Storytelling is a powerful tool for nonprofits that can create emotional connections with supporters. But what makes a good story?
The best nonprofit stories all have something in common: They captivate the reader. Good ideas do more than amplify your organization and your work, they add value to the topic you are writing about.
These questions can help you decide whether an idea you are considering will make a good story for your organization to share.
Ask yourself: What’s the message you want your readers to leave with?
When you’re telling your nonprofit’s stories, are you ever surprised by the response (or lack thereof) from your supporters? You may not have shared the right stories with them. Your stories should capture the reader’s attention and reinforce your organization’s mission. You should remind the reader why they care about your organization. Think about what you want them to remember the day after.
Ask yourself: Is there drama in your story?
One of the best ways to engage your reader is through drama. This can take the form of conflict, surprise, extraordinary characters, controversy, mystery, or suspense.
- Do you have a satisfying conclusion? For example, a community member who accomplished their goal of reopening their business that had closed after a disaster.
- Is your story unresolved? Is a community still striving to recover?
- Is your idea about a fascinating person? Does someone who works with your organization or whom you serve have an interesting story or experience you want to share?
- Do you want to tell the amazing history of how your organization began? Sharing the origin story, like a chance meeting that became a nonprofit’s mission, can become dramatic and engaging impact stories for nonprofits.
Ask yourself: Does your story have an arc?
The narrative arc is an important piece of what makes a good story. The arc describes how your story starts, how it progresses, and how it ends.
- Is there a setting? When telling your nonprofit story, you start with your setting. This may be the community you work in or the area where you are based. Does your idea take place in an interesting setting that will intrigue your reader?
- Is there a protagonist? The protagonist is the main character, a person or group that your story centers on. Is your narrative about an interesting person who works with you or a group of people your organization supports?
- Is there a conflict? If your story has a setting and protagonist, the next thing you need to look for is the conflict. The best nonprofit stories have a conflict or challenge. This drives the narrative and explains your protagonist’s motivation. Does your anecdote explain a challenge that inspires your protagonist to find a solution? Maybe a conflict appears, and your protagonist decided to find a resolution.
- Is there a solution? How does the conflict impact the protagonist? If your story idea has an interesting setting and a protagonist who faces a conflict, do they have a solution? Does the solution say something about your protagonist? Maybe your protagonist created a coalition to solve the challenge their community faced, which shows how connected your protagonist is to their community. Or perhaps your protagonist overcame a challenge, but the bigger problem is still there. Sometimes stories can be unresolved.
Ask yourself: Is there an ending?
Maybe your protagonist’s solution is the conclusion of your story, but your ending drives home the message you want your reader to remember. Good nonprofit story ideas circle back to the message they started with. Does your story support the message you wanted to send? Make sure to remind your reader about the message behind the story you shared.
If you can answer all these questions with your story idea, then you have the ingredients for what makes a good story!
Featured Photo: Love for Literacy, Support 85 Students this Year! by Yspaniola Incorporated