Vanessa Chase is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub. She is the President of The Storytelling Non-Profit and co-founder of Stewardship School. Vanessa works with nonprofit organizations to help them develop stories for donor communications and fundraising appeals. You can follow her on Twitter @VanessaEChase and find more storytelling resources on The Storytelling Non-Profit Blog.
You have probably heard about storytelling and the positive impact it can have on nonprofit fundraising. Perhaps you’ve even seen a few examples of stories you think are great. But is your nonprofit actively sharing stories about its work? If not, what’s holding you back?
After working with hundreds of nonprofits over the last few years, I continuously observe that one of the biggest barriers to storytelling is actually finding stories to tell.
In a way, it’s a bit ironic given that there are stories all around us at nonprofit organizations. But if you are a fundraising or communications professional, you are typically not in direct contact with the stories you want to share. Luckily there are lots of other people at your organization who are in direct contact with these stories, such as program staff and volunteers.
Let’s look at 5 tips to engage your colleagues in storytelling that will result in more stories to share with donors.
Tip 1—Know What Stories You’re Looking For
One of the biggest mistakes fundraisers make when they go looking for stories from their programs is that they will just ask colleagues too broad of a question like, “What’s a story from one of your programs?” It’s much better to make a specific ask. Be detailed. Your colleagues encounter a ton of stories, and by asking them for a specific story you will help them narrow down the best possible options.
Tip 2—Tell Stories at Staff Meetings
One way to increase the number of stories you have is to use the first ten minutes of your staff meetings to tell stories. Rather than leading with an informational update, give everyone a chance to talk about their favorite moment from the past week, someone who made an impression on them, or something else. Not only will this increase your exposure to great stories, it will also better connect all staff members to work that’s happening.
Tip 3—Be a Great Listener
Part of the art of finding great stories is being a really good listener. You have dozens of conversations with people each day that may have stories up their sleeves. Listen well to what they say and ask strategic questions that take the conversation deeper.
Tip 4—Create a Form to Submit Stories
Sometimes staff may come across great stories, but they aren’t sure what to do with them. Create a hardcopy form or an online form that will allow them to easily submit and share stories. Tools like Woofu forms or Google Forms are great for this.
Tip 5—Lead by Example
If you want your colleagues to share more stories, one of the best things you can do is lead by example. Tell them stories about donors you meet with or talk to. This is a great way to connect your colleagues to the people who are excited to fund the work by passing along their enthusiasm.
As you can see from these tips, storytelling is a team sport. Work towards fostering a culture of storytelling at your organization by involving as many people as possible in storytelling. These five tips are just a few ideas to get you started with this process. Which tip will you try first?