Posted by Josh Gregg

Most great stories begin with “once upon a time” and end with “happily ever after,” because every good story captivates its audience, takes them on an unforgettable journey and leaves the reader with a sense of closure and satisfaction—and your nonprofit’s approach to storytelling shouldn’t be any different.

Just because you’re not taking your readers through a magical land of enchantment via fairytale doesn’t mean you can’t effectively communicate your nonprofit’s story to your constituents.

Putting a face on the work your nonprofit does helps engage and retain your donors and volunteers from moving on to the next worthy cause. So start today by telling a great short story about your nonprofit or those you serve—here’s how:

Make your story about a person who needs your organization. Introduce the person, their needs and how your nonprofit helped.

Be transparent. Allow the person in your story to have a real name, age and the ability to speak on their behalf about your nonprofit.

Keep it short. Grab your readers’ attention in the first sentence. Start your story by focusing on the person, a few descriptive words and what challenges he or she is facing. Six paragraphs or two minutes are the maximum lengths your story should be.

Inject feeling into your story. Storytelling can make a reader feel a wide range of emotions and that’s just what you want. Don’t shy away from playing on the emotions of a story, whether it’s anger, sadness or happiness—feeling matters most.

Make your story relatable. Specific stories are good, however it helps to have moments in the story where the reader can imagine themselves or someone they know in the situation you’re describing; it helps them relate and value the story more when they can see themselves in it.

Have the person tell the story. If possible, have your client(s) tell their own story with their accounts. It’s the most moving and authentic way for them to communicate how your organization made a difference in their life.

It’s time for your nonprofit to put pen to paper. You may already know what story you want to tell the world, and if you don’t, that’s okay too; start by brainstorming some ideas for a story and then get to work on putting a face and real emotions behind what your nonprofit does.