There’s been a lot of buzz lately around storytelling in the nonprofit sector. Our Wild Apricot colleagues have a great guest post from The Storytelling Non-Profit’s VanessaChase Lockshin with tips on getting started.

We’ve hosted sessions on empowering great social storytelling among a nonprofit staff and members at PersoniFest. And our own Teresa Zimmerman has talked on this blog about replacing personas with characters to ensure your storytelling hits all the right notes.

Yet storytelling continues to be top of mind with both member- and donor-focused organizations. Why?

The Importance of Storytelling

Part of the reason why likely builds on what we heard at recent nonprofit conferences. Stories allow prospective supporters, donors and members to better visualize your organization, both in terms of the impact delivered and their ability to contribute to your mission. Stories influence behavior, constituents frame and understand the important work you do, and a well-told, genuine story tends to be highly effective across geographies, genders and age groups. Stories can also:

  • Help You Clarify Your Mission: What are the top pieces of information that will compel complete strangers to join your organization, donate to a cause, volunteer and attend events? Will it stand out in a cluttered media landscape?
  • Draw (the Right Kind of) Attention: People love the arc of a story – the beginning, the character’s progress and the end that sees the hero emerge victorious. Media outlets love the human-interest element of stories and compelling stories are more likely to be shared on social media (a great way to broaden awareness).
  • Create Transparency: It’s worth noting that successful nonprofit stories aren’t works of fiction. Authenticity matters and showing impact is critical to not only maintaining engagement but attracting new constituents as well.

3 Tips for Creating Memorable Stories

1. Let People Tell Their Own Story

User-generated content provides huge benefits. It’s inspiring, it’s credible and it shows that the organization values supporters and members. User-generated content also eases the burden of creating original content from the organization itself, while at the same opening up ample opportunities for increased engagement and participation. Ensure the content you get is what you’re looking for by soliciting content around a key theme, in support of answering a specific question or to support a unique campaign.

2. A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

According to a recent study by social media management company Buffer:

  • The brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than it does text.
  • Sixty-three percent of social media is made up of visual content with nearly half of all Internet posts sharing a picture or video they saw online.
  • Content with images gets 94 percent more views than content without. Tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets.

Visual storytelling has proven to be a highly-effective storytelling tool. Visuals allow you to quickly get messages across in high-impact ways that viewers can digest quickly. When people see your story, when they hear videos you’ve put together it creates the opportunity for a more memorable experience. Thoughtful and strategic introduction of multimedia will capture your viewers’ attention and spark meaningful engagement.

3. End with a Call to Action

Many of us learned early on that stories have a beginning, middle and end. For nonprofits, there’s an opportunity to share an overview of the problem and how the organization’s mission works to solve the problem. That’s the end, right?

It shouldn’t be. The stories that nonprofits and their supporters tell invest heavily in building an emotional connection but sometimes miss the opportunity to capitalize on it with a powerful call to action. Ensure each story your organization tells ends with a call to action—an opportunity for someone interested to become more involved. Join us, share your story, learn how to get involved all provide great ways for people to harness the positive energy from your story and turn warm feelings into next steps.

For nonprofits, storytelling is changing the way constituents find, engage and build relationships – and for the better. Both member- and donor-focused organizations have a clear advantage as their missions naturally create outcomes that are worthy of a great narrative.