Articles | Nonprofit Storytelling | You Have 6 Nonprofit Story Types to Tell (Part Two)

You Have 6 Nonprofit Story Types to Tell (Part Two)

6 Nonprofit Story Types to Tell (Part One): Your Founding, Focus and Impact Stories

Storytelling starts with finding the stories your organization already has. But, most of you tell me you don’t know where to find your stories. Here’s how:

Great news here—there are 6 types of stories you can tell, and you’re likely to find all of them in your organization. So start thinking about what stories you have to tell in each of these categories:

  1. Our Founding: How your organization was created
  2. Our Focus: The core challenge you tackle
  3. Impact Stories: This most-told nonprofit story features the before and after—shows impact of your organization and supporters
  4. Our People: Donor, staff, volunteer, client/participant profiles
  5. Strength Stories: How your particular approach adds value to the services you provide, and moves your mission forward
  6. Our Future: The change you want to make in the world or what your work will lead to.

6 Nonprofit Story Types to Tell (Part One): Your Founding, Focus and Impact Stories

4) Your People Stories

The stories of the people who support your cause and make your goals come true are hugely valuable in moving supporters to take the actions you want. Craft these stories to make it easy for your prospective donors, partners and more to stand in the shoes of your current supporters, and they’re golden.

Two Aha! People Stories—
They make it easy for your prospects to see themselves in these peoples’ shoes, and remember how that feels.



6 Steps to Strengthen Your People Stories

Your org’s people stories will be as compelling, moving and motivating as these two when you follow these steps:

  1. Feature people that mirror people taking each type of action your org wants to motivate—donors, partners, board members, volunteers and more.
  2. Build out each profile to show why they would take the action, digging deep into personal reasons that are relatable to others. Just take a look at the stories above:
    • All of us have had loved ones become ill, and felt the love, concern and fear that Jackie Montag did when her son fell ill.
    • Most of us have never been homeless, but every single one of us knows what it’s like to feel alone and not know where to turn.
  3. Don’t feature stories that are too unusual—there has to be a point of connection or others won’t be able to see themselves in that story (your goal).
  4. Fill your people stories with specifics—they spent the holidays living in their car. Details allow the reader or listener to feel your story, not just process it. What’s felt is much more likely to be remembered and acted on.
  5. Testimonials, with a face and name if possible, are the ideal format here.
  6. Close with a call to action, like the top example here!

You already have these stories on hand. And if you don’t have the details and permissions that will make them even stronger, go back and get those elements for recent stories, and start collecting proactively going forward.

When done right, your people stories have unequaled potential to motivate prospects to act, simply by letting them easily seeing themselves in the shoes of current supporters who give, volunteer, sign petitions and participate in programs.

5) Your Strength Stories

Strength stories showcase how your organization’s particular focus or approach adds value to the community you serve and/or and moves your issue or cause forward in a way unmatched by other organizations (a.k.a. differentiation).

Guru-of-most-things, Seth Godin recently summed up the value of differentiation: If there’s not at least one thing that’s distinctive about your organization—OR if you have that unique strength but don’t highlight it—you’re toast. Prospects will think you’re just like every other nonprofit, and that’s death to us marketers and fundraisers.

Instead, dig deep to articulate your organization’s greatest strengths. Stay real—false claims will simply undermine your brand. Focus on the one that’s most valuable and unique—it’ll be more of a magnet—then find a story that shows that strength, just like The Arms Forces does here:



Kudos to the folks at The Arms Forces for sharing such a simple and succinct story that’s genuine, touching and memorable. They took their strength (staff and volunteers value and practice respect, listening, empathy and compassion) and illustrated it in away that’s concrete and genuine—“you listened, you reached out, you got me and you got my son.”

I get what’s special about The Arms Forces, and I bet you do too. I came across this story months ago, while preparing for a storytelling training, and it’s been on my mind ever since. Because although I’ve never been a soldier, I have been in a tough situation and felt huge relief when someone finally understood.

When done right, your strength story is a powerful influencer in your prospects’ decision to join forces with your organization. Shape it, share it and see what happens next.

6) How To Tell Your Future Story  

Future stories (a.k.a. vision statements) can be very powerful but are rarely told. Future story power comes in bringing to life—in a tangible, visible, visual and personal way—what is most frequently left as a vague, abstract and overly-wordy concept (if your organization even has a vision statement at all).

When done right, future stories have perhaps the greatest potential of all story types to hook your people at a gut level and motivate them to take the actions you need because you’re putting your dreams out there, making it easy for them to link their dreams to yours!

The great thing is that every one of your organizations has a future story ready to be shaped into a powerful movement-building tool, whether you have articulated a vision statement or not. So do it!

Here’s one of the best future stories I know:




Most of you already have a vision statement on hand.

If you do, review it carefully before creating a story from it. You want to make sure it’s accurate and relevant. Then find a story or two that illustrates it.

If you don’t, go to it. Your vision statement will lead your team and your supporters to tackle your cause or issue with greater focus, energy and heart than ever before. We all need dreams.

When done right, your future story will be a magnet for like-minded supporters. Work on it!

What’s getting in your way of shaping and sharing compelling stories? What’s working well? Please share your challenges and successes here.

6 Nonprofit Story Types to Tell (Part One): Your Founding, Focus and Impact Stories



Nancy Schwartz in Nonprofit Storytelling | 0 comments

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