compelling nonprofit stories

Over centuries, storytelling has followed a similar pattern. Once you’ve cracked the code to the pattern, you’ll find that telling compelling nonprofit stories becomes less overwhelming and more manageable. You can apply the same blueprint again and again and know the stories will be well received by your audience. 

Below I’ll break a good story down into four key ingredients. If you feel like you struggle to know where to start when sharing compelling nonprofit stories, keep reading!

1. Character: Who is the story about?

When we talk about a character, we’re talking about the person the story is about. 

Naturally, you might be wondering which person to feature in your story. When it comes to nonprofit storytelling, The Singularity Effect is proven to be effective. What this means is that you should focus on one particular character in your story—just one person your organization has served or one person who is involved with your organization internally. 

Why? Your audience is more likely to connect with one individual than they are with a massive group. This concept is true in written storytelling and in visual storytelling through photographs and other media. 

After you choose your character, think about how you can make them relatable to the audience. Knowing your audience helps with this. Take a minute to identify what the character and the audience may have in common and communicate those common denominators through your story. The more your audience relates to the character, the more likely they are to be inspired to support them and your mission. 

2. Conflict: What is your character struggling with?

Now consider what struggles the character is facing. 

Are they battling a health issue? Do they need help with housing? Were they impacted by a major natural disaster? Think big and small when it comes to conflict. 

We all face difficulties in our lives. That’s why a good story has a struggle—your audience likely won’t be moved by a story about a character who never had to overcome adversity. When you can show the struggle the character is facing, you’ll give your audience a reason to help the character (and support your mission). 

Once you choose your character and understand their struggle, communicate the struggle the character is facing early on in your story. You may even lead with the struggle to help create a stronger “hook” for your audience. 

3. Goal: What are they working toward and why?

In addition to sharing their struggle, it’s important to communicate your character’s goals. 

What are their hopes and motivations? What is important to them and why? What would it mean for your character to achieve their goals? 

This is where you further the connection between the audience and the main character—by getting the audience to root for the character’s success. 

Be sure to show how your nonprofit is working to help your character achieve their goal. Even further than that, be sure to show your audience how they can also work to help your character achieve their goal by giving them options to get involved, such as donating or volunteering!

4. Change Over Time: What is the result?

For a story to be truly satisfying, there must be some sort of change that takes place. 

That change could be a physical change, an emotional change, or a change in circumstance. No matter what that change is, keep in mind that your audience is looking for a clear lesson or takeaway in the story you’ve shared. When you tell compelling nonprofit stories, show how supporting your nonprofit can contribute to that change. 

Now that you know the four ingredients to a good story, revisit the ones you’re telling and see what you need to change or think about new compelling nonprofit stories you can create!

Are you ready to give your donors the content they deserve? Here’s a Donor-Centered Content Marketing worksheet you can use as a template to enhance your donor communication efforts.

Madison Gonzalez

Madison Gonzalez

Advancement Director at Morning Light, Inc.
Madison Gonzalez is a National Public Speaker, Storyteller of the Year Award-Winner, Best-Selling Author of Dear Mirror, Events Manager, and Published Poet. She is also the Advancement Director at Morning Light, Inc., and Indianapolis-based nonprofit that fosters community programs in Indiana for the terminally ill, seniors, families and the home-bound. As a storytelling coach and consultant, it is her mission to empower others to share their stories for impact and income. Madison can be reached at madison@toldcoaching.com.