Kin Blog

Non-Profit Storytelling

March 11, 2014
By Lauren MacDonald-Schlaht

With the emergence (and dominance) of social media and other online tools in our daily lives, getting through to your audience can be tricky at times. How do you get through to someone who is constantly seeing ads, jumping around different social media sites and scanning headlines but rarely reading full stories throughout the day? One way is through storytelling, and telling your story properly.

In the non-profit industry, ads and corporate messages are not going to cut it if you want to get the attention of your volunteers, donors and other supporters. While it may take some practice, telling a story of how volunteer hours and donations are spent and how they impact others will be more effective and gain the attention of your audience.

The number one reason that motivates Canadians to volunteer is to contribute to their community, and it’s our job to show them how they do.

I recently read an article that included tips on how to make your story persuasive. It begins with recognizing that storytelling is three-dimensional; there’s the storyteller, audience and shared experience. The shared experience, the benefit of volunteering, donating or sponsoring, is often forgotten.

So, how do we make sure we communicate the shared experience?

  1. Compelling details – Share the most important and relevant details but make sure you don't drag the story out; it's important to be concise. How, exactly, will they impact the person or community, and further the cause?
  2. Humanize the story – People want to know who they’re helping. This doesn’t mean you need to list names, but giving a human perspective is important. For example, a heartfelt quote from someone who benefits from the cause can go a long way in tugging those heart strings.
  3. Pictures – What better way to convince someone to help and tell them what their contribution did than showing them? Taking pictures during an event or project is good; taking pictures of the result of their generosity is better.
  4. Stats / numbers – Some statistics on their own can be boring, but in combination with compelling details, visuals and a human connection, they can be the icing on the cake.

I participate in an annual fundraising event, and something I always remember is how that if just two teams (out of nearly 100) reach the fundraising goal of $600, a child will be supported for a full year. Combine that with the other numbers they focus on - that 50 children in my community are waiting for sponsorship - and you’re likely to motivate a lot of people. The pictures of happy children participating in the program and details how it improves their lives don't hurt, either.

There are many ways to persuade, and these tips are a good starting point to paint a compelling shared experience.

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