Great nonprofit stories:
*Convey impact and outcomes;
*Elicit emotion and compassion; and
*Inspire further action and commitment.
Nonprofits of all sizes need to start thinking of themselves as storytellers and not “development professionals” or “communication coordinators”. A 10-page communications strategy is of no use without the gasoline of good stories to fuel it.
How can you go from Communications Coordinator or Development Director to Stellar Storyteller?
I came up with 10 characteristics of great nonprofit storytellers. Notes that there are few people who will embody every single characteristics – they are simply guidelines to inspire you on your journey to improve the way you craft and share stories.
To be a Stellar Storyteller, you must:
Be a true believer in the cause. They must be an outspoken and passionate advocate – the kind of person whose zeal is infectious.
Be authentic and truthful. We tend to want to listen to others with whom we can see parts of ourselves; people that come from similar backgrounds and have faced similar obstacles.
This is why major donors tend to listen to other major donors, and volunteers are able to recruit other volunteers. They speak each other’s language and understand where they are coming from.
Truly understand what it’s all about. It’s not all about your organization’s agenda and what you want to convey. It’s about your audience.
A great storyteller takes time to understand the audience – what they care about, what they want to hear. Stories should be crafted and delivered with these elements in mind.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. Preparation is key when delivering a great story. However, Stellar Storytellers are able to improvise and are not rigid in their delivery.
Practice being open-minded, enthusiastic and motivated. You want others to feel what you are feeling, and you will always try new methods and new techniques to reach that end.
Remain skeptical. Always be asking yourself the questions that your audience will be asking: “How did that happen? Why did that happen? Why couldn’t something else have happened?”
By looking at your story with a critical eye, you will be able to anticipate the concerns and apprehension of your critics
Remain generous. Stellar Storytellers are generous with their emotions and their willingness to be vulnerable. They often share personal stories of their own struggles and obstacles.
To touch other people’s hearts, you must be willing to expose your own.
Understand the context. Are you telling the story in front of a group of 100 people, at an intimate dinner, or during a Twitter Q&A tweet chat?
Molding the story to fit the context is a huge part of being successful in storytelling.
Don’t think you have to be perfect to be a Stellar Storyteller. Who wants to hear a perfect story from a perfect person? (I know I don’t.)
As long as you are authentic, truthful and passionate about the story you are telling, people will connect with you and be inspired to take action.
Do you have any other storytelling qualities to add to this list?