10 Tips for Telling Your Nonprofits Story

10 Tips for Telling Your Nonprofit’s Story

If storytelling isn’t already a part of your nonprofit’s marketing plan, it’s time to think about incorporating it.

Storytelling brings in an audience and establishes an emotional relationship with not only your current members but people interested in donating or volunteering to your nonprofit organization. Donors and volunteers are looking for meaning behind your work, and want to get involved in something much bigger than themselves.

Storytelling shows that your nonprofit is relatable, transformative, and trustworthy, and something people can believe in. Just like people relate to movies and TV shows, people will see your story and be drawn to potentially becoming a donor or volunteer, and that relationship will only continue to grow stronger as they learn more about your mission.

Storytelling sets you apart, and drives for action. Allowing people to see your nonprofit’s personality and understand the great work you do will push them to get involved. Whether they sign up for your newsletter, volunteer, make a donation, or even become a board member, storytelling is a unique marketing strategy that engages with people on their level, and encourages them to seek more information and get involved. Here are 10 tips for telling your nonprofit’s story:

1. Be clear and grab your reader's attention.

To appreciate the impact of your work, you need to make your stories captivating and easy to follow. Make your story clear and focus on why your nonprofit exists, what it hopes to accomplish, who you’re advocating for, and why the reader should care. But regardless of how good a story is, it needs to grab the reader’s attention from start to finish. People’s attention spans are short, so be sure to get to your message fast.

2. Have a beginning, middle, and end.

Every good story has a structure that includes a beginning, middle, and an end. Giving your story a clear structure helps your cause become more than an abstract mixture of ideas. A strong story structure takes readers on a concrete journey where they learn about your cause (beginning), see the problem (middle), and see how you’re making an impact (end).

3. Use real examples and outcomes.

Strive to use real examples and outcomes over statistics when telling your story. Statistics do have a place in your nonprofit’s story, but are primarily support for your big picture vision, which needs to emotionally engage and move to action. Put a ‘face’ on the numbers by relating them to real life examples and stories about your nonprofit’s work.

Be genuine and authentic. For example, if you’re telling a story about scholarships you gave out last year, highlight a few of the recipients and how the scholarship made a difference in their education and life. Demonstrate how the gifts allowed people to attend college, go to night school, or get an education while working part-time. This will help you build an emotional connection, and real world stories are a great way to show how your work has helped change lives.

4. Know your audience.

To ensure your nonprofit storytelling forms a connection with readers and drives meaningful value for your mission, you'll need to know your audience. Taking the time to know exactly who you’re talking to and finding out elements that resonate with them can go a long way for your nonprofit.

5. Stay away from ‘salesy’ language.

Using salesy and industry-specific language can defeat the purpose of storytelling. Too much clinical language can impede someone from understanding and connecting with your organization, so it’s important to make sure your story can be easily understood by readers.

6. Use your website and social media.

Each page on your website and each post on your various social media accounts is a chance to tell a story, and cross-promoting your content will help you reach a larger audience.

Social media offers great tools that are perfect for storytelling, and allow for instant feedback and ways to lead potential donors straight to your website and donation page. Be sure to have a set schedule for posting fresh content and share stories in the most appropriate format for the social media channel you’re posting on.

Websites are great opportunities for nonprofits to show their supporters the big picture of their mission. This can be strengthened by using the space to highlight detailed, individual stories. This can be done through homepage spotlights, fundraising pages, and a mission page.

7. Use visuals.

Make your story multimedia friendly. Visual mediums like videos, photography, infographics, or even cartoons and drawings will stand out in a sea of text and draw the reader’s attention. Videos don’t have to be super-high quality, and can be shot on an iPhone. You can even cut your video into smaller segments for your social media accounts, and use a quote from the video to promote or use in your next newsletter, too.

8. Make it a conversation.

You don’t want to talk at your audience, but show them your story. Make your story a two-way conversation by asking donors and volunteers what they think about your work, why they are interested in your mission, and how they would like to get involved. You can do so by sending out donor surveys, inviting readers to send in stories about your work, asking readers to share pictures from your events on social media, and asking donors for their advice.

9. Keep stories relevant.

Be sure to only share relevant stories and information, and choose stories that best reflect your organization’s mission and core values. Try to use the same tone in your stories that you use in your overall brand, but avoid getting side-tracked by irrelevant details.

10. Include a call to action.

If you tell a good story, your readers will be motivated to donate to your organization. At the end of each story you tell, leave a call to action that is relevant to the story. This could be a donation button, link to volunteer opportunities, or other easy readers can get involved in your nonprofit.

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