What Can Nonprofits Learn from Kony 2012 Two Years Later?

Remember a couple of years ago when Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video, about the central African warlord, went viral? It kept popping up in my Facebook newsfeed for weeks. And remember how, almost as quickly, Invisible Children’s credibility took a huge nosedive?

With Kony back in the headlines last week, NPR decided to take a look at the lessons we can all draw from Invisible Children’s mistakes and successes. And it’s ultimately a lesson on the power of storytelling—but only if effectively directed toward a tangible goal.

Invisible Children’s video was a “beautifully produced and emotionally powerful” example of nonprofit storytelling at its finest.

Solid groundwork laid by the organization before the video’s release helped ensure it would go viral. (It currently has over 99,000,000 hits on YouTube. Wow.) And because of its wide reach, it certainly raised awareness of the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.

But, according to NPR’s analysis, the campaign had a massive flaw: “It didn’t offer people whose attention was drawn by the video a way to do much about the problem of violence in central Africa.”

There was no solid call to action. Couple that with questions about the organization’s leadership and overall strategy, and you’ve got a true case of lost potential.

Raising awareness on any social issue is commendable. But at the end of the day, if your supporters don’t know how to help you accomplish your work, the slickest video or shiniest billboard or snazziest 4-color direct mail piece isn’t going to help you.

Check out the full NPR story (featuring great analysis from Allison Fine and Beth Kanter, among others) here, and think about what lessons your organization can learn from Kony 2012.

– Posted by Julie Price.


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