Framing the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary to Cultivate Connection and Build Engaged Case Studies
As non-profit professionals, we know how important storytelling and personal case studies are to cultivate connection to our audience with our mission and raising money. Stories help create relationships. Stories help facilitate familiarity.
Storytelling is something most non-profits have learned to incorporate as a tried and tested way to engage donors. At first, our audiences may not think they have much in common with those we serve but it is our job as storytellers to help them realize we may not be that different after all.
Below you will find some tips, tricks, and solid questions for capturing a solid case study and basis for your story.
The goal of your storytelling efforts should be to cultivate connection to the reader or listener to your mission and main character. To do this, you will want to make your character relatable with “common denominators.” In other words, how can you draw parallels between their life and the lives of your audience.
Good storytelling contains a solid character with a goal who faces challenges and overcomes them. It can be tempting to focus on the struggle and challenge for “shock-factor” and empathetic response. However, we have to remember that when an audience is reading to or listening to a story, they are really listening to how it relates to them. Additionally, stories that only speak of trauma and hardship can be difficult to consume. We want to frame the extraordinary (the struggle) within the ordinary (the every day life) of an individual.
So how do we do this?
Start by really getting to know those you serve yourself. If conducting a case-study interview for storytelling, start by asking interesting get-to-know-you questions. This gives us the solid material to “humanize” the character. The more interesting and specific the details, the fuller the recited results will ultimately be and the fuller the picture of the person you’re highlighting will seem. It’s our responsibility to present a rounded person at the heart of the case study, not just an unfortunate two-dimensional random individual.
Here’s twenty helpful ‘guide questions’ to add into your next case-study interview. You don’t need to use all of their answers of course, only the best. However, it’s likely these questions will open up areas of discussion you hadn’t at first thought of and eventually help engross your audience on a deeper level of empathetic engagement.
- What was your favorite sport?
- What was your favorite time of year?
- What was your school life like?
- Did you have a favorite subject?
- What hobbies or talents were/are you most proud of?
- What do you love today?
- What are you most thankful for?
- What did you dream of as a kid?
- What is your happiest memory?
- Did/do you have a favorite pet?
- What do you hope to achieve next?
- What are you looking forward to?
- What good thing have happened recently?
- What lessons have you learned in life?
- What advice would you give others in your situation?
- What advice would you give your younger self?
- Do you have a dream destination you would like to see?
- Who were and are the most important people in your life?
- Do you have a favorite song and why?
- If you could be doing anything now what would it be?
These questions really help to humanize an individual and highlight the normality of those in need. Not only will these questions help your audience better relate to the stories you share, but it will also help those you serve feel more understood. Chances are good the storytelling interview experience will be an enjoyable and even therapeutic one for those you serve as they are able to communicate their past, present, and future effectively.
At the end of the day, many of our missions are meant to enhance the community and the quality of life. Cultivating better relationships, raising awareness, and ultimately creating greater human connection through communication is certainly a worthy goal. Happy storytelling!