Last week I had the joy of participating in #12NTC (the 2012 NTEN—Nonprofit Technology Network—Conference), with so many incredible peers in the nonprofit sector. I learned a ton, from one-to-one conversations and from the formal sessions, and will be sharing those insights and guidance out with you over the weeks to come.

Four storytelling superstars and I jointly presented Say It in Pixels: Visual Storytelling in the 21st Century (12NTCSIIP). Cara Jones of Storytellers for Good and I kicked off with some must-dos for every successful story, narrative or visual:

Nancy Schwartz in storytelling | 7 comments
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Guest blogger Kim St. John-Stevenson is the communications officer at the St. Luke’s Foundation of Cleveland, and a dedicated advocate for funding nonprofit skill building in Communications.

“To be or not to be, that is the question.” Most people recognize that as a classic Shakespearean quote, from Hamlet. But did you know the following quotes also come from Shakespeare’s pen?

  • A foregone conclusion. (Othello)
  • Come full circle. (King Lear)
  • Eat me out of house and home. (Henry IV)
  • Come what may. (Macbeth)

The fact that these and hundreds more everyday phrases were penned more than 400 years ago is absolute validation that Shakespeare knew a thing or two about telling a great story, and there’s lots for us to learn from this.


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Guest blogger Kimberlee Roth, one of our team’s valued writers, has written for the Chicago Tribune and The Chronicle of Philanthropy among other publications. She provides writing and editing services to universities, health systems and other nonprofits.

Whether told through gestures, symbols or spoken words, carvings on a cave wall or YouTube videos, we humans have used stories as a communications strategy for thousands of years. It’s intuitive in many respects to tell a story.

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I’m happy to welcome guest blogger Kim St. John-Stevenson. She is the communications officer at the St. Luke’s Foundation of Cleveland and a powerful advocate for funding nonprofit skill building in Communications!

“He was splashing…enjoying the jungle’s great joys…when Horton the Elephant heard a small noise… Just a faint little yelp, as if some tiny person were calling for help.”

And so begins the children’s book Horton Hears a Who, in which Horton the Elephant happens upon a small world on top of a dust speck.

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Project Hope Empowers Citizen Fundraisers wDIY Web Pages I recently heard from Project HOPE‘s (PH) Marisol Murphy-Ballantyne, who wanted to share the communications innovations integrated into the org’s new website.

Frankly, I (and your audiences) couldn’t care less about a new website. And organizations that announce the launch of a new site as if it’s news drive me nuts.

But when I hear about a new or improved site that makes it easier or more effective for the org and its base to achieve its goals, that is news.

Marisol and colleagues made many of the typical updates in the new site — improving access to basic information on its international health education and humanitarian programs, and adding homepage links to Project HOPE’s Facebook Fan and Cause pages, and its Twitter and YouTube channels.

But far more important are these two changes, likely to make a real difference in engaging the org’s base:

  1. A new series of stories of individuals like Consuelo Rodriguez participating in PH’s programs are much more meaningful that the broad-based descriptions and stats of those served that are featured in the program summaries.
  2. The ability of donors, friends and fans to create their own fundraising webpages, similar those created by ActBlue supporters during the 2008 elections. Users choose the specific Project HOPE program (by geography or focus) they want to fundraise for, describe what the organization means to them, then quickly and easily create and promote their fundraising page. The leading fundraiser to date (and this is brand new) has raised over $10,000!

Thanks for the heads up, Marisol. These are two significant improvements to the site that are strong models for your colleague nonprofit communicators.

P.S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Case Studies, High-Impact Websites, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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How to Use Storytelling to Engage & Motivate Your Base -- Free GuideI was astonished to see how succinctly storytelling expert Andy Goodman summed up the must-dos in his NTEN Webinar, covered here by Fundraising Success. He's a consummate storyteller himself, but few folks can share their wisdom in such a clear way.

Here are Andy's musts for a well-told story:

Five Key Structural Elements

  1. Protagonist. The person who we follow through the story.
  2. Inciting incident. Something that happens that kicks the story into action.
  3. Barrier. Something that stands in the protagonist's way. According to Goodman, this is what makes stories interesting and is absolutely critical.
  4. Resolution. When the hero gets around the last barrier.
  5. Goal.

Six Must-Have Qualities
   1. Concise, but colorful.
   2. Told in the language of the audience.
   3. Not predictable.
   4. Emotionally engaging.
   5. Includes a moment of truth.
   6. Shows, rather than telling.

Read the complete article for more detail and a few case studies! You'll never look back, especially after you see how (as Andy advises will happen) your base remembers much more about your org's work conveyed in a story, versus just telling them about it.

A high-impact tagline for your org is another vital marketing strategy. Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report for must-dos, don't dos, case studies and 1,000+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Photo:  GavKenny

Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Nonprofit Communications, Planning and Evaluation | 1 comment
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