Getting Started with Storytelling

Although not always easy, research shows that a great tool in a fundraiser’s bag is the ability to tell a good story. Storytelling, used well, is the single most powerful tool available to nonprofits.

 

The most important thing to remember about storytelling is that the story is not about what your organisation does, but rather it’s about the impact your organisation has in the lives of its beneficiaries (from their perspective). A good place to start when identifying your story is to put yourself in the shoes of those who benefit from what you do. Your story could be about a single mother who dropped out of school at a young age, because she fell pregnant – but now through your programme she has been able to finish school and is now employed, giving her and her baby a better life. It could be about a young boy who is being influenced by peers to take drugs and do crime, but through your programme he is introduced to surfing and is now well on his way to representing his country on the international stage.

There is a story at the heart of every nonprofit and when communicated in the right creative way, can inspire change, attract donors, raise money, win support and influence communities. Successful storytelling can also make your organisation stand out from the crowds – something that is becoming harder to do with the influx of constant messages on social media. 

Successful storytelling of an organisation isn’t the sole responsibility of one individual, like the marketing person. Stories can and should involve the whole organisation, thus creating a ‘culture of storytelling’. Getting all staff involved in identifying stories will ensure your storytelling success. Different staff members are responsible for different aspects of the organisation and interact with different beneficiaries, and therefore can produce a variety of stories. 

Here are just a few questions you can use to help identify stories:

  • What problem/challenge is this program/service solving?
  • Can you tell me about a specific person who has used this program/service?
  • What was their life like before they began their involvement in the programme/service?
  • Do you remember the first time you met them? What was their emotional/social state like?
  • Now that they’ve gone through this program/service, what is their life like now?
  • What does their future look like now? (or what is their outlook on their own future?)