One of the most powerful marketing tools for nonprofits is a great story.
Whether it’s in a newsletter or a press release, on social media or through your website, you can pack a lot of punch in a story about how your nonprofit served the community or helped someone in need. Stories can inspire, educate and motivate people to support your cause, especially if it’s one worth sharing.
So, if you’re going to tell a story about your nonprofit, make sure it’s worth the effort.
Follow these five simple guidelines for finding a story that not only engages and inspires, but also supports the message you want the world to hear.
Decide what’s worth writing about. Not everything that happens in your nonprofit is a story worth sharing. So, what should you look for? A compelling event? A volunteer who went above and beyond? An up-close look at someone who benefited from your services? Yes, yes and yes. Look for stories that tug at heartstrings, demonstrate your mission or inspire people to support your cause. Does it make you emotional? If so, you’re on the right track.
Keep the main point the main point. It’s easy to get off on tangents when you’re storytelling. Whether you’re blogging, creating a video, posting to social media or creating a newsletter article, stay focused. What’s the main point of the story? Skip the extraneous stuff and cut to the heart of the matter. You’ll be much more effective if you keep stories simple, and you’ll keep your audience with you all the way to the end.
Find real-life anecdotes that tap into emotions. Don’t expect anecdotes to just fall from the sky. Take the time to talk to volunteers, employees, board members and people you’ve served. Be inquisitive, ask questions and look for great stories. They don’t typically just appear—most of them you’ll have to uncover or discover. You may even want to create a form on your website or in your newsletter that specifically asks your audience to submit stories. You don’t know what you don’t know. So ask.
Make storytelling a part of your nonprofit’s culture. This might mean spending 10 or 15 minutes at the beginning of each staff meeting asking people to talk about recent events, favorite moments or someone who made an impression on them. Or creating wall space in your office space where staff and volunteers can post story ideas or short snippets that can be expanded upon. If it becomes second nature for everyone to share stories, you may end up with more than you can handle—which would be a really nice “problem” to have.
Proofread. Whether it’s a blog post, web content or even just a Facebook post, be sure more than once person sees it before it’s shared. You want to catch grammatical and spelling errors or awkward spots, yes. But also ask, does it have a clear beginning, middle and end? Is any information missing? Do you get the main point? Even the pros make revisions.