Shape Stories to Motivate Action: Nonprofit Storytelling #8

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.

In research on the brain, scientists have found that hearing a story rather than simply reading text fires up a richer set of connectors, it sparks emotions, it summons up connections with memories, and so you remember things when they’re in a storytelling format two to seven times more than you do than if you just get the text,” she says.

Use This Insight to Shape Stories that Motivate Action
Once you define a clear and doable action you want your listener or viewer to take, brainstorm on how to best connect her with the information or call to action (CTA) you want to share.

Build on the fact that neuroscience, brain imaging, cognitive and behavioral psychology studies all have shown that new information can only be connected to things we already know. Meaning blossoms when your listener can relate your info or CTA to her own experiences or understanding.  As John Steinbeck put it in East of Eden, “The strange and foreign is not interesting—only the deeply personal and familiar.”
Delivering your messages in a story wrapper makes them far easier to understand and to relate to. Here’s an example of a beneficiary story,  featured in a fundraising letter I wrote for a client org that provides services to the homeless.

Although most of us are lucky enough to have always had a place to live, we do know what it feels like to feel alone, be pressured by bills and/or struggle to pull it all together. So we can relate to those aspects of the Roberts’ story, and that makes the story relevant and more likely to be acted on and shared.

Early grade teachers know this and center connections at the core of teaching reading and writing. But us communicators usually forget it. Change that!

But there’s more—Story-Fueled Connections Spur Trust, Rapport and Sustained Action plus Expand Your Base

You want your listener to take action because they want to—not because they’ve been told to.When you shape your organization’s stories to enable listeners to connect your info with what they already know, you’re far more likely to build trust and rapport with them. In turn, this group relationship is most likely to be transformative, motivating their desire to take action, now and in the future, and to spread your stories/messages to friends and family.

How are you shaping your stories to motivate action? Please share yours if you think it’s working, or share your questions or challenges if you want some guidance.

Nancy Schwartz in storytelling | 3 comments
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