Power of Nonprofit Storytelling | My name is Chris: The superpowers of a single stellar story

June 6, 2016


Bernie’s campaign hasn’t just been a campaign. It’s been a medium for national story-telling and soul-searching. For that alone, he and his movement have already won.
-Atif Choudhury

My sentiments exactly. After viewing a four-minute clip released by Bernie’s campaign, I saw Atif’s words, published in the comment section below. You’re probably well aware that Youtube comment forums can be total hell. Especially when overwhelmed with those sparring matches that happen when opponents come to blows on controversial issues, like politics and, in particular, political candidates.

But back to the video, because it’s a prime piece of exemplary storytelling, staying true to who Bernie is and what he’s immersed himself in for the last year. Despite the rampant narcissism, bravado, and bombast this campaign season, Bernie has managed to rise above it all and bring countless others on board along with him. He’s a leader who wears his sincerity, integrity, and independence like a fine suit, with pride. He’s refreshing, and so are some of the positive responses to this recent storytelling installment (especially Atif’s).

So what’s the story? It involves a formerly incarcerated inmate who is still in the process of rebuilding his life. His name is Chris, and he is a Bernie supporter. His voice and his individual experiences are spotlighted, and he has full control of his narrative, which ties in with the heart of the matter: why he supports and is voting for Bernie. I took away a lot from this video, but I’m only going to share a couple of points with you:

  1. One amazing story, told well, is often all you need. When it comes to your organization’s bank of stories, choose quality over quantity, and really flesh each one out into something wonderful.
  2. Notice how, toward the end of the video, Chris’ story is closely woven together with Bernie’s missions, but it’s never all about Bernie. Take note, because your stories should never be all about you, either. You’ve got a variety of amazing individuals with their own unique life experiences, hopes, fears, aspirations, and stuff that makes them tick, so go ahead and take advantage of that. Open the doors, engage with your supporters, and hear them out!

There’s no point in rehashing Chris’ story in full here, because I really want you to watch the video and see it unfold for yourself. It does everything great storytelling is supposed to, and more. It delights, it inspires, it stirs up emotions, it captures the attention and holds it, from start to finish. In this video offering, Bernie’s campaign reminds me so much of Brandon Stanton in that he doesn’t so much serve as a storyteller, but as a story curator. He searches out stories and he spotlights them, illuminating truths about humanity, our world, and why people want to vote for him (and why you should, too).

Special thanks to Fraser Green of the brilliant Canadian Fundraising council Good Works for alerting me to this video. Fraser notes:

“Why are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump doing so well this election cycle? They’re doing best practice marketing, that’s why. While Hillary Clinton talks about policy, procedure and process, Bernie Sanders talks about life – and the struggle that goes hand in hand with living life. Clinton starts with the politician’s job. Sanders starts with the voter’s life. Huge difference. Here’s Sanders’ latest ad, released in California for its upcoming primary. I think it’s going to help him…”

Note: This post does not imply endorsement.

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