Ever think about how surprising it is that most of us remember stories from our childhood? That just goes to show how powerful a tool storytelling is — it takes facts and adds emotional context that helps imprint those details into the minds of those hearing the story. In this article, we will look at reasons why storytelling is an important marketing tool and how nonprofits can craft the perfect stories that will reach potential donors and motivate them to get involved.
Why are stories such powerful communication tools?
- Stories are ubiquitous – Great stories have the power to impact one and all, at any point in time and anywhere.
- Stories are contagious – It is stories that differentiate brands in a world of clutter. It’s stories that have the ability to catch fire and go viral.
- Stories are timeless – Provided that the content is authentic, the same stories can be told across time zones and geographies, and their impact doesn’t fade as the years go on.
- Stories are inspiring – Stories humanize organizations and help establish connections with your stakeholders. Personally resonating stories boost donors’ confidence in associating with your nonprofit.
- Stories are sticky – Stories that make the right impression are remembered forever.
Sound like a no-brainer to include storytelling as part of your organization’s content strategy, right? The good news is that there are plenty of stories you can tell. These may include stories about your cause, your vision, your organization’s culture, your impact, your beneficiaries, your volunteers, and so much more.
Structure of a powerful story
Every good story follows a structure and this is usually three parts.
- Beginning – this is where you can establish the base reality, define the context, or focus on the build-up.
- Middle – use this part to highlight the struggles, pain points, complications that your nonprofit, or main subject of your story, is trying to fight.
- End – The inspiring resolution — how did your organization step up to the plate to solve the problem or conflict? What is the lasting impact of your work?
Tips for coming up with compelling stories
Make it real – Use the voices of your donors, beneficiaries, volunteers, the founders and have them speak from their hearts. Showcase their stories in whatever medium works best — video recordings, audio recordings, text snippets, testimonials, etc.
Make it personal – With every story that you are going to narrate, keep your end viewer in mind and narrate stories that will resonate with them. What narrative will compel them to support your organization?
Show, don’t tell – A picture speaks a thousand words and a video speaks a thousand pictures. If you have the resources, consider creating video stories and testimonials of your beneficiaries and volunteers. If you aren’t able to use video storytelling, the next best option is to include relevant imagery within your written stories.
Now, tell your story.
Step 1 – Identify the problem – What is the obstacle or issue your nonprofit’s mission is trying to overcome?
Step 2 – Identify the message – What is the ultimate message you want to send potential donors and supporters? For most nonprofits, this message is usually something along the lines of, “Here is the problem, and here is how you can help solve it.”
Step 3 – Plan the structure – Use a storyboard to plan out the story you want to tell, ensuring that it has a clear beginning, middle, and end, and that it includes step 1 and 2 of this list: identifies the problem and has a clear message.
Step 4 – Finally, tell the story – Once you’ve created a coherent, well-structured story, it’s important that you give your organization’s story a well-lived life by distributing it across all possible channels. If it’s in video form, consider creating two different versions — a short version for social media like Instagram Stories and posts, and a slightly longer version that can be posted on Instagram TV or uploaded to Facebook and YouTube. If you create a written story, be sure that it is well-designed and visually compelling, so that it draws engagement on your website, in emails, in newsletters, etc.
Now that you have all the required knowledge to narrate your nonprofit organization’s beautiful stories, it is time for you to put this knowledge into action and make the most out of this powerful communication tool for your NPO.
Remember, every brand has a story to tell, but nonprofit organizations have stories waiting to be heard.