Nonprofit Storytelling

Nonprofit Storytelling

Being adept at storytelling is exceptionally important in communicating ideas and affecting change. From determining a theme, to defining an audience, to crafting a call to action, nonprofits must be great storytellers in order to fulfill their important mission. While not specifically related to nonprofits, there is a fantastic article making the rounds this week capturing the best storytelling advice from Pixar’s Story Artist, Emma Coats. Below are some of her best pieces of wisdom and how they can relate to the storyteller at every nonprofit.

You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.

Organizational objectives, goals, and intended outcomes, while not necessarily fun, oftentime dictate the why and the what of nonprofit communication. Instead, consider what your audience wants to hear. Engaging content should be the focus, as this will lead to greater participation from your constituents and better potential outcomes. Think about what your constituents want to know more about, and align your communication goals with this messaging.

Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

What are some articles and messages you’ve read written by other nonprofit organizations that you liked? Break apart the structure and content of these messages and assess if this strategy might be effective coming from your organization. This can be especially true of social media – look to other nonprofit Facebook and Twitter accounts. What are they doing well? What stories are they telling that are getting the most positive responses?

Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

Endings in nonprofit communication ultimately come down to a call to action – what do you want your audience to do after reading? Whether it is asking for a donation, encouraging your audience to forward this message to a friend, having your constituents like you on Facebook, be sure to spell out specifically what readers should do. By focusing on the call to action first, your story and your message will be more engaging and have more impact.

Nonprofit storytelling might not be as filled with fantasy or wonder as most Pixar movies, but nonprofit stories are the backbone to creating change in the community. By taking the steps noted above, you have the opportunity to strengthen your communication and increase the return on investment of your communication strategy.


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