NonProfit Storytelling Featured Image

Dramatically Improve Your Nonprofit Storytelling Skills

No Comments

Does Your Job Title Include ‘Storyteller’?

We’ve reached that moment in web culture, where eyes roll and brows furrow in uncertain consternation when someone tells us that we need to tell our story better.

What does that even mean? With zillions of stories whizzing around the virtual empire at a billion pixels per second… how many “About Us” and “Meet the Team” pages are there sprinkled across Internetland? What’s the point?

It begs reminding, so in case you forgot, here’s the point:

Your story really does matter.

It’s unfolding. It counts. It’s serious business to people all over the world, even if it doesn’t feel like that sometimes. But, once you harness the ability to tell a solid story, rather than frantic shouting and screaming, you’re going to quickly see those trickles of interest and awareness turn into tsunamis.

Your cause, your mission, your vision, and everything your nonprofit’s doing and going through right NOW  ‒ that’s your story. In a nutshell, telling your story in the digital sphere means showing people three things:

  1. Who you are. Unbiased and unabashed and with production value.
  2. What you’re going through, which includes what those people, places or things you’re helping are going through.
  3. Where you’re going.

Here’s the trick: the “Why” is inferred. Once people get the gist of those three things, it should be obvious why you’re fighting the good fight.

Social Media’s Your Living Story

If you listen really closely, and tilt your chin up and to the left an inch…

you can hear hordes of nonprofit development and marketing managers across the world, banging their heads on desks and soda machines, trying to figure out how to leverage the immense power of social media to drive engagement, awareness, and support.

Well, when you see social media the way we do, here at ActionSprout, you’ll realize that it’s a living story. It’s alive and evolving; filled with words, pictures, videos, and little ways to interact (like, share, and comment).

We took it one step further, because we know that your story must be created and presented to potential supporters and volunteers in a way that technology’s trained us to expect.

An Action-Packed Game of “Share & Tell”

Don’t just tell the world what’s going on, share it! Invite us into your struggle!

Video and photography allow you to give your supporters a backstage pass into the trenches. In reality, they’re probably on the bus, at work, or in their bed browsing their news feed, but you can still invite them into your story!

Has a demonstration been set up on the other side of the country? Great!

Through something as simple as video captured by a smartphone/digital camera & a battery pack, you can transport your supporters to the front line.

They’re Knocking, So Open The Door

Hopefully, by now the word “story” in this context is beginning to take on a new shape. In terms of social media, the idea that your story is alive should be coming into focus.

For commercialized businesses and brands, “telling their story” can be a bit more challenging. But for nonprofits on Facebook, it’s much easier! (As long as you have the content and are including supporters in your daily story.)

Success is the Greatest Story!

We all love to be a part of successful things, and be close to successful people.

Every inch forward toward success feels good. Not only that, but you’ll also build confidence with supporters!

Each success that your nonprofit experiences, no matter how small, is a link in the chain of your story spread out across time on social media feeds. The bill passed! The march was a success! Funding goals have been reached! It’s all gravy. But don’t just blurt it out: create, mold, and articulate.

But Don’t Overlook Your Setbacks!

Without steep grades, climbing mountains really doesn’t mean much.

Without taking a few hits, a victory in the ring is almost completely devoid of glory. Don’t hide some of the ugliness. Don’t shy away from showing your supporters the grunt work. Don’t veer away from letting them see you fall down and then hop right back onto the saddle with more grit in your teeth!

They will respect you all the more for it, so let your determination shine.

Some Nonprofit Storytelling Ideas

Right, so you’re pumped. Let’s go over a few ideas that you can customize and make your own to spread awareness, strengthen relationships, build support, and tell your story:

  • Showcase Supporters: Whenever a supporter says something profound, emotionally charged, inspiring, or motivational, showcase it! Take pictures at events and invite people to tag themselves and share their experience. Take every opportunity to shower your community with evidence that PROVES they matter, especially the small things they do that add up to big impacts.
  • Inform & Update: What’s happening right NOW? What’s happening later TODAY? What went down YESTERDAY that we missed? What’s something that just recently took place, or is about to, that we simply have to learn about? Don’t just tell your story ‒ tell the story of the broader issues that your organization focuses on. Become the trusted hub of information.
  • Build Urgency: Today’s not just another day. What’s happening tomorrow is a big deal. A sense of urgency should run like a subtle undercurrent beneath everything you do, share, and tell.
  • Share your History: Whether your cause has been around for hundreds of years or just a couple, every organization has a history that they can share. Dust off a few old photos and show folks how long you’ve been fighting the good fight!

Want even more inspiration? Check out Blaise Lucey’s 21 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Social Media to Get Their Mission Across.

The Writing Part’s Hard!

If you’re not into the whole writing thing (it’s just not your skillset or it intimidates you), here’s the key that can, very quickly, turn you into a formidable communicator:

“Write exactly like you speak.”

Conversationally, personally, honestly. Should you have an editor hanging around? Ideally, but without one, just keep it short, concise, and be yourself.

Just remember that nonprofit storytelling is important! Online, through social media, it can be shaped and told to so many people that are waiting to take part, join the struggle, participate, and engage.

Final Thoughts

How do you tell your story? Let us know in the comments!