Power of Storytelling | 5 Tips For Bringing Your Nonprofit’s Stories to Life

August 21, 2018

Hopefully, you’re already aware of how vital stories are to your nonprofit and its donor communications. I’m sure you can tell folks all about your various programs, and you can probably even spout off the kind of statistics that explain why your work is important and necessary. But those things won’t motivate your supporters to give like a great story will. We make decisions based on our emotions. Narratives containing an emotionally compelling hook have the power to trigger your donors’ imaginations and will be far more effective in getting them to give, and give generously. You want to create the kind of content that inspires. In last Thursday’s Grow Report, I asked you this question:

What’s your organization’s million dollar story?

Chances are, your org has more than one million dollar story. But how can you illuminate your narratives and bring them to life? How can you ensure that they’ve got that compelling factor and inspire your supporters to give? Great storytelling, along with what it takes to make it happen, is something you should reflect on consistently. When you put out a great story, would you stop there? Nope. You keep on going. Think of your own storytelling as a work-in-progress — or, even better — as a journey. Whether you’ve been feeling stuck or you’re confident you’re well on your way to crafting stellar stories, here are a few tips to help you along your storytelling journey.

  1. Feature a share-your-story page on your org’s website. This kind of space not only opens an invitation to your supporters and allows them to use their voice but serves as a highly effective way for you to collect stories for your story bank. You won’t make your supporters feel anything by explaining your org’s impact. But when a donor shares their story, you’re showing who you’ve impacted. Showing is key, and only stories can show.
  2. Weave your stories into a digital campaign. The many different available social media platforms out there provide an opportunity for you to build a network of stories in the form of a digital campaign. By building these connections, you can develop storytelling that is both cohesive and compelling, as well as relevant and accessible.
  3. Understand that emotion is key when it comes to telling your org’s stories. Emotion can empower. It can grant you the strength to take risks. Always think about the outcome. How will it make your readers feel? There are infinite ways to inject emotion into a story and achieve a compelling outcome. You can aim for humor and or even shock (again, taking a risk). The choice is yours. You can’t expect to grow your storytelling through a one-size-fits all approach. It’s all about what’s right for your nonprofit and its unique mission and work.
  4. Keep it transparent. Being transparent means being honest. Sometimes, this also means putting yourself in a vulnerable position. When something goes wrong, be open with your donors about it. You’ll find that transparency in storytelling often goes hand-in-hand with emotion, as there lies risks in vulnerability. How much do you want to share? How much should you share? Know your donors and follow your instincts. That’ll help you figure it out.
  5. Give your donors an opportunity to live out interactive storytelling experiences. The lived experiences of your donors are always worth hearing about. We’ve talked about putting your donors in the center of your stories and making them the hero, as well as creating spaces for them to share their personal stories. But what about giving them the chance to experience your vital work in action and live out their own unique story? What could be more memorable than a real time experience? They won’t forget it, or you.

Have some tried and true storytelling tips of your own? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

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