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6 Storytelling Secrets for Nonprofit Professionals

Stories have a unique way of engaging an audience. If you want to learn how to win hearts, change minds, and get your audience to take action, you need to get good at sharing stories.

Here are six storytelling tips to win hearts, change minds, and create a real impact:

Secret #1 – Know your WHY!

Every story needs two key ingredients to be successful:

  1. Purpose
  2. Passion

If you haven’t gotten extremely clear as to WHY you want to tell your story, it will lack those necessary components.

Start here because your audience can spot a shallow story from miles away. If you want a story that truly connects and inspires, you need to know why you want to share the story in the first place so you can convey that enthusiasm to your audience.

Your story needs to have a point. A purpose, if you will…

Don’t tell a story just for the sake of telling a story. Ask yourself what you want your story to accomplish.

Your story can do the following:

  1. Educate – Teach others about your mission.
  2. Entertain – Engage your audience so they want to keep consuming your content.
  3. Evoke Action – Get your audience to donate, volunteer, or spread the word about you!

(And if it’s done right, a good story can do all three simultaneously! 😉)

Let’s admit it, sometimes as fundraisers and nonprofit professionals, we are so close to our missions we forget WHY we show up to work in the first place. Remind yourself of the purpose of your organization before you sit down to create content so that you can write or speak from a place of passion.

What drew you to the mission in the first place?

Why is the mission needed?

Who does your mission serve?

Keep the mission and those you serve central as you construct your story.

Secret #2 – Know Your Audience!

Repeat after me: I have to know my target audience if I want to be successful at storytelling.

Some marketing truths never die. If you want to speak to a “sponge” audience (an audience that happily absorbs everything you are saying) you first have to identify who they are.

Who are you trying to reach?

What kinds of people do you hope to inspire with your message?

Who can help you advance your mission and your goals?

  • Current donors?
  • Investors?
  • The public?
  • Your brother?
  • Your in-laws?
  • Politicians?

You wouldn’t talk to your significant other the same way you would talk to your boss (I think?) – so knowing who you are addressing will help you cater your messaging to best suit them.

It’s important to know your audience’s:

  • Interests
  • Pain Points
  • Hobbies
  • Occupations
  • Ages
  • Etc.

Also, research what platforms your audience is hanging out on so you can be sure to share your stories on them.

Knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, who you are trying to reach will help you know where to find them and what to say.

Secret #3 – Know the Struggle!

Can you imagine reading a book or watching a movie where everything the character experienced was sunshine and rainbows? They were born, everything went perfectly, and then they died. BORING.

Struggle (and overcoming) is at the core of any good story. The greater the struggle, the juicer the story.

Chances are great you already know the struggles your organization addresses. Don’t be shy when describing them. Highlight the dangers, risks, obstacles, conflicts, or problems that your organization solves in your stories. Then, be sure to communicate how these struggles were overcome with the help of your donor and your organization.

PRO TIP: Your audience is the hero of the story. Demonstrate how they can help combat the struggles being faced on behalf of those you serve.

Storytelling Secret #4 – Evoke Emotion!

As much as we all like to believe we are rational beings with carefully calculated decisions, this simply isn’t true. We act based on emotion.

The more you can get your audience to feel something, the more they are going to be willing to take action as a result.

Stories have the ability to connect to your audience on a much deeper level than any graph, stat, or power-point ever will.

Stories are a way to show your audience what you are trying to say rather than just simply telling them. Tons of psychological research supports the relationship between storytelling and emotion, too much to cover in this post, in fact. If you want to know exactly how to evoke emotion through storytelling, I suggest reading The Science of Storytelling when you are finished here.

Storytelling Secret #5 – Make the Story About the Audience!

A little tough love here, but your audience isn’t actually all that interested in listening to your story. They are listening to see how they fit in.

Can they relate to the character?

Can they picture themselves in the character’s shoes?

What can they learn from the story you’re sharing?

How can they become involved?

The more you can help your audience visualize themselves in the scenario and give them a solid takeaway or lesson, the more connected they will feel to your message. Keep the audience’s best interest in mind and think about how you can draw parallels and connections for them as you decide which stories to tell and how to craft them.

Storytelling Secret #6 – Include A Call-to-Action!

Okay, great! You shared an epic story. But now what?

If you are looking to use your story to make a real difference and promote action, you have to tell your audience what they need to do! Be clear.

IMPORTANT: Don’t assume your audience will know what you want them to do and don’t give them too many options – include one clear call-to-action. A confused mind won’t make a decision.

In most cases, the call-to-action will relate to the “why” you established at the beginning of this post.

End your story with:

  • A Question
    • (Ask your audience for feedback. Getting to know them will help you better cater your message.)
  • A Next Step
    • (Invite them to watch a video, visit your website, or schedule a site tour.)
  • An Ask
    • (Give specific dollar amounts and be sure to tell them what their gift will achieve!)


This blog post by Madison Gonzalez was published on Bloomerang. Read the original here


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