Why Storytelling is Essential to Marketing Your Nonprofit

email marketing fundraising storytelling Feb 26, 2018


What do Aesop, Harry Chapin, and Stephen King have in common? 

They are all awesome storytellers. The ideas and themes they impart stay with you because of the tales they weave:

  • You could tell a child that he should not make a habit of lying because he might not be believed when he tells the truth - or you could share the story of the boy who cried “wolf.”

  • You could warn a new father that he shouldn’t work all the time – or you could just play him “The Cat’s in the Cradle.” (Make sure to have tissues nearby; most men wind up crying when they hear that song).

  • And don’t even get me started on the dangers of bullying a girl at the prom – we all know how Carrie turned out.

Now I’m being a little lighthearted here, but really, storytelling is amazingly important. In fact, science believes we are hardwired to both tell and to learn through stories. As Jag Bhalla writes in Scientific American: 

“Like our language instinct, a story drive—an inborn hunger for story hearing and story making—emerges untutored universally in healthy children. Every culture bathes their children in stories to explain how the world works and to engage and educate their emotions.”

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the best ways to communicate your nonprofit’s mission, goals and effectiveness is through storytelling. Stories make the work you do relatable and helps you cultivate support for your cause. Storytelling should be a large part of your organizations marketing mix.

Now, there are a lot of stories you can tell about your nonprofit, but there are three that naturally have the three key elements that are essential to good storytelling: a protagonist, a conflict and a resolution.

First is your nonprofit’s origin story.

You or your founder saw something that needed to be addressed in your community and made the decision to take a stand to alleviate the situation. It probably wasn’t easy, you had to overcome obstacles on the way, but now you are leading change that you are proud of, doing your part to make the world a better place.

The flip side of that narrative is from your client’s story.

Demonstrating the effectiveness of your nonprofit is far more powerful when you can tell the personal story of someone whose life is better because your organization exists. The story of your client is a memorable way of showing that your organization is an agent of change.

Lastly, your organization gains credibility when you tell a volunteer’s story.

Whether it’s a leader on your board of directors or a person in the trenches, the fact that someone is giving you their time and talent speaks volumes about the value they see in your nonprofit. Let people know how and why they became affiliated with your organization.

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With the possible exception of the first story (particularly if you are the founder of your organization), the key to bringing a good story to life is to have a good interview with the subject of your story.

And that’s where I can help. 

I’ve created The Nonprofit Storytelling Interview Guide to help you get the information you need to tell the story you want, so that it can be used as a strategic and effective part of your marketing mix.

From the background research you need to conduct before you ask the first question to techniques to make your interviewee more comfortable, this guide will help make the interview process as stress-free as possible – for you and the subject of the story you are telling.

Click here for some insights and techniques so that you come away with the details you need to create a powerful and engaging story about your organization.