As a non-profit, stories are the most powerful resource you have.
Forget your mission statement, annual reports, and statistics – all of these things put together cannot do what one great story can: bring people into your world, and make them emotionally connected to your cause like you are.
This is important, because once you have someone totally thinking like you, they genuinely understand the importance of what you do, and they are on your side. They will talk about you, share your story, and try to get others involved. They will essentially do the work of fundraising for you. It will be like you’ve hired another employee.
How to create a story worth sharing:
Like any great story, a good non-profit story involves a protagonist, some obstacle to overcome, and a happy ending. This is the kind of story people love to read and share.
The 5 Basic Rules of Storytelling
These rules come from Andy Goodman – Director of the Goodman Centre:
1. Name your protagonist.
2. Fix him or her in time and space.
3. Create an inciting incident, something that throws his or her world out of balance.
4. Describe the barriers the protagonist runs into on the way to achieving the goal.
5. Celebrate achieving the goal. Or if the goal wasn’t met, share lessons learned along the way.
The biggest mistake non-profits make with storytelling
Goodman says, the biggest mistake non-profits make when creating stories is they leave out #4 – the barriers the protagonist runs into along the way – and so the story ends up sounding something like this:
“People were in pain. We launched this program to help them. They’re better now. Give us money.”
This kind of “straightforward road to success” does show that you make a difference, but it’s boring. “What’s interesting is the stuff along the way… the surprises, the barriers, the obstacles that the protagonist has to overcome.” This is what makes the story great, and worth sharing.
Examples of great storytelling
1. Doctors without Borders is one of those organizations that always creates great stories that draw the reader into their world. They actually have a section in their newsletter called “Stories Worth Sharing.” Here’s a great example of one of those stories:
Read the full story
2. This video from Students of the World is another example of great story telling. It follows all the rules and draws you into their world so you really understand the mission and why it’s so important.
3. Finally this video by charity: water definitely gets it right. They tell a great story and don’t leave out the barriers that make it both interesting and real, and keep you rooting for a happy ending – which they deliver.
However you choose to do it, create great stories, and share them. Stories are windows to the heart of your organization, and the key to fundraising success.