It’s Time To Tell A Different Nonprofit Story

Posted by | · · · · · · · | Multimedia · Nonprofits · Storytelling · Video & Film · Writing

I’m tired of telling the same old, nonprofit story. And I’m searching for ways to start telling better ones. I’m certain I am not alone this is a area that most storytellers need to work on. If you’re like me, you’ll find that it’s easy to fall back on the beneficiary story. Person A has a problem and Nonprofit B provides them with something that improves their lives.


There is nothing inherently wrong with this very linear story, but we’ve all seen it before – and it loses impact over time. I like to think that storytelling is a muscle that we are building up. The size of the muscle reflects our ability to exercise it by learning how to tell stories differently. This year, I’ve challenged myself to become a better storyteller, and have been collecting a spreadsheet of stories that inspire me to be better. I’ve shared a few of them below along with ways to tell nonprofit stories in a different way.


Founder Story

Every organization has a founder, so why not share what motivated that person to create the organization in their own words? I’m willing to bet that your founder is passionate about her work, and passion is a key way to get others involved. Your founder can invite involvement from donors and volunteers by giving them a clear picture of what has been done, what needs to be done, and specific details on what they can do to help. Furniture Bank’s founder Sister Anne shares the inspiration behind starting the furniture bank and asks for others to join her in supporting the organization.



Purpose/Focus Story

Why does your organization exist? What is its primary purpose? Pencils of Promise does extraordinary storytelling. This piece is so inspiring and so simple. A girl reading a poem that challenges us to do one thing: buy a pencil.



Process Story

If your organization creates a product that improves lives, there is no better way to sell that product than by showing the process being done by happy people. Process stories are usually conducive to video stories.




People Stories

Most stories focus on the beneficiaries of your nonprofit, but you have a wealth of people in your organization that you could use for storytelling. Volunteers, employees, board members, donors, and community advocates all have personal stories about working with your organization.



Change The Angle

Instead of using the same old story, try to find an unexpected angle. I love this piece on how a shelter dog named Peety changed his owner Eric’s life. This is a moving tale that begs the question who was saved by whom?



This is a hard skill that’s difficult for even experienced storytellers to navigate. I’d love to hear about specific stories or types of stories that you find inspiring. Together we can create pieces that leave boring stories behind.



Sonia says:

May 26, 2016 at 11:29 pm

Thanks for sharing. Some great tips Here. Every good story needs a hero, a person not a product.


Crystaline Randazzo says:

June 3, 2016 at 5:36 am

Thanks Sonia! I’ve never thought of it that way but I think you are exactly right. Stories about people allow others to relate in such a personal way, a product just doesn’t do that.


c says:

June 6, 2016 at 7:28 pm

hI, i write ngo STORIES BUT USING WORDS, JUST WRITTEN TEXT. I am trying to change my approach and make it a more moving, compassionate read. Do you have any examples or pointers for that ? Your help and advice would be appreciated. Sorry for the caps, I am not sure why it won’t let me write in lower case.


Crystaline Randazzo says:

June 13, 2016 at 12:02 pm

Hi there! So great that you are writing stories! I think you can apply some of the techniques above to written stories as well as visual. The best advice is to tell stories that are interesting not just important. Sometimes we are so caught up in our causes we forget that it’s not enough to care about it yourself you have to show it in a way that makes others care. I also highly recommend Vanessa Chase’s course which focuses on writing better stories. Check it out:


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