounts, you won’t have to go through all that trouble and awkwardness. By creating a sound and solid social presence you will have access to a large community, possibly even an international one. Social media won’t require you to knock on anyone’s door. You will simply share what you have to say or show and the interested bunch of people will show up on their own. No awkwardness, no force needed, and no spammy emails.
  3. To Share the Facts and Figures: Nothing speaks credibility the way research and statistics do. People love getting to know facts and statistics, especially those they were previously unaware of. Social causes always have a range of statistics, research, and knowledge to share to enlighten an audience. The community is most often unacquainted with these facts and figures. Come up with infographs, charts, and creative images that will make effective posts to engage the community as well as enlighten them about bases of your cause.
  4. To Share Stories: A great welfare organization always has great stories to share. These could be narratives of people you’ve helped, videos of tours and experiences, heart-wrenching pictures of those who need help, and other content meant to inspire. Don’t let your success stories go wasted either. Let your audience know how you have been making a difference. If you’re following a cause that is meant to raise awareness, telling stories is one of the best ways to do this.
  5. To Promote and Event: Event promotions are best done on social media these days. Let your fans and followers, as well as the public, know what your organization is arranging for the social cause. With the help of social media, such as Facebook, you can also invite a large number of people and ask them whether they are “going” or “not going” to the event. This will also allow you to judge the number of guests you should be having.
  6. To Get Your Call to Action Out There: The more the displays of your call to action, the better. Social media gives you that advantage. You can put up your call to action anywhere and repeatedly free of cost. This also makes it easier for your potential donors to find a “link” to the right page where they can donate or find information on how to do so.
  7. To Gratify to Your Community: After a charitable donor has submitted his payment, what must you do? Thank him, of course! You can use social media to thank your donor personally with a customized message.
  8. To Celebrate the Voice of the Customer: You don’t always have to be the one to generate content. Sometimes, the voice of a customer speaks even louder than that of the seller. In your case, the customer could be a donor, an internee, or anyone who helped you further your cause. Let the contributors share their experiences with a great story to tell. You can even extend this strategy by sharing posts of other individuals and organizations that share your values and interests. Not all the content you create has to be your own. Why not promote something another crafted for the same purpose as yours?
  9. To Gather Feedback: Social media accounts have tons of raw data that can be effectively transformed into “feedback” and analytics. Apart from being able to generate useful figures, you can also use your social media accounts to conduct survey and polls. Social media provides us with a simple and speedy platform for our market research. This is essential to the success of any cause, business, or initiative where an audience or customer base plays a major role.