15 Oct SIX TIPS FOR GREAT NONPROFIT STORYTELLING
CHRIS ELDER, PRINCIPAL, FMG
You’ve heard it a hundred times. Storytelling is critical to nonprofit organization success. Why? People respond to stories more than facts, figures, and bullet points. And storytelling, done right, can capture people’s attention, make them care about your cause, and in the process, care about your nonprofit. Stories bring your cause and organization to life and can compel people to act: to give, to follow, or to get involved. Once you’ve created that emotional connection, then your audience is more receptive to all of the rational, data-driven evidence that demonstrates how impactful and effective your organization is. The emotional and rational work together, in that order, to drive people’s behavior. With the power and accessibility of digital tools and technology, every organization – big, small, for-profit, non-profit – even yours, is in the storytelling business. Here are six tips to be a more-effective nonprofit storyteller.
1. Define your differentiators
What makes your organization unique? What makes your approach different from other NPOs? Develop key messages about your organization that you consistently use across platforms and audiences. Use these core messages to created bridges that relate storytelling to your organization.
2. Know your audience
Who are they and what will resonate with them? You may need to make multiple versions of the same story to highlight what matters most to your audience and what emotional impact you want to have on them. Action step: Start building a list. Across the top place your key audiences. In the first row, write down your specific goal for that audience. In the second row, write down what key messages will resonate with each audience.
3. Ask for action
Consider what action you want your audiences to take once they have heard your story. Be specific. For donors, ask for money and articulate how much, why, and when it is needed. For advocates, ask them to contact elected officials and influencers by an exact deadline. Action step: Add to the list you started. Make a row for the precise actions you want each of your target audiences to take after hearing your story.
4. Inventory your stories
Collect stories from around your organization that illustrate your impact and write them down. Each story should follow a linear path: think beginning, middle, and end. Introduce one character, and describe their current situation. Build tension surrounding the character by introducing an additional obstacle or describe how the situation could get without intervention. Tell how your organization acted heroically to help and resolve the tension (or how your organization could intervene). Action step: After writing down your stories, add another row to your list for the names of the stories that are most relevant for each audience.
5. Don’t forget to tell your own story
Most of the stories we’ve been describing are about your cause and the impact you are having on other people. Donors, supporters, and potential employees also want to know about you. How and why did you start your organization? What do you believe and value? What is your vision for a better world? Emotionally compelling stories about your organization and its people are a powerful complement to stories about the impact you are having. Action step: Add your internal organization stories to the list, mapping them to the most relevant for audiences.
6. Know your audience’s media preferences
A single story can be told in multiple media: video, photos, text content on digital platforms, donor letters, annual report sidebars, etc. Think about the venues where you will tell the story. A compelling video may be best for the annual gala fundraiser. High quality photos are useful in social media, annual reports, print collateral, and for the press. (Photos have been proven to drive significantly higher engagement in social media.) Descriptive text is need for donor letters, web content, and grant applications. Action step: Add a final row to your list for the media types that will be most effective with each audience. Follow these six steps and you will have a blue print for better storytelling at your organization. Use the list you’ve created to prioritize the audiences, stories, and formats you will need to guide your communications and more effectively accomplish your nonprofit organization’s marketing goals. At FMG, we’re strategists and storytellers that love to work in service to others. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you tell more impactful stories about your nonprofit or organization.