Apr 11, 2011

Discover the Stories

It may be a television commercial, a Facebook invitation, or a forwarded email. Through words, pictures, or a combination, they aim to inspire with a story of triumph over insurmountable odds, or doing the right thing against enormous pressure, or discovering a solution when none seemed available.

If you want to bring people on board for your cause, you need good stories. Especially when working with nonprofits, stories are the key to:

• Attract attention

• Create resonance

• Generate action

Where do you find stories? In the thick of your mission. Do you run a food pantry? Who is talking to the clients? What are their stories? Is this a humiliating experience? Is this the only way to keep food on the table in the current economy? Did a child say something pitiable, like, “Now we can have sandwiches”?

If you are serving people, those people have stories. No one wants to ask for help, and most are excited, relieved, grateful, and so on, when they are given something that solves a problem or crisis in their lives.

This is not to say that people should be blatantly used as marketing fodder. Stories are merely an effective communication tool to tell the world about what you do. Who is your target audience? It may seem difficult when the people you serve seem to be in a completely different world than your potential donors. But people are drawn to stories about other people they can resonate with. Moms feel for other moms, no matter what their native country or social class. People who struggled in school feel for students who may need extra attention. Military families will be empathetic with anyone who deals with multiple transitions.

Find the stories and share them. Share them at fundraising events and service club meetings. Capture them in brochures and multimedia presentations. Post them on your website and print them in your newsletter. Invite your potential donors and volunteers to be part of the next story.