Why You Need to Tell Your Stories

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Are you sharing stories with your donors, or are you putting them to sleep with a bunch of facts and statistics?

Donors love stories.  Stories bring the work you do to life by using everyday language to create a scene. Here’s an example from the Pet Partners newsletter.  Pet Partners is an organization that provides therapy animals to people who need them.

“Molly is a 12 year-old Boxer who barely survived Hurricane Katrina. Abandoned and scheduled to be euthanized, she was given a chance at Boxer Aid and Rescue Coalition (BARC) in Tallahassee, Florida and at a BARC foster home in nearby Monticello.  That’s where Molly met Ed Fangmann.

The Florida retiree had lost his Boxer recently and didn’t know whether he was ready for another dog, but agreed to take a look. When he arrived, Molly was sitting all alone on the side of a fence opposite four other dogs. Ed got out of his car and called her over and Molly came running and jumped into his arms. It was love at first sight.”

If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell

Can you tell a story like that?  If you’re making a difference, you can.  Stories should show your donors how you’re making a difference for the people you serve. Here’s another example from Pet Partners, highlighting Paz, a five-year-old Australian Labradoodle who provides support to children who’ve witnessed domestic violence and/or are crime victims.

“Recently Paz provided invaluable assistance to a seven-year-old boy who had witnessed his mother’s murder. The child was the only witness and prosecutors needed the child’s statement to convict the perpetrator.

Throughout the interview, the child wrapped his arms around Paz, who was seated on a couch next to him. Whenever the child began to cry or shudder, Paz instinctively began to nudge him and attempt to lick his tears away.

As a result of Paz’s presence during the interview, the child felt secure enough to provide statements that led to the perpetrators conviction.”

Make storytelling a priority

Creating stories takes a little more work, but they will help you connect with your donors.  When putting together a story, ask

  • Why would your donor be interested in this story?
  • Why is this important?
  • Are you using clear, everyday language to to make sure your donor understands your story?
  • Who are you helping?
  • How is your donor helping you make a difference?

Client or program recipient stories are best. You’ll need to work with program staff to get these stories.  I hope that won’t be hard for you.  If you create a storytelling culture in your organization and share stories at staff meetings, it will be easier to make storytelling a priority.

Another way to find stories is to put a Share Your Story page on your website. Share-Your-Story Page | an addition to the fundraiser’s arsenal of tools 

You can also share profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors.  Many organizations profile new board members in their newsletters.  That’s okay, but instead of emphasizing their professional background, concentrate on what drew them to your organization.  Perhaps he has a brother who has autism or she benefited by having a tutor in elementary school.

Create a story bank to help you organize all your stories. You want to use stories often. Use them in your appeal letters, thank you letters, newsletters, annual reports, website, blog, and other types of social media.  You can use the same stories in different channels.

Give your stories the personal touch

Use people’s names to make your stories more personal.  I realize you might run into confidentiality issues, but you can change names to protect someone’s privacy.  The story about Paz and the child would have been even better if the organization had given the child a name. You could also do a composite story, but don’t make up anything. How to Tell Nonprofit Stories While Respecting Client Confidentiality

Your stories aren’t about your organization

Let your donors know how with their help, Darryl won’t go to bed hungry again. Your organization stays in the background.  And remember,Your Mission Statement is NOT Your Story

Keep telling your stories. In my next post, I’ll write about sharing visual stories.

Resources to help you tell your stories

The Storytelling Nonprofit

You Have 6 Nonprofit Story Types to Tell

10 Tips for Writing Your Nonprofit Story

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5 thoughts on “Why You Need to Tell Your Stories

  1. When I write up stories for my non profit I like to have as much written by the individual as possible. I usually write an intro or add some background context. Stories written by the individuals who use our services are always the best.

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