Posted by Lisa Thompson

If you’re looking to capture a few hearts, then consider telling a few stories. It’s one of the best ways to engage with the people who visit your website and want to learn more about your nonprofit.

Whether you use pictures, a blog post, a video or a feature article on a donation page, connecting your constituents with the people you serve is crucial—especially if you want them to support your mission.

Here are five tips to help you become an effective storyteller and tug the all-important heartstrings of potential donors.

  1. Talk about specific people and share real-life scenarios. A good story paints a picture, so you’ll need to be specific. Instead of, “we helped this man get on his feet,” try, “we got Jim the clothes he needed for his first job interview, and now he’s gainfully employed.” This will give a face to your nonprofit and humanize the individuals you serve. Donors don’t just support nonprofits; they support the people that nonprofits serve.
  2. Use words that emotionally connect your audience to your work. Stay away from industry jargon and use words that appeal to people’s hearts and emotions. A good test: When you write the story, does it make you feel emotional? If so, it will likely do the same for your audience.
  3. Talk about both successes and opportunities. It’s certainly important to illustrate how you’ve made an impact. If you helped Susan celebrate five years of sobriety or helped John secure affordable daycare, you should say so. But don’t be afraid to mention work that you’re not able to do yet, like provide enough tutors or offer enough support groups. Mentioning that you have 75 people on your waiting list illustrates a need.
  4. Share exact results and transformations using descriptive words. If someone’s life was changed for the better, describe how. Maybe Sarah now feels less ashamed or Mary isn’t afraid to go home any longer. Explain what you did and how it made a difference. Remember, specific details help paint a clearer picture for your reader.
  5. Keep it short. If you’re speaking, you should be able to tell a great story in two minutes or less. When writing, keep your story to around 500 words.

Bonus tip: Use one story in multiple places. If you have a great story, use part of it in an appeal letter, another part of it on social media—maybe a longer version on your website. Telling the same story in multiple places can help your message stick, and that’s when people start to remember your nonprofit and how you’re making a difference.