How Nonprofits Can Use Storytelling to Connect with Audiences

Storytelling for Nonprofits

“We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.” – Jimmy Neil Smith

When we hear a good story, we are transported to a different landscape. 

We can see the action, hear the sounds. 

Our emotions rise to the brim, as we relate to others around us.

We embark on a journey, imagined or real, and move through a conflict toward a resolution.

And when we find that resolution, we can rest easy.

Whether this story is in a novel, a magazine, or a compelling fundraising letter, we as readers still wish for that resolution at the end.

This is why storytelling has become such a useful marketing strategy, particularly for nonprofits. 

Storytelling can be a particularly useful tool as nonprofits seek to connect to their supporters and convert donors. Let’s take a look at why storytelling is so compelling, and how you can employ it in your nonprofit’s marketing strategy. 

3 Key Components of Excellent Storytelling 

Storytelling is widespread across emails, social media, and newsletters, giving nonprofits an opportunity to share images, voices, and video all at once. A recent study found that 82% of nonprofits use storytelling in fundraising materials, and over 75% used storytelling directly in donor communications. 

What is it about storytelling that motivates supporters and converts donors? 

Consider three key components of a great story:

  1. Empathy. Potential donors feel emotionally connected to the issue and the people involved.
  2. Reality. Stories give rich details that eliminate “someone else’s problem syndrome.” Donors recognize how an issue impacts them in the big picture.
  3. Hero. Storytelling empowers donors, revealing their sacred role as agents of change. 

The impact of storytelling on overall donations is tough to measure, but some studies suggest that it makes donors twice as likely to give. 

The most important thing is that this strategy is a powerful means to connect to your very important audience. 

So, how do you write a good story? Let’s examine some basic mechanics…

6 Tips for Effective Nonprofit Storytelling

1. Start “in medias res.”

Latin for “in the middle of things,” this phrase means that when you tell a story, you begin right in the heart of the action. Avoid boring preamble or history – get straight to the conflict. 

2. Establish a conflict.

Make sure you clearly describe what problem or challenge your main character must overcome. What is contributing to the problem? What’s at stake?

3. Focus on a main character.

Help the audience connect to your story by featuring an individual throughout your piece. What is his or her name? What is his or her personal plight? 

4. Stir emotions.

How do you want your donors to feel when they read your story? Sad? Angry? Fearful? Pitiful? Think of what language, images and videos you can provide that will help connect to these emotions as you tell your story.

5. Interview and research.

Gain a thorough understanding of the conflict and your main character’s personal experience with it. This will increase your ability to tell a rich, detailed story.

6. Speak to the donor.

Make your donor a character in the story. Address him or her directly by using the word “you,” and help them see that the story’s resolution depends on them. This will personalize your piece and emphasize your donor as the hero.

Need an expert?

Did you know that Spicy Lemon Marketing specializes in nonprofit storytelling? As part of our nonprofit marketing services, we can help your nonprofit accomplish its marketing goals, connect to its audience and convert donors.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

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