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Sharing Effective Climate Stories: 7 Resources for Nonprofits

When you talk about burning fossil fuels, you could say that it produces one of two things: greenhouse gases or heat-trapping pollution. What’s the difference? “Heat-trapping pollution” speaks to both the cause (pollution) and the consequences (heat-trapping), while “greenhouse gases” feels more like a science vocabulary term—and the public responds accordingly.

In today’s political landscape, there’s a fine line between confusion, polarization, and mobilization. And on climate change, every message counts. The stories we share—in our writing, our images, and our design—have the power to change hearts and minds. 

Thankfully, academics, organizers, and communicators have been advancing research that gets to the heart of the question: How do we change hearts and minds on the most pressing issues of our time? To help you share effective climate stories—stories that maximize engagement and minimize disaffection—we’ve compiled a list of resources nonprofits can use to understand which frames, messages, and images resonate best with the public. 

1. The Right Words Are Crucial to Solving Climate Change

When it comes to climate change communications, some terms are polarizing, some are wonky, and others are downright confusing. This article outlines some of the most common polarizing or confusing climate phrases and offers alternatives. Take “restricting pollution”, which is unpopular with conservatives and swap in a solution that “innovates”; or look at “greenhouse gases” and swap in “heat-trapping pollution” to get to the heart of the problem. When we’re working to solve an issue as existential as climate change, mobilizing as many people as possible matters—and to do that, our words matter. You can use this resource to make sure you’re using the right words to mobilize on climate. 

2. Research-backed Framing Tips

Researchers and scientists at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health deal with climate change—and its public health consequences—a lot. Together with science communication research experts, the team has put together a list of steps you can use to help you frame the climate crisis to maximize engagement and mobilization. From “frame climate as a public health issue” to advice on how to “get ahead of barriers” this article distills some of the best research into practical communications frames. 

3. Examples of Effective Climate Framing for Nonprofits

Nonprofits play a key role in advancing solutions, mobilization, and knowledge on the climate crisis. That’s why I partnered with nonprofit communications specialist, MK Moore, to identify effective climate frames and examples that organizations can use to inspire their climate messaging. Together, we identified nine best practices for telling effective, ethical visual and verbal stories on climate and included examples of organizations that nail the best practices, which range from “leverage narrative storytelling” to “ethical storytelling” practices. 

4. Communicating Climate Change Webinar 

Climate change has a branding problem,” is a bold statement, but thankfully, there are powerful solutions. In this insight, I break down the key learnings from Professor Melissa Aronczyk’s webinar on climate change communications. In the webinar, she shares “the three realities” of climate change: Climate change affects everything, climate change is something everybody needs to talk about, and climate change is very hard to talk about. Use the article or webinar to learn more about how to overcome the difficulties of communicating on climate change. 

5. Examples of Climate Change Imagery 

“Extreme weather” as opposed to climate change, can be a more effective motivator for mobilizing potential victims of extreme weather events to prepare for a crisis. This speaks to a larger phenomena: extreme weather is more palatable to climate skeptics than climate change. But how do we visually demonstrate extreme weather events? This article helps you utilize one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal for sharing the impact of climate change. In “How to Show Climate Change in Images,” you’ll find useful, practical tips for visually representing the climate crisis. 

6. Seven Climate Visual Principles

In this article, “The Power of Imagery to Communicate the Urgency of Acting Now,” we get excellent tips on how our imagery can not just bring people on board for the realities of climate change, but how it can also spring people into action. Complete with seven climate visual principles, the resources explore the need to show real people, understand your audience, make it local, and more in order to spark action on climate. 

7. Six Ways to Change Hearts and Minds about Climate Change

For organizers, the phrase “change hearts and minds” is almost cliche—but on climate, it’s one of our most effective levers for change. Changing hearts and minds means you’re getting skeptics to believe and act on climate. The Frameworks Institute is a think-tank dedicated to helping mission-driven organizations with research-backed communications strategies. On this page, they translate research into practice to share six tips to frame climate change to improve public understanding and inspire action.

More About Climate Stories

If you’re interested in seeing the learnings from these resources in action, explore our insight Effective Climate Communication Frames for Nonprofits & Examples That Inspire Action

About the Author

Kaylee Gardner

Kaylee Gardner

Kaylee is Constructive’s Digital Strategist, specializing in combining quantitative and qualitative research to drive audience engagement and sustain brand relationships that create positive change. She combines analytical and creative thinking to identify trends and patterns—translating what the research can tell us to deepen understanding of how social impact brands can connect with the needs and motivations of their audiences. Kaylee is a graduate from Stevens Institute where she received a B.S. in Business and Technology with concentrations in Marketing and Information Systems, and then an M.B.A. in Business Intelligence and Analytics. As a student she dedicated herself to volunteer work—serving for four years on a student advisory board focusing on school and student experience improvement, curriculum changes, and bringing administrative attention to student concerns. Outside of work she can be found taking dance classes, working on crochet projects, reading, or drinking iced coffee year round.

More about Kaylee Gardner
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