It's Time To Tell A Different Nonprofit Story
***Hello! Laura and I are gone for summer relaxing and working on some cool new stuff for all you. But we'll be sharing our most popular posts while we're away. We hope that you learn something from them and we look forward to creating new things when we return in August. As always we are so grateful for this incredible tribe of enthusiastic storytellers! ***
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 in this area. If you’re like me, you’ll find that it’s easy to fall back on the typical 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.