Storytelling should be a priority at your nonprofit. It’s one of the seven writing styles that all nonprofit communicators should master. There are many reasons why storytelling works so well and lots of proof that it pays off.
What Makes a Good Nonprofit Story?
Good stories are meaningful and memorable. The best stories feel alive.
Most importantly, they should not be pointless. Put your stories to work!
One way to do that is to ask, what should our stories really be about? It’s rarely about the straight facts. Instead, it’s about what people are experiencing and how they feel as they move through life. For example, a “founding” story is a purposeful nonprofit story.
Need more inspiration to get started? Check out these eight storytelling tips from a nonprofit comms pro.
Our Favorite Nonprofit Storytelling Plots
There are a million ways to tell a good story, but we suggest you find and follow a few basic patterns that work for you.
We like these three story plots and teach them all the time:
Just having trouble getting started? Here are some nonprofit story starters!
Where Nonprofit Storytelling Can Go Wrong
Make sure your nonprofit’s storytelling doesn’t suffer from main character syndrome. This, along with many other bad practices, can perpetuate harm. Mark Horvath also shares some great advice from his experiences telling the stories of people experiencing homelessness.
If you will be regularly telling stories, you should create a storyteller’s bill of rights.
Getting Help from Others to Tell Your Stories
Capturing success stories and sharing them can be very powerful. However, discovering stories in the first place can be difficult. This is especially true if you help others indirectly and are a bit removed from the action. You can have colleagues look out for good stories to tell. Your staff and board can help too.
When you do find a great story, make sure you can get top mileage out of it. It’s also vital that people can share your stories easily. Or you can also include the option for them to share theirs.
Building Stories into Your Content Calendar
There are so many ways that nonprofits can use storytelling. In fact, if you develop enough stories, you can actually use them as the backbone of your editorial calendar.
To do so, you need to understand the concept of story arcs. Arcs are especially helpful when you want to show progress through storytelling.
Here’s a Nonprofit Storytelling Q & A addressing some additional questions.