As a nonprofit professional, connecting with supporters is a major part of your daily activities, whether it’s related to fundraising, donor stewardship, or spreading awareness about your organization’s mission. However, effective communication relies on more than just outreach—it’s about inspiring supporters to get involved.
This is where storytelling strategies come in. A compelling story has a stronger emotional appeal than facts alone, making your nonprofit’s mission concrete and captivating supporters to take action to help further it.
To help you get started, this guide will walk through four top tips to tell nonprofit stories that build trust and inspire action. Let’s dive in!
1. Choose a Compelling Main Character
The hero of the story is the main character, and your nonprofit organization’s stories are no exception. This character draws the audience in, sets up the plot, and provides a unique perspective on your organization’s work.
Since the impact stories you’re telling are true, there are a few different main characters you could focus on in your case studies:
- A staff member can provide your audience with an inside look at how your nonprofit makes an impact with real people.
- A real-life loyal donor or volunteer testimonial tends to be the most relatable for supporters and allows them to imagine themselves in the character’s shoes.
- A beneficiary creates the strongest emotional connection with your mission by showing how someone’s life improved because of your nonprofit’s initiatives.
No matter which of these main characters you choose, ask the person for permission before you use their name and photo in your marketing materials, and respect their wishes if they’d prefer to use a pseudonym or not show their face.
2. Set up and Resolve a Conflict
In addition to a main character, every good story includes a conflict that is resolved. To set up your story’s conflict, ask yourself the following questions:
- What problem related to your nonprofit’s mission did the main character see or experience?
- How did your organization intervene to solve that problem?
- How is your community better off now that the problem has been solved?
As you write your story, make sure your organization’s work stands out as the reason the conflict was resolved. Additionally, include program, campaign, or stakeholder data within your story to ground it in reality and further emphasize your nonprofit’s impact.
3. Tailor Your Stories to Each Communication Channel
Any communication tool your organization uses can be a vehicle for effective nonprofit storytelling. However, your stories will look somewhat different based on the nature of each channel.
Know how to incorporate testimonials into different types of nonprofit communications with these storytelling tips:
- Your organization’s website. Tell stories across every page of your site, whether through a video testimonial on your About page or written content on your blog.
- Email marketing. To keep your messages short and reader-friendly, include a condensed version of a story in an email, then direct your audience to your website to learn more.
- Social media posts. Each social media platform your organization uses will be best suited to a different type of storytelling. For example, Facebook is the best platform to tell written stories, Instagram lends itself to visual storytelling, and TikTok is made for sharing short video content.
To maintain consistency across channels, Loop’s nonprofit marketing strategy recommends using the same colors, fonts, and writing styles in all of your story-based content. Remember to also include your organization’s logo to further cement the connection between your nonprofit organization and your story.
4. Include Clear Calls to Action
Since the goal of nonprofit storytelling is to get your target audience to take action, end each of your stories with a clear next step.
For example, you could ask your audience to:
- Join your email list
- Follow your organization on social media
- Donate to your current giving campaign
- Register for an upcoming fundraising event
- Sign up to volunteer
- Participate in an advocacy campaign
These calls to action, when accompanied by links to relevant forms, make it easy for supporters to engage with your mission while they’re feeling inspired.
Wrapping Up: Nonprofit Storytelling Example
Know how these tips work in practice by looking at this example story an animal shelter might use:
The main characters of this story are two of the organization’s beneficiaries, which creates a real-life emotional appeal for animal lovers. The concrete details about the medical and social care the cats received solidify the shelter’s impact, and the conflict resolves when they’re adopted together. There is also a data point that grounds the story in fact and a call to action to online donation page, making it easy for the audience to engage with the shelter’s mission while feeling captivated by Pepper and Cinnamon’s story.
Keep this example in mind as you consider how to tell your nonprofit’s stories!