They can transcend borders, connect people to your cause, and ignite change. Stories are powerful. But writing in a way that moves others to action can be difficult. Here are six essential writing tips for nonprofits, along with examples from fellow storytellers, to help you succeed:
1. Hook your reader right away.
The first few sentences of your blog entry or article, called a lead, are critically important. “An effective lead makes a promise to the reader or viewer: I have something important, something interesting, to tell you,” explains the Poynter Institute. Need inspiration? Browse Poynter’s online gallery of award-winning leads.
2. Make it personal.
Your story will be stronger if you can include first-hand anecdotes from your own experience or from another person’s experience. To introduce readers to the needs of child refugees, the nonprofit Pomoc deci shared this story about Abdul, a 10-year-old who walked 2,500 kilometers to flee war-torn Syria and find safety.
3. Be specific.
Add details to draw in your reader and illustrate key points. Check out how Mercy Corps tackled the complex issue of child marriage through Dahara’s eyes. The 14-year-old girl from Niger is a participant in Mercy Corp’s “safe space” program, which provides a place for girls to get job skills, reading and writing help, and hygiene and nutrition training. By the end of the story, readers know how Dahara prepares the caramelized nuts that she sells for a living and what the treats smell like as they cook. They know that she is eloquent and driven. These details put readers in her shoes.
4. Back up your claims.
Include references to reliable sources if your article is intended to be persuasive. Sources can be people you interview, reports, news stories, or books, for example. For short articles and blog posts, three or so sources should suffice. See how Keith Dillon of National Wildlife Federation (NWF) expertly weaves interviews with a fifth-generation rancher and NWF staff members to create this story about NWF’s Adopt-A-Wildlife-Acre Program.
5. Keep it succinct.
About 500-800 words is an optimal length for SEO that won’t fatigue your reader. Some stories, of course, demand more space because the topics contained within are complex or especially compelling. In this case, use sub-headlines as sign posts for readers. This will help break up the copy and emphasize important points. Here is an example of a longer narrative story with sub-headlines.
6. Partner with an editor.
Even the best writers need them!