Story Time: Not Just for Babies

chapincoleheadshot13smallGuest blogger, Chapin Cole is a proud Millennial who works in nonprofit development in the California Bay Area. She blogs on getting successful (yet stress-free) as a nonprofit staffer.

Who cares what your nonprofit is doing to change the world? I don’t. I’m busy; I don’t have time to read about programs and services, how many people you’ve lifted out of poverty, or how many children you’ve taught to read.

And yet, the minute you put someone’s story in front of me, I’m hooked.

So many nonprofits lead with their data. While these achievements are amazing, and not to be discounted, they should only supplement the star of the show: the story. I hear you’re changing lives, now tell me who, what, where, when, how, and why.

Once you do that, even if I’m not at all similar to the person in the story, I can’t help but relate. I can’t help but try, even just for a minute, to put myself in their shoes. To imagine what life would have been like before the nonprofit and after. That’s when you get me to feel. And that’s when you get me to act.

I once worked for a nonprofit working to revitalize a downtown area. The organization was doing important work—providing small business loans, building affordable housing, putting on community events, and cleaning the streets. And when I talked about that work via power point presentations and charts, people politely listened. But when I told a story of a single mother with a business plan, now successfully supporting her family because of the help she received from the organization, people got it, felt it and remembered it.  Her story made the difference.

The next time you’re developing your marketing, make sure you focus on the personal story first and the data second. The data will make us think, but the story will make us connect.

How have you used a story in a compelling way? Please share your ideas here.

P.S. Get more in-depth nonprofit marketing guidance from Nancy and your peers in the field, in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Guest Blogger on November 21, 2013 in storytelling | 8 comments
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  • linda rastelli

    Very well put and I couldn’t agree more, Chapin. Don’t lead with the data. If you have to protect clients’ privacy, use a pseudonym. People are just as affected by the story if you tell it well.

  • Chapin

    Absolutely! Thanks for stopping by and for the comment, Linda!

  • http://www.createmotivate.com/ Rick Rood

    Absolutely right! The story is what creates rapport. Great article!

  • Chapin

    Thank you, Rick!

  • Pingback: Story Time: Not Just for Babies | Nonprofit Chapin()

  • Kate

    Completely agree. As someone that loves metrics and has a science background, I sometimes struggle with this. It was suggested to me recently by Marlene Oliveira to make sure that content has “characters” (program participants, volunteers, Board members, etc). That seems to do the trick!

  • Chapin

    What a great tip, Kate. Thank you for sharing!

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