Nonprofit Storytelling 101: How This Powerful Technique Can Make More Impact
Once upon a time…
There was a world where pen and paper didn’t exist. But that didn’t stop people from communicating.
It just gave them a better way to communicate, understand, and remember information.
That was through storytelling techniques. And since then, stories have been a source of emotion, inspiration, and action for humans all around the world.
Your organization can use nonprofit storytelling techniques to better connect with your ideal donors. You can use those methods to inspire supporters to take action and donate to your mission.
And we’re here to introduce you to it:
What is Nonprofit Storytelling?
Nonprofit storytelling is at the heart of all of your organization’s marketing efforts. Why? Because before potential supporters donate, they need to understand what they’re donating to.
And sure. You can say, “We are a nonprofit committed to helping bring fresh water to developing nations.”
But what sounds more powerful? What’s written above? Or:
“Have you ever walked a mile to the nearest spigot to fill a canteen with your daily supply of water? Have you ever cranked the spigot so water pours out, only to find that it’s brown?
That’s the reality that families in certain developing nations face each day. But you can help! Our nonprofit is committed to eradicating unhealthy water. Because everyone deserves the essence of life.”
You can probably tell that one is focused on describing the actual events that take place for many people across the world. One is focused on using powerful language that evokes emotion. And one specifically brings the reader into the equation so they understand that they can be a part of the solution.
Ultimately, with storytelling for nonprofits, your organization positions your mission as if it plays a part in a story. That includes the main elements of a story, including:
- The main character. When you’re marketing your organization, the main character is typically going to be your reader or potential supporter. Why? Because they’re the center of their own lives. And you need their support to make more impact!
Your main character can also be a person or being who is directly affected by your cause. This is a great option when you need to give your supporter someone to root for.
- The problem. There’s always some kind of plot in a story. There’s a problem that the character faces. This is typically the cause your nonprofit is working toward. Are you bringing quality education to those currently without? Is your nonprofit trying to make sure every dog has a warm place to sleep at night?
- The action. At a certain point, the main character has to work to overcome the problem! So they need to take action. This is the point where your organization can loop the reader in (if you haven’t already addressed them as the main character). Ask them to take action to face the problem head-on!
- The conclusion. Who doesn’t love a happy ending? Let your reader know the impact they made by taking action. Maybe their donation didn’t fix the problem completely. But it helped, right? That’s part of a happy ending, too. You can tell them that they can continue working toward the ultimate happy ending by continuing to support your organization in the future!
What Happens When Your Organization Prioritizes Storytelling Techniques?
Does storytelling for nonprofits actually work? And if it does, how? There are many benefits to weaving a story together for your organization. Here are our top 3:
1. Captivate Readers Immediately
A great story with a powerful hook will quickly catch the attention of your readers. And by continuing to weave the story of your nonprofit’s mission, you’ll keep their attention.
This is critical in today’s world of short attention spans. Keeping someone’s attention means they won’t click off of your content. It means you’re getting them closer to knowing, liking, and trusting your nonprofit. And that’s crucial in the donor journey.
2. Communicate Your Mission Effectively
For potential donors to feel safe in supporting your mission, they need to trust in what you’re doing. And to get readers to that point, you need to provide effective communication.
Someone who is confused about what your mission does is way less likely to take action.
But your nonprofit needs to delicately balance both keeping readers engaged with your organization’s content and communicating effectively. That’s where stellar nonprofit storytelling techniques can be beneficial! With them, you can do both. And it will keep supporters around for the long haul.
3. Inspire Your Readers to Take Action
Powerful storytelling for nonprofits needs to convey emotion. Your supporters need to feel influenced by the story so they take action.
And weaving together the true story of your nonprofit’s mission that’s full of emotional, vibrant language can help them feel the inspiration they need.
Where Can Your Organization Use Nonprofit Storytelling Techniques?
Considering nonprofit storytelling is a form of communication, your organization can use the techniques anywhere it needs to effectively communicate to your audience.
And that might look like:
- Nonprofit website copywriting
- Blog posts and articles
- Social media captions or graphics
- Downloadable infographics
- Email nurture campaigns
- Email sales campaigns
- Short-form videos on TikTok and Instagram
- Long-form nonprofit videos on YouTube
- VR and AR for nonprofits
- Podcast scripts
- Speaking conferences
- Grant proposals
Anywhere where your organization needs to communicate your mission is an opportunity to use nonprofit storytelling.
2 of the Best Nonprofit Storytelling Examples
So, what does nonprofit storytelling look like in action? When it’s done effectively, you might not even realize that these techniques are being used.
But we’ve gathered 2 of the best nonprofit storytelling examples we’ve seen:
1. Charity: Water
Charity: Water is devoted to bringing clean drinking water to lives across the globe. And they do an excellent job of bringing readers into the story to help them continue their mission.
Everywhere you look on their website, readers are compelled by the background of the mission. But there are a few places where their nonprofit storytelling techniques shine.
What Did They Do Well?
We specifically love the Charity: Water Stories on their website. One, in particular, is a story about Hadjara.
Here’s what worked for us in terms of the article:
They immediately introduced us to a real person as the main character. They gave us her name (Hadjara). They told us the setting of the story (Niger).
And it addresses the problem. Some nations are learning the importance of sanitation to lead healthier lives.
Charity: Water brings in many other aspects of stories, too. It’s complete with dialogue. It quickly engages the reader by starting in the middle of the story and then giving background information.
Finally, it ends on a great note by sharing how the story ended for Hadjara (she successfully taught and persuaded her family to practice better hygiene so they can lead healthier lives).
The story of Hadjara shows firsthand how the nonprofit is using these storytelling techniques to better connect readers with the cause that's truly happening.
2. Four Walls: Inside Syrian Lives
Rescue.org used nonprofit storytelling techniques within a virtual reality experience. The goal was to show viewers what life was like through the eyes of Syrian refugees who are in between safe places to call home.
What Did They Do Well?
In the VR video experience, Rescue.org created a video script using storytelling. They brought Rashida Jones to narrate the script, which helped give information about what was happening in Lebanon.
But more than that, the filmmakers talked with real refugees. The film itself walked through small, makeshift homes that people were living in!
They clearly established the problem in the story – Syrian refugees were having difficulty finding safe places to call home. And through interviewing refugees, they introduced viewers to true characters.
Rescue.org used an immersive storytelling experience to inspire viewers to take action!
Curious to know more about nonprofit storytelling and how your team can tell your nonprofit’s story more effectively?
We can help! Grab your seat in the training: