Every day, we at Small Army help our clients craft stories intended to share their beliefs, build relationships, and, ultimately, drive sales. But, the power to build relationships through creative storytelling can make an impact far beyond sales.
I witnessed that firsthand with Mike, the ultimate storyteller, as he used the power of storytelling to motivate people, drive creativity and, especially in the final days of his life, inspire and move people to do good.
Stories help us interact with our world and make sense of it. They link us together and shape our view of the world. Nonprofits, however, often miss the stories that surround them; the stories that can help them raise more funding, expand awareness of their cause and reach their goals.
There is more “noise” in the story space now than at any time over the last few years. I used to be able to get through the Twitter stream and Google in reasonable time when searching story and storytelling and the derivatives. I can’t do that anymore now that “storytelling” is the new “everything.”
In an earlier post I offered a very broad definition for “storytelling” as the mindful sharing of experience and imagination in narrative form. It’s a short and broad definition just to get us started. But it’s not enough to really explain what we are trying to accomplish with nonprofit storytelling.
Working memory (the number of new thoughts a human can hold at one time) is key here. Focusing on something with a heartbeat reduces the number of new ideas the target audience must bear in mind at any one time. This avoids mental overload, which is a barrier to giving.
It’s time for organizations to take a cue from Hollywood trailers, and to incorporate the power of context into presentations, interviews, elevator pitches, and cocktail party dialogue. Also … more buttered popcorn at board meetings.
How would your organization’s movie trailer begin? “In a world where ____________, one organization dared to _____________!”
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, than an infographic is worth a billion! An infographic is a graphic visual representation of information and data that allows for quick, effective analysis.
Why is this important for non-profits? Well infographics make it possible to tell a story in one picture – about a need, how funds are used, the impact your organization is having, or all three – helping you sell your cause.
In a previous post, I presented the benefits of building a narrative organization—that is, an organization that continually elicits and shares stories. When embracing the benefits of working with stories, it’s important to keep two things in mind:
Develop and engage a keen sense of empathy. Consider what people physically and emotionally need in order to share their stories. Make certain that people are in no way coerced into sharing a story, and explore and protect against any possibilities that the teller may be stigmatized, or even harmed, because he or she has shared a story.
Remember that each individual wholly owns his or her stories. Personal stories are not commodities, to be taken from one person and given to another, in exchange for reimbursement of some sort. Aspen Baker, the leader of Exhale, a “pro-voice” organization that facilitates nonjudgmental sharing of stories about abortion experiences, asserts, “The storyteller must stay at the center of the story.”
All around us are people with stories to tell. On these pages you will find first-person stories by people whose voices shed light on the complex and critical issues at the heart of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund’s work.
We present these stories based on our belief in lifting up the voices of others. Whether we are working on immigrant rights, gay and lesbian equality, education opportunities or community initiatives, we are always reminded that one of the best ways to learn is to listen.
Everyone agrees that donor engagement is a key to receiving a commitment. But donor engagement doesn’t occur because we tell them what we want them to know. Instead, donor engagement occurs when they tell us what we want them to know. My counsel is that a donor is ready to make a meaningful gift when she says to me, “Jason, we need that new science building!”
Tell a Great Story. Engaging the reader, like speaking with authority, takes extra work. If you’ve seen a few posts or more on the subject, resist the temptation to rehash and re-spin the existing material. You will engage your readers faster and better with a great business story.
Even if this subject has been done before – and most have been, try using some good business storytelling techniques to find a new view. Great questions to ask are: Where’s the real conflict here? Who is the hero? If X result didn’t happen (as in the typical ‘success’ story) where would we be? These storytelling techniques will give you a new perspective and perhaps give your readers that important ‘aha’ moment.
This guest post by Allison Monnell demonstrates not only the power of storytelling in nonprofit communications, but just how beneficial it can be to your nonprofit when you integrate a culture of story sharing into your everyday work, as the...
Ask 100 storytelling practitioners to define “story” and you will get 75 definitions, more or less.
That’s partly because many don’t think the definition is important, or that any attempt at definition is too restrictive. It’s also because “story” has so many different applications that each use of “story” requires a properly tweaked definition.
One non profit that definitely gets storytelling right is Mercy Corps. Stories are up front and center in all their communications, from their blog to their Facebook page and even on their donation page. We recently sat down with Joy Portella, Mercy Corps’ Director of Communications, to get the inside scoop on how they’ve gotten so good at storytelling.
Books and articles on storytelling and narrative in fundraising are proliferating nearly as quickly as bad storytelling and narrative in fundraising (could there be a connection?). In an effort to bring some rule-of-thumb type clarity to an increasingly foggy subject, permit me to share the five word response you need to be seeking from your hearers each time you speak: I see myself in you.
In other words, you know you’ve succeeded in your storytelling efforts if at the conclusion of your story your listener feels two things:
some organizations like yours, that recognize the importance of telling their story, need help doing so. You're willing to take a strategic look at their communications efforts and work hard to figure out what you need.