Nonprofits see a need and try to fulfill telling their stories to build relationships, garner support, and further their cause. Well-told nonprofit stories inspire their audiences to act; however, far too many stories are competing for people’s attention. This means you have to tell your story as best as you can to capture your audience.
The following are some points to remember so that your story isn’t lost in narration.
Story Component Errors
- No problem: If you don’t have a problem or need, obviously you don’t have a story.
- No core message: Your core message is based on what you are trying to accomplish. Whether it is creating awareness or asking for help, it should be clearly communicated.
- No big picture: People want to understand the problem/need, your motivation in solving it, and the results of your actions.
- No conflict: At the heart of every story is a struggle or conflict – the resolution of which is of great interest to the audience. Make sure that you don’t hide it or skim over it.
- No role for the audience: Audiences want to participate in the resolution of conflicts. If you deny them that, your story will fail.
- No call to action: You have to give your audience a clear call to action listing exactly how they can get involved.
- No clear protagonist: The protagonist has to be a person/persons who experienced the conflicts in the story.
- Not identifying your audience: Telling your story to everyone will zap your energy and enthusiasm, especially when you don’t see expected responses. Narrow down your target audience and communicate well with them for best results.
- Relying too much on data: Don’t use a lot of data just because it’s available and shows the importance of your cause. Use it sparingly and tastefully, according to your story’s context.
- Lack of visual elements: Huge blocks of text are boring and difficult to read. Use visuals to enhance reading, improve comprehension, and sustain interest.
- Forgetting ‘why’: If you lose track of your story’s reason or purpose, you will lose the audience’s attention.
- Not a one-time deal: Storytelling is ongoing. Never use the same story, tactic, characters and conflicts to communicate your core message. Find new stories and characters, and fresh angles and tactics.
- Having designated storytellers: Dedicated storytellers may not be available always. All employees of the organization should be trained to share impact stories aligned to its purpose.
- Neglecting social media: The whole world pays attention to social media. Neglect it at your peril.
- Focusing on your ‘image’: The stories and their purpose are more important than your organization’s profile and the number of followers/likes.
- Misuse of language: Using jargon creates disconnect. Similarly, grammar and spelling errors, run-on sentences, and passive voice can be big turn-offs.
- Boasting about your nonprofit: Never tell stories about how great your organization is. Instead, always focus on those you assist. Use advertisements with restraint.
- Not adapting to the medium: Your existing print content may not be compatible with online spaces as offline stories state facts rather than invite interactions. Besides, they are almost never audience-specific.
- Letting volunteers take charge: If volunteers collect and share stories on their own, they might unknowingly convey something that is incompatible with your organization.
- Too much of money matters: Asking for money is often considered an ineffective and tasteless call to action. Focus on your mission or the importance of giving.
- Not thanking the audience: Your gratitude makes people feel valued. Be sure to thank them for listening to your stories.
Storytelling is not easy. However, if you focus completely on your story and avoid these mistakes, your sincerity will do the rest.
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