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.


Guest Blogger on November 21, 2013 in storytelling | 8 comments
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Whether you love, hate or have never seen Breaking Bad, there’s a lot to learn from its emotionally intense, can’t-stop-watching storytelling.

Pay special attention to these to-dos for your nonprofit storytelling:

  • Remain flexible, i.e. stay relevant—If your network’s perspective, wants or needs change, change your stories (and the rest of your messages) too to ensure connection.
  • Show and tell—Memorable details, like the cotton-candy-colored blue meth that plays a major role in the Breaking Bad story, keep the story running in your listeners’ minds.
  • Distribution is everything—Even the most moving stories will fall flat if you don’t get them out there right. Produce your stories in formats that folks like to share (i.e. video), ask them to spread the word to friends and family and provide specific how-tos to make it easy for them to do so.

Here’s how to break out of bad nonprofit stories:


Nancy Schwartz on November 5, 2013 in storytelling | 2 comments
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We are pleased to welcome our new guest blogger, Julie Brown, Program Director at the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation. Julie is intrigued by storytelling, and the opportunity it offers to inspire donors and volunteers to act.

”The universe is made of stories, not of atoms,” said poet Muriel Rukeyser.

Just a year ago, Ruykeyser’s words proved to be transformational for the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation. As a program officer listening to a grantee report about a local man facing a terrible disease with amazing dignity, I felt called to capture this inspirational story using a medium that could convey its energy.  Grantee interim reports are usually full of data, but this was different; this one had soul.


Guest Blogger on October 17, 2013 in storytelling | 0 comments
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Nonprofit Storytelling #1-9

This is the last in my six types of stories your organization has to tell series on how to find, shape and share your strength story. 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 orgs (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.


Nancy Schwartz on June 11, 2013 in storytelling | 0 comments
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Keshet-DanceI was thrilled to be invited to judge this year’s TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge and even more thrilled to see how many powerful videos, and photos (both stills and slide decks/photo series)  were submitted.

There’s so much potential in visual storytelling, but photos (single or series) and video are still not part of the daily communications toolkit for most of us. They should be—these formats have unequaled power to engage, be remembered and shared by your network.

Take a look at the winners of this year’s Challenge to get some great ideas of how you can put picture power to work. Pay special attention to the winning photo and photo series. Still photos carry a lot of power but are frequently overlooked with today’s focus on video…


Nancy Schwartz on June 4, 2013 in storytelling, Visual | 2 comments

Nonprofit Storytelling #1-9

I’m a sucker for stark contrast. It’s one of the best learning tools ever, and today I’m drawing on examples from  Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP).

The Challenge
MMP supports and strengthens mentoring programs in Massachusetts and faces this marketing challenge common to every organization that doesn’t provide direct services:


Nancy Schwartz on May 15, 2013 in storytelling | 7 comments
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Nonprofit Storytelling # 1-9

Stories are at the top of the format heap right now, because they work. Although they’ve been around forever (the Lascaux cave paintings in SW France are  17,000 years old), most of us still thrill to good stories on pages and screens.

Why We Respond to Stories
Stories help us make sense of a world that can be hard to understand. Lisa Cron, author of the wonderful Wired for Story, clarifies that stories drive emotions and emotions drive decisions. We count on our emotions to help us break through the clutter of the 3,000 messages we’re bombarded with each day.

Nancy Schwartz on April 25, 2013 in storytelling | 3 comments
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TechSoup Digital StorytellingHere are two absolutely irresistible (and free) ways to build your storytelling and video skills.

1) Jump into the free training offered right now with the Tech Soup Digital Storytelling Challenge, and submit your video by April 30.

Ready to change the world with a story? So is TechSoup, which is dedicated to providing your nonprofit, library, or charity with the resources it needs to tell its story.

Participate in these no-charge interactive trainings (listed below) to learn valuable storytelling and production skills, then create your own story to enter the challenge by April 30.

Nancy Schwartz on April 5, 2013 in storytelling | 3 comments
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Nonprofit Storytelling #1-9

This last post in my six types of stories your organization has to tell series illuminates how to find, shape and share your future story—the tale of where your organization’s work will take your issue or cause, beneficiaries and supporters.

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:

Nancy Schwartz on March 20, 2013 in storytelling | 3 comments
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Nonprofit Storytelling #1-9

Today you’ll learn to shape and share another of the six types of stories your organization has to tell—the stories of the people who support your cause and make your goals come true.

People stories are hugely valuable in moving people 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.

Remember, you have many of these people stories to tell, and the potential for using them to move your people to the actions you want is huge. Here’s how to develop them most powerfully:

Two Aha! People Stories—
They make it easy for your prospects to see themselves in these peoples’ shoes

Nancy Schwartz on March 6, 2013 in storytelling | 2 comments
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