The Value of Nonprofit Storytelling


Storytelling is the fundamental element of society. We have been telling stories, both orally and written, since the early days of humanity. Carrying messages of happiness, fear, hardship, and survival, storytelling has been the vehicle for connection building and education. Stories help us find value in culture and relationships.

In recent years, storytelling has become a valued technique in business marketing. It has proven to be successful — brands with well-developed brand stories often have a loyal customer base that freely promotes their message. Fortunately, storytelling as a marketing strategy is not only for the business sector. Nonprofit storytelling is essential to transforming your organization into an entity that plays a role in people’s lives.

Weaving a compelling, emotion-evoking story can be pivotal in your fundraising efforts.

The Purpose of Nonprofit Storytelling

The impact of nonprofit storytelling cannot be understated. Nonprofits are founded on human connection and the advancement of society. They play to the goodness of humankind and depend on relationship building to stay relevant in the community. Implementing a successful storytelling strategy is a natural way of setting your organization apart and providing an immersive experience.

Nonprofit storytelling allows you to forge authentic connections with the community. Storytelling can pull together a group of people with common goals and values who are willing to put their energy into supporting the cause. When people feel as if they are part of a community, they are more likely to spread awareness through word-of-mouth. Storytelling is powerful, especially in raising planned gifts.

The role of nonprofit storytelling is to evoke emotion. Your future donations will come from people who feel connected to your mission, so evoking feelings of happiness and empathy are critical. Nonprofit storytelling helps us understand each other and is essential in building the bridge between the target population and the people with the financial ability to make a difference.

Elements of Successful Nonprofit Storytelling

Nonprofit storytelling is both an art and a science. Although we are all storytellers, ensuring that your story is educational, entertaining and allows your audience to feel connected to your mission is fundamental.

Before you start considering storytelling in your marketing strategy, you must consider what kind of story you want to tell. Choosing which feeling you want to evoke in your audience can help you craft a unique story that is likely to pull on the heartstrings of the right people. Powerful stories can skyrocket your donations right before your very eyes.

In nonprofit storytelling, you must include characters. Although you may want to focus on your organization as a character, you should reconsider this. The main character in your story should be your donor. The organization’s role should be to help lead your donor down the path to the final goal of assisting the target population.

When crafting your story, start with conflict. Genuinely expressing the organization’s mission and helping your audience understand the struggle of your target population should be the focus. The story should end with the resolution, which is supported by the donations given by the audience. In nonprofit storytelling, the audience truly needs to experience an emotional journey. Images are highly effective at causing people to recall memories or feel empathy. If you are using a written format, make sure that the writing hits your donors’ emotional pain points.

Connect With Your Donors

So how do you make sure that your donor feels like you are writing for them in your nonprofit storytelling? The answer to this is straightforward: you make them the hero.

While it is essential to convey your organization’s mission in your story, storytelling is not about you. Storytelling is about helping the donor see that they play a vital role in helping sustain the organization and providing services for people who need them. Your story must be dynamic and allow the donor to see how it will fit into their lives.

In nonprofit storytelling, the donor isn’t buying a product. The donor is buying a story. In business marketing, the business has to prove how their product will serve the customer and how that customer’s life will benefit. In nonprofit storytelling, the donor’s problem is that they have money and want to make a difference but don’t know which organization aligns with their values. Your nonprofit storytelling should help the donor see precisely how the organization will fill this need for philanthropy.

Nonprofit Storytelling: Call To Action

Once your story has been perfected, the final essential step includes a call to action (CTA). Outlining a step-by-step plan for your donor will allow them to see a clear-cut path toward becoming the hero in this story. Your story needs to flow into the CTA so that you can capitalize on the emotions that have been evoked on the journey. It is not uncommon for a donor to make a quick decision after reading a compelling story.

Your call to action should reflect both the purpose of your story and your fundraising goals. If the purpose of this story was to collect personal information and attract potential donors, perhaps you could include a newsletter opt-in to get more updates on the organization. This allows you to further contact an already warm audience and continue to bring them along on your organization’s journey. If this particular story was to solicit donations, setting a monetary amount aligned with your fundraising goals is essential.

Whatever your call to action, ensure that it is easy for your audience to access. Perform a test run, double-check that your opt-in is working, and provide as many payment options as possible. Nothing will stop a donor in their tracks faster than not finding or completing the task they set out to do. Once they click away from your website, it can be challenging to get them to return.

Nonprofit Storytelling: The Bottom Line

It is abundantly clear that nonprofit storytelling is a powerful force in fundraising. Shifting your organization’s narrative will attract new potential donors and secure future major donors. A particularly compelling story may even trigger current donors to increase their monetary donations.

A good story is essential in successful fundraising. Focusing on donors as the main character plays on psychology and empathy, two critical components of philanthropic giving.

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