Do You Have Good Stories To Tell?

Photo by UNE Photos via Flickr
If you are making a difference in someone’s life or in the community, you have good stories to tell. The best stories are ones about the people you serve and not about your organization. You can tell your stories in writing, in a video, and in pictures.

Written Stories
When writing a story use classic storytelling devices. Give it a beginning, middle, and end.  Good stories also include conflict or a struggle.

If you are writing about people, use names to make it personal. You can change someone’s name to protect the person’s privacy if needed.   

You need to grab someone’s attention right away. Your stories should also capture emotion. In the words of Maya Angelou – “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Keep your stories short and limit the use of statistics. You can follow up your story with a statistic, if you want to. Try something like this:

Every Wednesday Sarah wakes up at 5:00 a.m. to catch the #45 bus to try to get to the front of the line at the community food bank by the time it opens. Mornings are hectic and she also needs to get her kids ready for school.

If Sarah misses the bus, the next one doesn’t come for another hour. If she arrives at the food bank too late, she finds the shelves contain slim pickings. Sarah is just one of the X number of town residents who rely on the food bank.
Include stories in your fundraising and marketing materials. You could open your fundraising appeal with a story like the one above and then lead into the ask.  Put stories on your website. This is often a place where newcomers visit, and a story is a great way to introduce your organization.  Include a client story/profile in your newsletter. I used to work for a mentoring organization and we would a feature a different mentor/mentee match each month.

Work with your program staff to find these great stories. They can refer you to people to interview and help get any necessary permissions.

Here are some more tips on creating stories.

You can take some of your written stories and transfer them to video. Showing footage with a voiceover is the most compelling. You could film Sarah’s journey and condense it to a few minutes.  Record action footage of the people you serve, such as kids participating in an afterschool program or tutoring sessions.

You can interview clients and have them tell their story. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. Not everyone is a future TV star.  Find compelling subjects who are good on camera to ensure that you have an interesting video. 

If you are going to produce a video, make sure it’s good quality. Find an experienced person to shoot and produce it. If cost is an issue, you may be able to find someone to a produce a video at no cost.

Most importantly, keep it short. Videos on your website or social media should last just a few minutes. You can create longer videos to use at fundraising or recruiting events, but stick to 10 minutes or less.

Video Resources 

Photographs can tell a story in an instant. People may not take time to read a story or watch a video, but they shouldn’t be able to miss an engaging photo. 

Every year or two take a set of photos and use them on your website, annual reports, fundraising letters, newsletters, and social media.  It’s okay if you use some of the same ones.  It helps with your brand identity. 

Choose compelling pictures of the people you serve. When using action shots, make sure you can see peoples’ faces and not the backs of their heads. Give some thought to the layout, too. Don’t make it random. 

And make sure they are good quality. Invest in a good camera and photographer. You can often find professional photographers willing to work pro bono, if cost is an issue. 

Here are some tips of what to do and what to avoid.
More information on creating good photographs,
Again, if you are making a difference, you should have good stories to tell.  Share your stories!

How do you tell your stories?

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