I’m a regular watcher of the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams (usually recorded – it’s part of my nightly wind-down routine), and one of my favorite segments is Making a Difference. For the last few years, the Nightly News has regularly run segments on do-gooders. Because these clips are so popular, NBC recently created a special section on its website to feature these stories at makingadifference.msnbc.com.

With very few exceptions, nonprofits are involved in these stories, but barely mentioned in them. Instead, the stories are primarily about individuals working for or with nonprofits, most of them very small. I strongly suggest that you watch several of the video clips. You’ll notice that the nonprofit is typically mentioned only once, if at all, by name. The stories are told from the individual’s perspective. After each segment airs, however, Williams usually refers people to makingadifference.msnbc.com for more information on how to help and that’s where you’ll usually see a link to a nonprofit’s website.

And guess what? It works! It’s not unusual for the charities that are featured to be swamped with inquiries and donations, and for their websites to crash, right after a broadcast, even though the nonprofit organization barely appeared in the story. While sometimes it really is about one individual helping another, there’s almost always a nonprofit behind the scenes. But what’s most important to telling a good story is people helping people, and making things that often seem unlikely, if not downright impossible, happen. That’s compelling, dramatic storytelling about nonprofit causes, and NBC gives you examples of how to do it at least once or twice a week.

Here’s a clip from New Year’s Eve that details just some of the responses from NBC viewers to these reports.

You can nominate someone to be featured in one of the segments. Before you do, watch at least 10 of the videos and storyboard the segment you have in mind, complete with the reporter’s script, before you fill out the form. That will get you away from the too-much background/boring mission statement text you might be tempted to put there. Go through the exercise of visualizing the segment about one person associated with your nonprofit, and then use that to help you describe it in the form.

If NBC does call you, your next call should be to your IT and web development people! Make sure your website can withstand all the views and clicks that will come your way.

Want More Storytelling Help?

We’ll be doing several storytelling webinars in March, including a special e-clinic for 12 nonprofits. Get on the Early Bird list for the Storytelling E-Clinic to be notified first when registration opens.

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