What’s Your Nonprofit’s Story
By: Melissa Lagowski
CEO, Founder and Queen Bee, Big Buzz Idea Group
The Two Most Powerful Parts of Crafting Your Organization’s Story
Within the nonprofit world, so many organizations are looking to connect with donors, supporters and volunteers. How does one NPO stand out from another? The answer: its story.
Sharing through storytelling is powerful: it humanizes and personalizes your work and the community it serves. Storytelling conveys WHY you do what you do. It brings your mission to life.
When you’re in the business of marketing communications, you see a lot of examples of successful stories and some attempts that simply fall flat. Many nonprofits do important life-changing work but neglect to communicate their unique story. Or if they do share it, it’s not succinct enough to be compelling.
We’ve narrowed in on the two most important aspects of storytelling for nonprofits. We think of it as the “secret sauce” formula. Take time to dig deep into these two questions and then distill your answers down to their essence and you’ll find the key components to your story:
THE CAUSE: Why are you doing what you’re doing?
People may understand your WHAT, but the story tells them WHY you do it. Think about how your NPO got started. What drives your nonprofit? Did someone recognize a need or encounter someone with a problem? By telling that story, especially when it includes a “human” aspect, you will give people a reason to support your mission.
THE EFFECT: What is the result or outcome?
Once you’ve looked at why you do what you do—the “cause”—it’s time to consider the “effect.” What kind of impact do you make? How is your organization changing lives? Be specific. Think about the actual individuals, the families, and the communities your NPO has positively affected. Is there a story that stands out? Consider including numbers to quantify the impact.
Here are a couple of examples to help illustrate these storytelling elements:
- Medals4Mettle gives race finishers’ medals to people who are running the “race of life.” It got its start when the founder, Dr. Isenberg, ran a marathon and chose to award the medal he earned to a courageous patient. With over 55,000 medals awarded since 2005, this meaningful gesture offers encouragement and hope to those who are facing cancer, chronic illness or other challenges with courage and perseverance.
- Bethel New Life, a nonprofit based on the west side of Chicago, brings technology to a poverty-stricken community. The program provides education, training, and job opportunities for individuals, helping put an end to the cycle of poverty.
These examples not only communicate what the nonprofits do, but it shows why (the cause) and describes the impact (the effect). The actual language may or may not break out the two pieces in distinct parts, but the content – the meaning, the reason, the impact – is there.
The story helps people understand that their monetary donations and volunteer time are put to good use. Potential donors, volunteers and supporters can clearly see how their contributions make an impact which, in turn, generates excitement, support and a sense of community. Tap into this storytelling technique to drive your mission forward.
If you could use a hand refining your nonprofit’s story, reach out to our team. Let’s craft a story that helps your nonprofit grow – and make an even greater impact.