5-Star Storytelling Success Story

juliebrownGuest 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.

Barely a year ago, one of my co-workers, Lisa Houck, and I were happy to spend a day together at a Nancy Schwartz training called “How to Tell Five-Star Stories.”   Lisa and I share content management duties for the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation Facebook page.

Other than a hazy wish hoping for additional Facebook followers, we had no specific goals.  Each day, we decided what our followers needed to hear and then we used Facebook to broadcast it to them. And we thought we were pretty good at it!

On the training day, we were proud to have 408 Facebook followers.  One year later, our Facebook insights look different:

  • 1,145 Facebook Followers
  • Average 30% Engagement Rate
  • Awarded the Gold Award for social media from Fundraising Success magazine

So what changed?

On the car ride home from “How to Tell Five-Star Stories,” we agreed to apply the lessons learned to our work.

First we focused on goals:

  • Build trust.
  • Cultivate Foundation’s next generation of donors (women age 45-54).
  • Engage Facebook followers to share the Community Foundation story.

Next we chose three types of stories to tell:

  • Impact stories:  highlighting how agencies use Community Foundation grants to change our world.
  • Stories of our people: celebrating grantee agencies, donors, and staff.
  • Strength stories:  detailing the community change created by the Community Foundation.

A Facebook post about one of the Foundation’s impact stories:


And then the real fun started as we began to experiment with the best ways to tell our stories!

Here is our current recipe:

  • Conversational: We used to preach our message; now we listen to what our followers like to create future content.
  • Celebratory:  We lift up the work of our neighbors.
  • Visual:  Most of our posts feature a picture; some are candid shots, but we have also budgeted for a photojournalist to create photo essays.
  • Data free:  We tell stories without boring data.

And, we will even share the spices that put the special zing into our recipe:

  • Videos:  Our videos follow the classic hero script to connect with our followers: a loveable protagonist who overcomes obstacles to complete a powerful transformation.
  • Series of Posts:  For important stories, we use a series of related posts spread across a week or longer.
  • Real Time Posts:  During breaking events, we have posted in real time, even becoming a surrogate news source for our community.

A Facebook video post from the FHCC Foundation:


Going forward, we are unsure what impact the increased Facebook emphasis on pay-to-play marketing will have on our engagement levels.  In preparation, we have doubled our Facebook marketing budget for 2014 and will continue to research other social media channels.  We currently feel stymied because our geographical market has low Twitter usage.

See more examples of our Facebook posts here.

So, what’s your secret recipe for five-star storytelling? Please share your tips and techniques here.

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