How to Unlock Remarkable Storytelling for Nonprofits

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Unlock results with powerful storytelling

Every nonprofit is missing out on donations, sponsors, volunteers, staff, or media exposure. Focusing on mission statements and generic “support our cause” requests are ineffective. The answer—storytelling!

With so many worthy nonprofits, it’s essential to stand out to potential supporters. You want them to connect to your cause on an emotional level, and a good story helps. Stories help people remember your nonprofit, influence their decisions and increase donations.

Which story would attract your support?

Story 1

Each year approximately 4.2 million dogs end up in shelters and over 1.3 million are euthanized.

Our organization rescues, trains, and places dogs into police departments that cannot afford them. We need donations to provide vet care, housing, food, and training for the dogs in our program.

It is our goal to have enough staff and funding to save and donate dogs across the nation someday.

Story 2

Money you donate goes to the care and training of dogs like Hero.

He was a one-year-old German Shepherd held by a shelter that no one would adopt. Hero was underweight with bald spots and sores and only a day away from being put to death.

When we saw him, it was clear that Hero was smart and attentive, so we rescued him. Hero responded to training and showed potential for being a police dog.

We donated him to a police department and he now serves as a K9 officer. Your support helps us rescue, train, and donate more dogs like Hero.


The first story focuses on statistics and a mission statement. While it describes a worthwhile cause, it’s not personal or particularly memorable.

Hero’s story is very personal to dog-lovers and drives the point home. He went from near-tragedy to success. Before and after photos of Hero will help this nonprofit stand out from other pet rescue groups.

What do you need for a great story?

Great stories usually include a:

  • central character
  • challenges or obstacles facing our character
  • desire or need to overcome those challenges
  • the struggle to face the challenges
  • obstacles overcome leaving our character in a better place

People respond better to identifiable subjects rather than a nameless group.

Getting bogged down in numbers, statistics, or the immensity of a challenge might overwhelm people. It could leave them feeling the problem is too big to help.

Use a success story of an individual to help gain support.

How do I write a great story?

People like stories with happy endings. I’m sure your nonprofit has many successes to share. How many times have you told a friend about one of these successes? Share that success with a story.

Start with a specific goal in mind, and write a story to help achieve that goal.

Make it personal. Write about an individual. Describe the challenge faced and the actions your organization took to overcome obstacles.

End with the outcome and how your individual’s life is better now. Even if the goal is not yet reached, write about the progress toward the goal. An improved quality of life can motivate others to help continue your efforts.

Get inspiration from your own staff or volunteers. We often ask clients if we can interview staff, and one of our questions is “tell us about your best day on the job.” Their stories of how they’ve helped those in need are inspiring.

Use pictures that support, not replace, the story. By themselves, photos of people and silent auction items at fundraisers do not tell any story. Use a photo of an individual the fundraiser has helped as the focal point of a story. Use photos that grab attention and add a caption that highlights your goal.

What if I struggle to tell our story?

Consider hiring a professional copywriter with a marketing background to write the story.

You’re already busy—do you have the time for writing? A conversation or two with a copywriter will result in a more compelling story and take one item off your plate.

The copywriter might find part of the story that’s second nature to you but is striking to supporters.

Your Opportunity

You’re doing work that impacts lives. You’d like to impact more lives.

You can do that by sharing those stories. Your stories will create a connection with the hearts and minds of supporters.

You’re already doing the hard work every day. Telling the story of that doesn’t need to be hard.

Ready to share your story? Schedule a free, 15-minute call to see if we can help.

Written by Craig de Fasselle

March 27th, 2018 at 9:14 am

Posted in Nonprofit

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