Nonprofit storytelling

10 Ways to Become A Stellar Nonprofit Storyteller

Julia Claire Campbell Nonprofits, Storytelling Leave a Comment

Nonprofit storytellingI am on a mission to help nonprofits of all sizes become better communicators. This is the third part in a multi-part series on nonprofit storytelling designed to show nonprofits the most effective ways to amplify their stories using digital storytelling techniques. Click for part one and part two

Now that you understand some of the benefits of combining the powerful one-two punch of great stories and social media, what qualities do you need to be an effective storyteller?

Great storytellers have a few characteristics in common.

Not everyone will embody every characteristic on this list; they are simply guidelines to which you should aspire as you begin your journey to stellar storyteller.

1) Be a True Believer in the Cause

Stellar storytellers are outspoken and passionate advocates.

Their zeal and enthusiasm are infectious.

2) 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 better able to recruit other volunteers.

They speak each other’s language, know the hidden “codes,” and understand where the other is coming from.

3) Truly Understand What It’s All About

It’s not about your organization’s agenda and what you want to convey.

It’s about your audience members and what they want to hear.

A stellar nonprofit storyteller takes the time to understand the audience members.

What they care about and what moves them.

Stories should be crafted and delivered with these elements in mind.

4) Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Preparation is key when delivering a great story.

Despite this preparation, stellar storytellers are also able to improvise and are not rigid in their delivery.

5) Practice Being Open-minded, Enthusiastic, and Motivated

Stellar storytellers want others to feel what they are feeling and they will always try new methods and new techniques to reach that end.

6) Remain Skeptical

Stellar storytellers continually ask themselves the questions that their audience will be asking: “How did that happen? Why did that happen? Why couldn’t something else have happened?”

By looking at each story with a critical eye, they are able to anticipate the apprehensions and questions of their critics and supporters.

7) 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.

8) Understand the Context and Your Audience

Are you telling the story in front of a group of one hundred people, at an intimate dinner, or during a Reddit AMA?

Molding the story to fit the context and your audience is a huge part of being successful in storytelling (more on this in the next post).

9) Never Feel Entitled

It’s all an exchange.

Supporters give us their time to listen to or to read the story, and they expect us to deliver.

Time is a very scarce resource for most people.

Respect it, provide them with valuable resources and compelling stories, and they will continue to pay attention.

10) Always Be Learning

Never become complicit and think that you know everything there is to know about your cause or your organization.

There are always new people to meet, new books to read, and new workshops to attend.

The nonprofit storytelling space is not static – it should always be changing.

It requires creativity and an eye for what’s interesting and what may make a great story.

Keep your ear on the ground and your eyes peeled.

The more you keep your mind open to learning new things, the better able you will be to collect and craft the very best stories about your work.


This is an excerpt from the book Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits. To get a free chapter sent to your inbox, please sign up here

Free printable download - Story Collection Worksheet!

The Story Collection Worksheet is a must-have for the organized nonprofit storyteller.

Just follow the questions on this worksheet, and you will have a plan for collecting and telling various kinds of stories to showcase the impact of your work!

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