Non-Profit Storytelling is the single most powerful communications tool available and has been for thousands of years.
It is the world’s oldest form of social media. Early mankind relied on storytelling to relate their history, to teach survival techniques, and for entertainment. Storytelling is just as relevant today and can be a powerful, relationship-building tool in the fundraiser’s toolkit.
Research shows that stories help us remember; influence how we decide; and are linked with our sense of generosity and that donors tend to give twice as much when presented with a story about a specific individual, as opposed to being given numerical statistics. And in fact, statistics can dull the emotional response by causing donors to think in a more calculating, and uncaring manner.
So what type of stories should you be telling to attract and influence prospective donors to give, and to keep existing donors loyal to your cause?
6 Stories Every Non-Profit Should Have
1. Challenge/purpose story – why do people need your services? What is the purpose of your cause?
2. Creation story – why was your organization founded?
3. Success stories – the impact of your cause and what is unique about you
4. Performance stories – stories about volunteers and staff living your core values
5. Lesson stories – mistakes you have made and how you have learned from them
6. Future impact stories – what will your community look like if you continue your work?
If you don’t? Strive to tell the bigger story in a way that inspires the imagination, so that donors have a story in which they can believe.
Telling the success and future impact stories from the beneficiary’s perspective, allows donors (the listeners) to feel like they could be the hero in a future version of a similar story. Stories must be genuine for the donor to connect with and see themselves in. They must experience an emotional desire to connect to what you do – your cause must matter to them personally, and mirror their values and worldview. Giving to your organization is a reflection of how they view themselves, or what they aspire to be. As a non-profit, you need to clearly articulate your values in ways that will attract a broad range of donors.
So how do you tell your six stories?
To learn how to communicate impact with storytelling and the 6 story elements you must include in order to connect with your donors, read our blog “Communicating Impact with Storytelling”.
6 Must-Haves For Every Story
1. The storyteller must have passion for the cause – this makes the story authentic and compelling, and passion invokes emotion.
2. Every story must have a hero – someone that the listener can relate to, and in most cases, the hero should be the donor.
3. Stories need an inciting incident – something that kickstarts the story or set the story in motion.
4. Every story must have a barrier or antagonist – who or what is keeping us from getting to the goal.
5. Every story needs a goal or solution – what do we need to do to resolve the incident?
6. Every story needs an ending or a resolution/transformation – how was the incident resolved. What is the impact, what is different, and what has changed?
Video or face-to-face storytelling are the most compelling mediums to convey your stories for maximum impact, but it is important to remember that it is not necessarily the quality of the production that matters, nor the facts and figures. The purpose of the story is to build a relationship with your audience (the donor) on an emotional level. Telling the above six stories effectively can lead to positive outcomes – such as increased donations, improved donor retention rates, and creating a culture of philanthropy within your community.