Are you currently in the process of writing a story for your nonprofit?
If so, I’d like to you to take a moment and ask yourself this question…
“What is it you want this story to achieve?”
Do you want this story to move people to donate?
Or do you want this story to inform your audience about your mission?
Do you want this story to get more likes on your Facebook page?
Or do you want this story to inspire people to volunteer?
These are all valid reasons to tell a story…
But if you are writing a story for your nonprofit and you have not yet articulated exactly what it is you want this story to achieve then you are undermining the effectiveness of your story.
All too often nonprofits fail to articulate the primary purpose of their story, even if it is just to themselves.
And this actually prevents them from telling the story well and undermines what the story can achieve.
Put simply, if you don’t know what you want your audience to do after listening to your story then they’re not going to know what to do either.
Let’s look at three ways in which the intention of your story impacts how you tell the story and why it matters.
Where to begin…
Stories are fluid.
What I mean by that is you choose the starting point and the end point of the story.
And you can adjust these points as needed to best serve the intention behind your story.
Let me give you a quick example…
Say you have a great story about a beneficiary that your organization has helped.
They were in deep, dark, big, bad trouble and your nonprofit, with the help of volunteers, changed their life
If the purpose of telling this story is to move your audience to make their first donation then you might want to end the story right after you explain the deep, dark, big, bad trouble the beneficiary is in and let the audience know their support can help people in this exact situation today.
Now, if the purpose of the story is to get more people to volunteer for your nonprofit then you’d want to extend the story to include the role of volunteers in helping this beneficiary out of their trouble.
And if the purpose of telling this story is to get existing donors to make a second donation then you might want to end the story after you explain how your nonprofit (with the support of committed donors) was able to pull this beneficiary out of the deep, dark, big, bad trouble and that they can now help you do it again for others in the same situation.
The same story with three different intentions results in different decisions on the end point of the story.
The cast of characters…
Using the same example, it is also quite clear to see that the intention of your story will influence which characters receive prominence in your story.
When the purpose of the story is to inspire people to make a donation then you want to make past donors more prominent in the story and lift them up as heroes.
However, if your intention is to recruit more volunteers, then the volunteers that helped your beneficiary need quite a bit more emphasis in the story.
In fact, you may want to pivot so that one of the volunteers is the hero of the story.
The same story with three different intentions results in a different cast of characters and may even change the hero of the story.
Your call to action
It is not enough just to inspire…
Stories that are most effective at moving the audience to take action are those where the audience identifies with and feels the same emotions and desires as the hero.
But that is only part of the equation…
Once people empathize with the hero of your story they need to be called to action.
There needs to be something you want them to do.
You need to tell them how to channel that emotion and desire they feel.
Without the call to action all you’ve done is entertain your audience.
You’ve told a great story that made them FEEL something and they’ll appreciate that, they may even remember it, but if you don’t channel that emotion into action then you’ve lost a major opportunity.
If you don’t know what you want them to do, if you haven’t been intentional with your storytelling, then you’re only hoping someone will be moved to take some sort of action.
Do more than hope.
Know what you want the audience to do at the end of your story…
And give them the opportunity to do it.
- You need to know what you want your audience to do at the end of your story before you can know how best to tell that story.
- The purpose of your story will influence where you start and end the story.
- The purpose of your story will determine which characters are most prominent.
- Be intentional and make sure you channel the emotions of the audience with a strong call to action.
Keep doing good work,