Storytelling has been receiving a lot of press lately, as a content marketing tool and as an effective way to engage audiences on social media.
Brands and businesses are getting their stories out there – stories about their origins, their values, their customers.
So why are most nonprofits so bad at storytelling?
I think the reason is that many nonprofit staff and volunteers are uncomfortable talking about themselves. They feel icky asking for support, asking for help, patting themselves on the back and sharing the great work they are doing every day.
This needs to change.
Here are 5 stories that your nonprofit should be telling everywhere you do fundraising and marketing – including social media.
1) Values & Ethics Stories.
In these stories, you depict the values and ethics that are at the core of your organization. Examples of core values can include integrity, excellence, empowerment, respect, embracing diversity.
Value stories will help people identify with your organization. One main reason that people give to specific charities based on shared values – how can you express your unique values to supporters and potential supporters?
A great example of value storytelling can be found on the Environmental Defense fund website.
EDF was created by a passionate group of conservationists in Long Island who wanted to save the osprey, bald eagle and peregrine falcon. This small dedicated band of people went to court and go DDT banned in Long Island in 1966, and subsequently played a large role in the nationwide ban.
They play up the “strong foundation” and grassroots value, which continues to inform their work today.
Save the Children values authenticity and integrity in it’s executives. They often share photos of their President & CEO in remote areas of the world, on the ground.
By starting a Pinterest board called Carolyn’s Corner, they can document their President & CEO’s travels, work and inspiration and share it with their online community.
2) Social Proof Stories.
Which influential community members have been moved by your work? Who are your biggest supporters?
The Robin Hood Foundation has a great video front and center on their website. It starts out immediately featuring stories of those impacted by its work and philanthropy. It also intersperses clips of Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone and the Chairman & CEO Of Goldman Sachs describing why they support the Foundation.
You may not have nationally know supporters, but I’m willing to bet you could get the mayor, a state senator, a local TV news celebrity or sports figure to explain why they support your nonprofit. (And if they don’t know about you, make them know.)
Offering this kind of social proof makes donors and supporters sit up and take notice – especially if you are a small, community-based nonprofit.
3) Founder Stories.
In telling your founder story, you need to ask the following questions:
- Why was your organization started in the first place?
- Who identified the need?
- What was that like for them? What were their struggles in the beginning?
A perfect example of telling this story in a compelling way is Billy Starr of the Pan-Mass Challenge. In an inspiring video made by 50 Egs and Babson College, Billy’ s compelling story, and how he created the now multi-million dollar PMC as a tribute to his mother and his childhood.
4) Continuous Improvement Stories.
Show your supporters that your nonprofit is continually learning and improving.
Did you start our in one direction and then found another, greater need? How have you adapted to the needs of your constituency throughout the years?
An example of this kind of story is The Denver Foundation’s video series, 10 Years 10 Stories.
These videos are stories told from the nonprofits who have been awarded grants. Not all the grants and programs worked out the way they were meant to, but the great part of the story is how the nonprofit leaders discuss what they learn and what they still have to work on.
5) Impact Stories.
These stories are by far the most important. Donors, volunteers, staff, stakeholders – they all want to know what impact your organization is having on the problem, the cause and the world.
Are you affecting change? Are you pushing the needle in some way? How can you showcase the great work you are doing through those that you have helped?
Charity Water uses Instagram to tell their stories in 15 second chunks – not fancy stages, lighting or narration involved.
UNICEF Canada uses Pinterest to share their successes and the impact of their work.
Too few nonprofits share their impact stories. Let’s change that.
For more great examples of nonprofit storytelling using video, check out the winners of the 2013 DoGooder Awards on YouTube.
What stories does your nonprofit tell on social media?
Do you need a step-by-step guide to creating digital storytelling campaigns?
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