Nonprofit Storyteller

This is part one of a series on the skills you need to be a great nonprofit storyteller. In this post, I talk about how to establish who you are and who you’re talking to.

Good communication is the key to being an effective fundraiser, building strong relationships, leading well, and serving the people you’re working to help. And one way I’ve found to be a good communicator is to work on your storytelling abilities

Storytelling is one of the most powerful forms of communication. Stories help embed a message into context and, often, entertainment. Think of it as dipping your dog’s medication in peanut butter. The message is the medication, and the story is the peanut butter. The audience needs to hear the message but wants to consume the peanut butter, so to speak. 

Worried that’s not a skill in your wheelhouse? I have good news! Great storytellers are made, not born. Sure, some of us have an inherent knack for weaving a good story, but the truth is storytelling can be learned, practiced, and mastered

There are several skills you need to develop to be an effective nonprofit storyteller. The things I’ll cover in this series—strategy, creativity, and logistics— are the building blocks for how to share quality stories that change minds, win hearts, and improve relationships.

In this post, I’ll focus on the strategy behind telling a compelling story. 

The strategy behind the stories you tell

When figuring out what story to tell, you need to assess your objectives and look at the big picture: Why do you want to share your story? When you know why you want to tell your story and who you want to tell your story to, you’ll be better positioned to strategize how to craft and deliver your story. 

1. Setting goals and objectives for telling your story

When setting your goals and objectives for telling your story, ask yourself these two questions

  • What are the short-term goals of sharing this story?
  • What are the long-term goals you hope telling your story will accomplish? 

When you think of your goals, think about both internal and external ones. Namely, think about how your stories will impact your team and how they’ll impact people outside of your organization. 

When we tell stories to the people on our team, we’re making sure everyone is on the same page with regards to how we’re talking about our mission and what messages we’re sharing. When we tell stories to supporters, donors, and other constituents, we want to educate, inspire, or entertain our audiences. 

2. How branding and copywriting affect the stories we tell: Figuring out who you are and how to communicate your nonprofit’s brand

Think of your organization as a person with a personality. It has a name, a temperament, and even a birthday (the date it was incorporated or founded)! All of these things and more make up your organization’s brand

Copywriting is using the written word to persuade and engage an audience to take a desired action. The words and tone you use to tell your story should be consistent. You want your messages to be clear and feel like they come from one place; if they don’t, you risk confusing your audience. 

Establishing a brand and writing compelling copy help your audience know who you are and what to expect from you in terms of language, tone, and content. When your audience feels like they know you, they’re more likely to trust you—and it’s that trust in you and your mission that will inspire them to support you.

3. Assessing your audience: Figuring out who you’re talking to 

When we identify who it is that we’re actually talking to, we’re able to strategically structure our stories to speak directly to that audience. When we assess our audiences, we need to look at their demographics and their psychographics

Demographics are the attributes such as age, gender, location, level of education, background, economic status, occupation, and more. Psychographics are interests, pain points, hobbies, passions, and points of view. 

Once you’ve identified your goals, your nonprofit brand and voice, and your audience, you can move on to the creative and logistical skills needed to share your stories effectively. Stay tuned for the other two posts in this series! 

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 [email protected]