Powerful and Important: Storytelling for Nonprofits

June 21, 2022

Originally published on September 26th, 2019. Updated for June 21st, 2022.

Storytelling has been around since before written language existed. Humans love stories. It’s also human nature to tell stories and to listen to them. Storytelling for nonprofits is a powerful tool that you need to take advantage of today.

An open book on a wooden table with a tree sprouting in front of it like magic

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

To me, the very first line of the very first Harry Potter book is still sentimental and powerful. While Harry Potter isn’t exactly the topic I’m writing about, its power as a story is. I still love Harry Potter, even though the books, movies, and author aren’t perfect. I have two Slytherin themed blankets and a Slytherin facemask. This is the power of storytelling — the stories become part of who we are.

The need to tell your story

If you have a nonprofit you need to tell your story. But you need to remember, stories aren’t what you do. They aren’t a cliché. Your story is why you do what you do. Creating content is common for almost all companies today. But creating content for the sake of creating it will only add noise to a noisy room. Nonprofits have great stories to share. They have a ‘why.’

Shawn Coyne from The Story Grid said the following:

“Whether you know it or not, your desire to write comes from the urge to not just be “creative,” it’s a need (one every human being on earth has) to help others. A well-told Story is a gift to the reader/listener/viewer because it teaches them how to confront their own discomforts.”

Why is storytelling important for nonprofits?

Telling your story the right way will attract the audience you want. It will attract donors and long term supporters for your nonprofit. But your story isn’t the only story you can tell. You can tell donor stories, too. Let those who have given or regularly give to your nonprofit tell their story. It makes them feel important and included in your work. It also demonstrates your appreciation to them for their donations. Donors help share your ‘why.’ Donor stories are the perfect examples and expressions of your nonprofit.

The pitfalls of recipient stories

You can also tell stories of people your nonprofit helped or currently helps. But be sure to get permission. Never post a story that includes someone who doesn’t want to have their story shared. Storytelling for your nonprofit will backfire if you share things without proper consent. But don’t be scared to share recipient stories. If you want to show where your donations go and what they do, tell recipient stories.

The structure of powerful storytelling

Writers know a proper story has a conflict that needs solving. But that’s not where you start. First, you start with a hook. Then you can start your story. Your nonprofit probably has a problem that it’s trying to solve. After your introduction to the problem, you then tell the heart of your story. Finally, you give an ending. There are different kinds of endings, each with their own pros and cons.

  • In happy endings, you solve the problem, but your ending may not be universally happy
  • Your ending can give hope; it can include steps you take to solve part of the problem
  • Your ending can inspire action; you can place small steps that ease the burden while asking the reader for help

Find stories that your ideal audience wants to hear. And tell them! Don’t be afraid to show your heart. If you want some nonprofit storytelling examples to get you started they’re not hard to find. Engaging your audience lets them connect with your nonprofit. Stories inspire action.

A special place for stories

Harry Potter has a special place in my heart as a powerful story. Finding your story and sharing it with your audience will build your nonprofit. It creates connections that are purpose-driven. Storytelling for nonprofits is a necessity.

At Technology Aloha we work with businesses and organizations that are committed to making an impact in the communities they serve. If you want help telling your story, contact us today.

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Former Content Manager

Kelli focuses on creating stimulating and creative content for both Technology Aloha and our clients.

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