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Have you ever been splashed by Shamu? You are among the last generation that ever will. Last week SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Inc. announced some huge news: it will stop breeding captive killer whales. Not only that, but its ending the theatrical orca shows. The changes mark a staggering change in the company’s business model.

This is big news, in part, because this comes after a steady stream of criticism—especially on social media—about the treatment of whales and the safety of trainers at SeaWorld. SeaWorld has seen a steady decline in attendance at its three parks ever since the film Blackfish was released. The company’s stock prices have dropped by more than half over the last three years.

The documentary Blackfish examined the death of a trainer who had been killed by one of SeaWorld’s orca whales. The theme park has been under scrutiny by activists ever since. Critics have taken to social media to demand that SeaWorld end its orca breeding program.

So what does this have to do with your nonprofit?

It’s two-fold.

1. Social media and film are powerful tools for changemakers. No previous generation has had the opportunity to reach more people with a message than we have today. Social media is the great equalizer of messaging. Anyone can build a platform. And the medium of film is powerful. Film gives you the opportunity to pull back the curtain on the impact that your organization has. Use both in concert for maximum effect.

2. It’s essential to adapt and change over time. There was a time when people thought nothing of enormous animals swimming around in a giant fish bowl at SeaWorld. It was even thought of as “educational”—certainly not “cruel.” But popular opinion shifts. Cultural norms change. Some nonprofits don’t realize the world has passed them by. Nonprofits have to be ready to adapt. Are you connecting people with a cause they are passionate about?

Times were getting desperate for SeaWorld. They had to change or risk closure. Don’t let your organization get to that point. Use the tools you have around you to share the story of your beneficiaries with your donors.

To learn more about how to unlock the potential within storytelling, download the free resource: the Ultimate Storytelling Kit for Fundraisers.


What Your Nonprofit Can Learn from SeaWorld’s Decision to End Orca Breeding