Compelling nonprofit storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to influence supporters and impact people’s lives. A great nonprofit story can inspire lifetime supporters. So, how do you master the art of nonprofit storytelling and motivate your audience to care deeply about your organization’s mission?
To get started, we’ve compiled an essential guide on nonprofit storytelling. With our helpful tips and tactics, your organization can create impactful stories that engage donors and motivate them to give.
What is Nonprofit Storytelling?
Nonprofit storytelling refers to personal and compelling stories told by charitable organizations to show supporters their impact. It’s an effective way to communicate how important the work your organization is doing and how it’s making a difference through impactful stories. Nonprofit stories are most successful when they highlight individuals or communities who have directly benefited from your organization’s work.
Why Nonprofit Storytelling Matters
Impactful storytelling is a great nonprofit strategy for creating an emotional connection between your organization’s mission and its audience. Done effectively, nonprofit storytelling can be one of your organization’s most valuable marketing tools.
Take a look at some of the top benefits of powerful nonprofit storytelling:
- It stirs up emotions among your donors, often motivating them to give
- It creates a connection between your supporters and the beneficiaries
- It can add value to your nonprofit’s brand
- It shows how your nonprofit is making a difference
- It communicates specific problems and outlines solutions
Nonprofit Storytelling Essentials
Nonprofit stories can be a powerful way to engage donors and supporters. The key is in how you tell your story—and what you include in the telling. Here are three essentials for communicating your nonprofit story effectively:
Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. There’s no exception when it comes to nonprofit storytelling. This is what you’re looking for when outlining your impactful story:
Start strong and grab the audience’s attention.
- Introduce the main character(s), how they face a set of circumstances that have led them to reach out for help, and their goal.
- Keep this part brief, so your reader isn’t overwhelmed with too much information – you want them to keep reading.
This is the heart and soul of your nonprofit story.
- Illustrate the turning point in your main character’s life.
- Talk about what actions they are taking with the support of your nonprofit’s services to pursue their goal.
This part of the nonprofit story serves as a conclusion.
- Celebrate how the main character’s life and circumstances have changed and improved thanks to your organization’s services.
- Make a connection to the beginning, provide a solution to the challenges faced, and comment on the character’s new bright future, including some positive achievements.
- Add a clear call-to-action to inspire your audience to continue the good work and improve the lives of others in similar situations and need.
How do you start an amazing nonprofit story? There are some things nonprofits need to ask in order to determine the direction of their storytelling.
Consider these important questions to get inspired, understand your mission and supporters better, and improve your nonprofit storytelling skills:
- How does your nonprofit change lives?
- What does your organization do that no one else does?
- How does your organization solve problems for its members and community?
- How does it engage its volunteers and community members or partners?
- What do your donors care about?
- Are there themes that connect more than others?
3. Emotion and Empathy
Successful nonprofit stories are both engaging and meaningful. But how do you master this effective combination successfully? The answer is simple – it’s all about emotion.
Why make storytelling meaningful?
- Too often, stories are told with an emotional detachment which can feel superficial and even disheartening.
- It’s vital to consider how your donors personally identify with the problem and the solution.
- Telling impactful stories inspires people to care deeply about what your nonprofit is doing and raises the likelihood of receiving more generous donations.
- The key to success is communicating a sense of empathy to your audience. You need to be able to see yourself in their shoes, suffer with them, and feel their challenges and triumphs.
- Creating a nonprofit story that is so compelling will inspire people to keep reading and supporting your organization for years to come.
6 Best Nonprofit Storytelling Tactics
The nonprofit world is full of stories. So, how does your organization stand out above the crowd? Here are six useful tactics to help you master the art of nonprofit storytelling:
Nonprofit Storytelling Tactic #1: Choose the Right Story
This is the first vital step in your nonprofit storytelling process. Choosing the most impactful stories from your organization’s work will be a team effort. More likely than not, the best stories will come from people working onsite in the communities that your nonprofit is supporting. Collaborate with staff, volunteers, and donors to share their stories.
Nonprofit Storytelling Tactic #2: Be Personal
Remember to write personal stories about real people while making the story relatable. Add visuals such as photos of the beneficiary to make it heartfelt, keep the reader’s interest, and make it memorable.
Nonprofit Storytelling Tactic #3: Be Credible
Collect measurable statistics that support your work when you’re marketing your mission. The nonprofit story you tell has to be real and credible. Credibility is something every nonprofit needs to retain donors.
Nonprofit Storytelling Tactic #4: Be Relevant
Tell an impactful story of what your organization is doing now, your plans for the future, and how your organization fits into current trends and opportunities. This should include digital platforms and nonprofit video storytelling to show your supporters how your nonprofit embraces innovation and keeps up with tech trends.
Nonprofit Storytelling Tactic #5: Be Consistent
Stay on track, and don’t digress. This is helpful if you’re trying to engage audience members who are easily distracted. Remember to always connect your story back to your nonprofit mission.
Nonprofit Storytelling Tactic #6: Be Specific
Use clear and persuasive language when describing your nonprofit story. If it’s too complex or inaccessible, your audience could get confused or overwhelmed and stop reading.
Where to Post Impactful Stories
The answer to where you should post your nonprofit stories is everywhere! Start sharing your impactful stories:
- On social media pages such as Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn
- Email campaigns
- End-of-year appeals
- Appreciation letters
- On your nonprofit website, fundraising website, and donation pages
- Nonprofit video storytelling on YouTube, Instagram Stories, and Facebook. These can also be used during fundraisers and virtual events.
Conclusions on Storytelling for Nonprofits
The best nonprofit storytellers are those that know their audience inside-out. They know which campaigns work well (or don’t work at all), which messages resonate most with their supporters (and why), which resources will resonate best with them, and so on. Ultimately, the right story, told in a compelling and memorable way, can inspire your donors to give generously and make them lifelong supporters.