Nonprofit storytelling tips

engage-storyWe all have stories to tell. You may think that telling your story doesn’t matter, but in the nonprofit/voluntary sector, telling your story is one of the most important things you do. Stories are used to teach us about our communities. Stories inspire us to act.

But very often it’s not that easy. How do you tell the story? Where do you start?

All great stories seem to have a formula that they follow, a recipe for success. Although there are no hard and fast rules to create a great story, there are elements that are apparent in all stories. Identified below are some of the more important elements. Simply put, Completing storytelling five tips to get you started:

  1. Identify a hero – The hero might be someone in your organization, it might be the work that your organization does or it is the people who you serve in the work that you do.
  2. Identify an end goal – The end goal is usually the answer to a problem your organization works to solve. Your organizational purpose should be the common theme running throughout your story and your day to day work.
  3. Conflict – Conflict is the challenge that your organization must overcome to solve the problem. Human capacity issues, lack of resources, and tight timelines that your organization needs to deal with are all examples of conflict.
  4. Have a mentor – The mentor in your story will be someone who inspires, motivates and encourages the work that your hero does. Or, maybe your organization is the mentor who can help the hero achieve their mission.
  5. End with the moral or call to action –What did the story teach you or others? What can the readers do to continue the work of the hero?

When creating your organization’s story, remember to be authentic. Make your story personal. Get people to connect to your organization by connecting to them. Finally, use stories that have an emotional impact. Find a way to pull at the heartstrings of your audience. Every story should have one compelling character that the audience can feel emotionally invested in, within nonprofit organizations these characters are often the reason for our work.

For a more detailed guide, check out the Storytelling Guide.

Storytelling can draw in funders, engage volunteers, drive up sponsorship or get your organization into the public consciousness. Go out and tell your stories because it does matter. If you don’t, others might do it for you and they may not get your story right.

An excellent example of an organization effectively communicating their story is Charity:Water. They do a great job creating stories and videos from their many heroes from around the world!

Do you have a great story to tell? Let us know!


Jennifer Esler, Marketing and Communications Coordinator