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Tips for effectively telling your nonprofit’s story

When discussing a client’s marketing needs, one of the most common requests I receive is for help “telling their story.” While storytelling has quickly become a buzz word in the marketing world, it is an important part of any company’s messaging strategy. When developed and executed correctly, storytelling can help nonprofits build and engage loyal donor and client bases that become essential brand ambassadors for your cause.

However, developing a strategy for effective storytelling can often feel overwhelming. Many nonprofits are short-staffed and operating on tight budgets. You know you have a compelling story to share, but you may be struggling to find the time and resources needed to develop the right message and strategy to share that story. Here are five tips to help you get the storytelling process started.

1. Make it relatable.

Your nonprofit’s daily operations and fundraising efforts aim to achieve your mission. Your messaging and storytelling efforts should as well. You, your staff and your donors understand your impact, but consider the way complete strangers regard your organization. Do they understand what you are trying to accomplish? Why should they care, and more importantly, do they care? Give your audience specific details to add a human element to your story. Tell them exactly who you are helping and explain the obstacle you are alleviating. If you can, focus on real people you’ve impacted. By focusing on real community members, you can put a face and name to the people you help and identify exactly how you made a difference in their lives. This kind of narrative is more engaging than a broad description of your mission and services.

2. Engage your supporters.

Not sure where to start looking for the right stories? Start by talking to your donors and clients. Think about the people who have already positioned themselves as champions of your organization. They are likely ready and willing to share the reasons they got involved and their understanding of the importance of your organization with others. Likewise, think about people you have helped through your organization who have stuck in your mind. Why did their story stay with you? Is it a story that bears repeating? Consider connecting with them and asking if they are willing to share their story to help you connect with the greater community and spread the word about your nonprofit.

3. Focus on one story at a time.

Once you do your research, you will likely identify several real, impactful stories you can focus on sharing. Don’t try to tackle them all at once. Identify one story that you think will resonate with your audience and take the time to craft it for multiple mediums. Talk to the clients or donors you are profiling in the story to add their point of view to the message. Gather video or photos to add a visual element. Consider how the story fits into your overall marketing strategy and identify the correct mediums through which you can share it. Maybe it makes sense to use it in a newsletter with a corresponding social post. Or, maybe it can drive a larger campaign, fitting into a video, annual appeal campaign and more. Adjusting the story so that it can be used in a variety of ways is a great way to emphasize different aspects of the message. It is also beneficial for nonprofits who are working with small budgets. Developing one story and reshaping it to work in multiple contexts will save you time and money in the long run. Once you’ve developed and properly shared this story, move on to writing and crafting the next one.

4. Incorporate statistics.

Emotional connection makes for great storytelling, but statistics give your story depth. Once your audience is drawn in by the people and situations you are describing, statistics can provide more context to the broader issue at hand. Identify the data that most effectively describes the problem your nonprofit is working to solve and weave it into your story to emphasize both the importance of addressing the problem and the work your organization is doing to combat it. The combination of real people’s stories and hard data can communicate direct impact, which will resonate with potential donors who are looking to make a measurable difference.

5. Include a call to action.

Your audience feels inspired by your story and wants to learn more. Make sure you tell them what to do next! Whether you are asking for donations, searching for volunteers or just looking to build brand awareness, you need to include a call to action in every story you share. This could be as simple as driving them to your website to make a donation or encouraging them to get in touch for more information. Be sure to include your contact information so they know who they should talk to and how to get a hold of you. While you craft your story, keep your call to action in mind the entire time. It should drive the narrative you are developing, inform the platforms you share through and is an essential part of your storytelling strategy.

Storytelling is an important and necessary part of your marketing strategy. No matter where your nonprofit is in the story development process, these tips should help you refocus your efforts, align your goals and craft a compelling message.


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