Stories as the answer

by Amy Sample Ward on April 18, 2008

Storytelling is a big hot topic for nonprofits – especially when it is done in a digital or dynamic way. Kivi Leroux Miller wrote a great post today about five key questions about organizations that should be answered with stories.

Her list includes:

1) What Do Other People Think About This Group?

Answer with Testimonials. When someone is learning about you for the first time, they’ll be curious what other people think about your organization, your staff and your effectiveness. You can talk about how great you are, but that’s not nearly as convincing as testimonials from other people who aren’t on your payroll (or even on your board).

2) Are People Here Like Me?

Answer with Profiles. When someone donates time or money to your organization, they are joining a virtual community of people who believe in the same cause. If someone is not quite sure if your nonprofit is a good fit for them, showing them that they fit in with other supporters can help overcome that barrier.

3) Does This Work?

Answer with Success Stories. Do you get the job done? Are you going to make a difference with the money I give you? Success stories show donors (and potential new donors) exactly what it is you do and how you do it.

4) What Difference Can a Single Person Make?

Answer with Personalized Giving Options. Big problems are overwhelming. If you swamp people with the enormity of the need, they are likely to tune you out and move on to something that feels more manageable. 

5) Can I Come Along?

Answer with Personal Chronicles. For your supporters to fully engage with your nonprofit, you have to be willing to share what’s really going on. A small but important segment of your donor base won’t be happy with the level of detail they get in your newsletters. They’ll want more and you should give it to them.

To read the rest of the details and examples, click here.

The one question I think is missing, is: Who are you?

It is important to remember that your organization is made up of humans who do all have lives outside of the office and have passions that have brought them to the same organization for a reason.  It is important to showcase your wonderful changemakers, both to recognize them as complete people, and to show your audience/community/supporters/members that they can identify with individuals in the organization and not just the mission.

How do you do this? With blogs, videos, pictures, etc.  There are many ways to show that your organization is made of great people.  Take pictures at your next staff meeting and have everyone make their own nametag with paper and crayons to hold up for the photo.  Let everyone create a short 10-30 second video about how they discovered the organization and wanted to start working there.  Start a blog on the website for staff to contribute to about things other than specific press releases, project announcements, etc.

How are you using storytelling in your organization?  What is another question that you would add to this list that could be answered with stories?