We talk a lot about the importance of storytelling for your nonprofit. But, just because it’s important doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy.
Quite the contrary, actually. Pulling together a powerful narrative that draws in your audience, effectively shares your mission and purpose, and ultimately calls your supporters to donate can be a definite challenge.
So, let’s rewind and go all the way back to the beginning—because sometimes going back to the nuts, bolts, and basics are just what you need to step back and gain some clarity. Here are four things you should keep in mind when creating your nonprofit story.
1. Your Audience
Think about how you operate in natural conversations. Chances are, you adjust the way you say things based on who exactly you’re talking to.
You’d tell a story differently if you were telling it to your grandmother rather than your best friend, for example.
Needless to say, knowing your audience is crucial for not only sharing your narrative in an effective manner—but identifying the pieces of it that will resonate with your audience most.
Dig into your website analytics and the roster of your past donors to figure out who exactly your existing audience is. Then, determine who specifically you’re aiming to reach—are they young professionals? Existing donors? Nonprofit thought leaders? Your board? Keep in mind your target may not exactly match up with who you’re currently reaching, and that’s OK!
The important part is to identify who exactly you want to create your nonprofit story for. This will help you appropriately tailor your message, as well as pick out an appropriate narrative that a specific audience can truly connect with.
2. Your Problem And Protagonist
The problem and protagonist are two essential elements of any narrative—from a fairytale to your own nonprofit story. And, while your protagonist may not necessarily be riding a white steed and fighting fire-breathing dragons, it’s still important to zone in on these key components before building your story around them.
Your protagonist is the main character—the hero if you will—of your story. Perhaps it’s the schoolchildren that will finally have a safe place to receive their educations when your campaign raises enough money to construct a new school building. Or, maybe it’s the entire rural community that will benefit from the clean water your nonprofit’s campaign provides.
Highlighting an entire community or group of people as your protagonist can be effective for demonstrating the immense impact of your campaign. However, keep in mind that it may be harder for your audience to connect with—as it’s easy to lose that “personal” touch.
An effective strategy for combatting this is choosing one or two specific people from that community who can share their personal stories that you can then highlight through blog posts and video, like World Bicycle Relief does with “Ethel’s Story”. It puts a face to your campaign and helps your audience see the more human side of your narrative.
Identifying your problem? Well, that’s the easy part. It’s the issue that you’re attempting to resolve with your work. In the above two examples, it would be the lack of a safe educational facility and limited access to clean drinking water.
This step may seem so obvious that it’s unnecessary. But, it’s important that you take the time to get a solid handle on the true problem you’ll share in your nonprofit story. After all, you may already know all the ins and outs of that challenge—but you need to ensure that your audience has a solid understanding of it too.
3. Your Plot
Now that you’ve got the details ironed out, it’s time to piece together your entire nonprofit story narrative. Here’s what the basic structure of your story can look like:
- Intro/Hook: You need to draw your audience in right from the beginning—and it’s your introduction’s job to do just that. Introduce them to your protagonist in a way that’s engaging. You can also ask open-ended questions to keep your audience interested and instill a desire for answers and resolution.
- Struggle/Context: Here’s where that problem you identified comes into play. Share the struggle that your protagonist is facing. The key here is to make it seem like a truly big problem—and not just an inconvenient nuisance. Make use of details and powerful anecdotes (and not just statistics!) to share this struggle with your audience.
- Moment of Change: This is the breath of fresh air in the middle of your story. Something happens (likely your nonprofit intervening!) that changes the protagonist’s life. Use this pivot point to your advantage by showing how much the protagonist’s life is improved by this intervention—it’s key for demonstrating the impact of your work.
- Resolution: Your protagonist’s story is powerful. But, it’s important to make it clear that it was just one personal story of many. Use your resolution to connect this story to a larger context, and further illustrate the need for your nonprofit’s work. This section should foster an emotional response to your story and inspire your audience.
- Call to Action: Don’t just end with your resolution. Remind your audience of how they can get involved with a strong call to action.
4. Your Call to Action
Let’s dig into that final element of your plot, shall we? After all, the aim of your story is not only to connect with your audience, but to drive them to take action. And, let’s face it, most people aren’t inclined to crack open their wallets or sign a petition unless you explicitly request that they do so.
“The aim of your story is not only to connect with your audience, but to drive them to take action…” tweet this
First, remember to focus on a singular goal with your nonprofit story’s call to action—you can’t ask supporters to donate funds, sign your petition, share with their friends, and “like” your Facebook page. Choose one particular focus and stick with that in your call to action.
You should also make use of powerful action language to instill a sense of urgency in your audience. You want to make them feel as if they need to donate immediately. If they leave your page, the chance of them returning to take action later significantly decreases.
You know that you have a powerful mission and purpose behind your nonprofit. But, pulling that all together into a nonprofit story that adequately demonstrates your impact and connects with your audience? Well, it’s not as easy as you might initially think.
Keep these four things in mind when getting started on creating your nonprofit’s story, and you’re sure to craft a compelling narrative that effectively shares all of the great work you’re doing!