I’m aware that I have mentioned the importance of telling stories for so many times in my blog posts and as my company name suggests, storytelling is one key in appealing to prospects and supporters in our nonprofit environment of which countless researches and articles had validated this notion, but many have asked the obvious question. Where’s the story? Have you ever get tired of telling the same story or two over and over again for months, for years? How could we come up with another story instantly to revitalize our story-driven appeal before we bored our prospects and supporters and drive them away? No, stories will never pop up from nowhere. It requires our continuing effort to collect, sort and store stories systematically.
Preferably, there are three bands of stories that could be used to tell your organization’s story. Undoubtedly, the first one should be the story of our beneficiaries/service users. Two, our supporters, may it be our donors, volunteers, Board members, institutional partners. Last but not least, ourselves; being a staff of the organizations. Essentially, the way in collecting stories from any of these three sources are alike. Get your butt off the chair, go out, into the field and ask for it.
What I mean is to make it a habit in sparing a slot every alternative week to do an interview of one from either of the three groups. During my previous employments, I have a practice of inviting either a volunteer, Board member or other sorts of supporters for a one-on-one lunch or coffee once in a fortnight. This serves a number of purposes. For sure, inviting them to share their unique stories is among them, but it is also any opportunities in getting to know them as part of the overall supporter stewardship process, expressing my gratitude for having their support along with updating them with our works, projects or campaigns.
A key angle that works well across all of them and is an extremely important component of your story is: What change does the organization bring you? For sure, there should be positive changes or impact; found among our beneficiaries or service users through the great work of our organizations and this is supposed to be the very reason for our existence. I doubt if it is necessary to elaborate further the rationale of telling their stories while the majority of organizations have done this right. However, the other two groups are less aware of. Both our supporters and employees are definitely impacted by our organizations too. The longer they serve the organization, the more impact there should be. For supporters, their story could begin with what brought them to the organization in the first place before what they observe during their time with the organization, what makes them stay and followed by what change they have since engaging with the organization and what social changes they notice through the organization’s work. A well-structured donor story is a good way in inspiring others to follow suit in providing supports. Prospects will easily envision how their possible support would translate into positive change to beneficiaries and/or the society at large.
For colleagues, the basic structure of their stories could be more or less the same as to those of the supporters’ but add a paragraph or two to share the sense of job satisfaction that they find on the job. This job satisfaction piece here reflects how they view their work towards the beneficiaries and the society as a whole. But don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting to have accounts from each of the three angles in one single communication piece but one at a time to avoid confusing your audience.
Another important point required to pay attention is to center and link such story with the intended work and impact that the organization is envisioned to create. Regardless of how we ask the subject, it is very likely that they will tell their stories in their own way according to their own preference, priority and perceived prominence. It is our job as a fundraiser and marketer to safeguard the communication piece by writing and editing it in a way that gives their words a direct and positive connection towards the goal.
Altogether, their stories give our audience a holistic view of the great work of our organization in a more lively way. Keep in mind, the ability to tell stories appealingly from different perspectives is in connection to the ability to fundraise in some ways!