father and daughter

Powerful Narratives that Lead to Changed Lives


There are over 140 million orphans in the world. That’s 17 New York Cities. A huge need exists for these kids to find permanent, loving homes. However, many families never consider adoption. And those who do soon encounter a long, difficult process.

Why Do People Adopt?

We worked with Bethany, the largest adoption agency in the country, to better understand what motivates a person to consider adoption and, ultimately, decide to adopt.

FiveStone led a qualitative, ethnographic research project talking to families who had considered adoption but decided to abandon the process or never start it. We also spoke to families who completed the adoption process. We found that most people viewed the adoption process as long, complex, and expensive. On top of that, most viewed adoption as something you did to “get a child.”

Low fidelity wireframe sample

Changing the Narrative

We found an interesting thread among families who had adopted: for them, adoption was a “calling.” Based on this insight, we flipped the narrative from “can I get a child” to “adoption is a calling to help a child find a home.” This reframing eroded the major mental obstacles to adoption.

FiveStone then created a national campaign strategy that leveraged two types of content. First, we incorporated content that changed the narrative about adoption using a push and pull approach. We pushed content to community leaders and potential adopters with this worldview-shifting perspective. We also pulled in potential adopters by exposing them to stories of adoption happening in their social circle and community. Second, we developed practical content that would help potential adopters navigate the process and overcome the hurdles they might face. We designed and managed this national campaign for two years.

Adoption Journey design application

Adoption is Everywhere

To increase exposure to the topic of adoption and provide potential adopters with the resources they would need to begin their adoption journey, FiveStone extended the campaign beyond the services of Bethany and assembled strategic partnerships with top non-profits. This allowed us to create a national directory of local, trusted adoption agencies and the first peer-to-peer fundraising platform for adoptive families.

Representatives from the campaign participated in a White House meeting on adoption hosted by the Obama administration.

National Adoption Month proclamation

In addition to national and local media coverage, the campaign team was presented a national leadership award for “making a significant difference in the lives of families.”

“FiveStone cared about our organization and our campaign, but more importantly, they cared about our cause. It was clear from the passion they brought to the project that we were not just ‘another client.’”

Marc Andreas | Vice-President of Marketing (former), Bethany

Things to Remember

  • Uncover and deconstruct existing narratives. Before you can shift the narrative around a topic, it’s critical to have an understanding of the current narrative, including the deeper emotions and beliefs that underpin it. Use conversations with the target audience to answer the following questions: What do people believe? Why do they believe that? What parts of their identity, needs, emotions, beliefs, or relationships are supporting this narrative?

  • Feature success stories for inspiration. In our work with Bethany, we talked with couples who had successfully adopted to understand how they thought. This gave us insight about what drivers and narrative elements would lead someone toward adoption so we could incorporate that narrative into our campaign.

  • Partner with strategic allies. Partnering with adjacent entities helps get the message out to a larger audience. Look for partners in different realms of influence (media, government, businesses, other nonprofits, etc.), even if they may not initially seem to be connected to your cause. The more widely you partner the more opportunity you have to reach a broad audience.

See the full case study on how FiveStone helped start a national conversation about adoption.