Compelling storytelling is an invaluable tool to the innovative nonprofit that wants to stand out from the crowd and build stronger relationships with their constituents.
When you share the impact of your charity through words or video in a storytelling format you are making a connection with people on a human level that establishes an emotional connection. This emotional connection will transcend an obscure message that is based in facts, figures and details that speak more to the intellect and not the heart. And it’s the heart we want to appeal to.
The key element to remember when telling a story is that it can’t just be any story. It needs to be a good story that pulls at the heartstrings while explaining your mission and demonstrating your impact.
Too often fundraisers get stuck in a business mindset, and throw out numbers and facts in a professional, intellectual (but cold) manner. This isn’t to say that you should not share facts and figures but rather you should wrap the facts in a palatable blanket of specific examples of the impact being made.
For example, if you’re a high school for severely abused children with behavioral challenges don’t simply cite the numbers of kids in similar situations that don’t graduate from high school or the numbers of kids that get into trouble with the law and go to jail – instead, tell a story about a young women that left an abusive home, attended your high school, graduated from college, got married, has three children and owns and operates ten beauty salons and – guess what – openly attributes her success in life to the high school she attended. This is a real life example that speaks to the heart and truly inspires and motivates people.
Telling a moving success story doesn’t require an accomplished novelist, you just need to relate real instances and narratives that will resonate with others.
Developing an internal system to capture and record stories like this as they relate to your fundraising campaign is instrumental in accomplishing this. You will need to train and coach your staff, but the results will be worth it. Someone on the programmatic front lines of your charity will have a portfolio of useful anecdotes and stories, but may have a hard time relating them to the big picture, particularly with regard to fundraising.
It’s your job to help draw these stories out of your staff and encourage them to chronicle the impact your organization is making.
Lastly, make the story engaging enough that people will take the time out of their busy day to read your story or watch a video. The story needs to be exciting, captivating, and personal, but don’t get too esoteric or fantastical. Keep it real and human. For a great example of video story telling that is incredibly compelling watch the Charity Water video about nine year old Rachel Beckwith.