Whether it’s written in a marketing email, presented during a speech at a large donor event, or told in a one-on-one elevator pitch, the story of your nonprofit’s “why?” should be prepared to make maximum impact with each retelling. Impactful storytelling has always been important, but has recently solidified itself as an indispensable and crucial marketing skill.
Institutions, like top-tier Georgetown University, recognize this trend and offer post-grad certifications in topics like “social impact storytelling”. Additionally, technological advances have led to social media making good stories go viral.
In the nonprofit sector, it’s important to utilize stories so that donors and supporters feel connected to the mission and can see the impact your organization has in the world.
1. Determine Your Story Type
Perhaps your origin story is the most impactful — your founder saw an issue in the world and decided to do something about it. Your story sounds something like: From humble beginnings of passing out sandwiches from the back of his truck, his organization now feeds 5,000 of the city’s homeless daily.
Or it could be the story of an individual or group that your nonprofit helped and is emblematic of the issue the organization is trying to fight. It might go: John Smith had been incarcerated for five years, but your organization took on his case and worked with his lawyer to gather the facts that ultimately set him free.
Maybe your story paints a picture of how things were before your organization changed a city, town, or community’s reality, such as: The creeks of Anytown, USA were polluted until your organization came in and began the clean up, garnered public support, and worked for legislation that keeps waterways clean.
2. Put Together the Essential Parts of a Good Story
Memorable stories share a few common features that make them particularly impactful to listeners. These include:
- Relatable character(s) – Maybe this is your founder or someone that you serve. Either way, the main character should be someone your listeners relate with in some way.
- A simple plot with some kind of conflict and resolution – This should be the easy part, since your organization most likely provides services to alleviate some societal ill.
- Humanity and/or a call to empathy – Use examples of the hardship or emotional strife of your character or the challenge of fighting the issue(s) that your organization grapples with to humanize your story and inspire empathy in your listener, if appropriate.
3. Add Some Supporting Details
Once you have the essentials in place, drive your impactful storytelling home with little details. You might share details, like the cute name and description of a certain pet, for example, in order to draw support for your animal rescue.
Statistics and relevant research may also aid your storytelling, depending on your niche and mission. Pick a simple stat or two to add to your of the story to let donors and supporters know that your organization is truly making a difference.
This is also where financial storytelling can come into play. After all, your potential donors want real numbers to rely on when committing to your nonprofit.