Let me ask a quick question…
When you tell your nonprofit’s stories, who is most often the hero of the story?
It seems that most of the nonprofit stories I hear have the organization as the hero.
You know, it goes something like…
“There was this BIG problem. We had to take action. This is what we did. And now look at how much good we do!”
Now, I’m not saying that your nonprofit should never be the hero of your stories, but there are a lot of options for you when it comes to choosing your hero.
And each has their own benefits. If your nonprofit is always the hero of your story, then you miss out on a lot of ways in which you could be connecting with your audience.
Below I’ll look alternative heroes for you to consider as you develop stories for your organization. I’ll provide examples of each hero and provide some insights as to why you need to tell the story of each of these heroes.
Hero #1: Your Nonprofit
I know, I know.
I just told you to look elsewhere for your heroes, but this is still a valid option for your storytelling. In fact, it is essential that you have at least one great nonprofit-as-hero story for all to see.
But let’s take a closer look at why this is important, how you should use it, and its limitations.
Having your nonprofit as the hero of your story is a good way to help people appreciate the mission of your organization. It gives you an opportunity to clearly articulate the problem and why your organization chooses to take action to solve that problem.
When done well, it can get your readers ready to sign up to help you achieve your mission.
Here’s a good example:
In this video, RMHA is clearly the hero.
They tell a story of the digits family in order to explain the problem they solve. It is their organization that allows families to be close to their children while they are in the hospital. They also ask for your help so they can continue to accomplish their mission.
These types of stories do a good job of establishing why your organization is important and how it gives back to the community. And can be especially powerful if you include struggles you have overcome to achieve your mission.
When done well, they provide an opportunity for you to ask your listeners for support so that you can continue to provide your service.
Your organization should be able to tell this story well, but it does have limitations.
The biggest drawback to this type of story is that it is more challenging to establish a strong emotional connection between your organization and your audience.
You’ll see this more clearly once you look at the other examples below.
Hero #2: Your Beneficiary
In contrast to having your nonprofit as the hero, placing your beneficiary as the hero is often a much more powerful way of getting people to connect emotionally with your organization’s mission.
Having one or more beneficiaries as the hero makes it easier for your audience to develop empathy for your hero which allows them to make a stronger emotional connection with your story.
This also provides an opportunity to have your beneficiary explain why your organization is important and why your audience needs to take action in support of your mission.
Here’s a good example of the beneficiary as the hero:
Note how it is the beneficiaries who are doing the work in this story. It is about what they have done to take control of their lives.
This also allows the organization to explain their mission and mention the other services they provide, but it doesn’t take away from what the beneficiaries have accomplished.
The emotional connection created with the beneficiaries is also connected to the mission of the organization.
That is powerful. These stories are great for helping people understand why your organization is important, who you serve, and why they need to join your cause.
Hero #3: The Donor
I believe this is one of the most underutilized approaches to nonprofit storytelling.
We are quick to highlight the problem, show the organization as the hero, and ask for a donation.
But if you want to inspire people to take action in support of your cause, few approaches are more effective than holding up your past donors as heroes.
What better way to inspire your audience then to show them what they could be if they only chose to take action and contribute to your cause.
Introduce them to past donors, inspire them by showing them the impact of their contribution. Give them a chance to make a difference and show them exactly what that difference looks like.
Your donors are your most valuable asset. Make them the hero of your story.
Here is a video from Charity: Water inspiring people to take action by making them the hero of the story.
Hero #4: The Volunteer
If your organization actively recruits and works with volunteers then it is imperative that you have an effective volunteer-as-hero story to help potential volunteers understand what they can contribute and what they can gain from contributing their time and energy to your cause.
Here is a great example:
This video is inspirational and highlights why people should volunteer, but it also provides links at the end of the video where people can learn more about specific volunteer experiences.
Similar to the donor-as-hero story, telling stories like this will inspire people to commit their time to your cause. What better way to begin a lifelong relationship with a new member of your community of support?
Other heroes of nonprofit storytelling
The four types of heroes listed above are just a sampling of what is possible when it comes to finding heroes for your nonprofit.
You could also tell a story with an employee or your founder as the hero. Or what about your approach to solving the problem? Or your location? Even your building could be the hero of your story.
There are lots of places to look for heroes in your organization. Make sure you are looking for and telling the story of all of them.