Once upon a time there was a nonprofit organization, they tried many types of campaigns to boost donations and engagement, but one thing was missing…storytelling. It might be a change for your organization but it’s also fun to try something new. Storytelling has become hugely popular and an extremely effective way to engage supporters.


Stories are a basic foundation of communication and they can become key building blocks for an organization in your communications strategy to reach fundraising goals and more. The point of storytelling is to engage an audience by allowing them to connect directly with the cause. However in order for the audience to connect, the story should be relatable, interesting and emotional. (not necessarily all three, but a combination) Quite often your audience will remember the message because they remember the story.

Including a person’s story is key because that is whom the audience cares for or connects with. (giving from the head vs. giving from the heart psychology) There is great research that suggests that the way to combat a problem/disease/mission is to give people a sense that their intervention can, in fact, make a difference. The bones that make up good storytelling are the people, their desires and the obstacles standing in their way. It’s far easier for your supporters (or supporters-to-be) to feel connected when it’s one person rather than a group of people.

Let’s take it away from the nonprofit space for just a second. Big companies understand the power of stories. Think about the Super Bowl and why people love those commercials. One of my favorites was the Snickers/Betty White mash-up from 2010. TV star Betty White began her comeback in this Super Bowl ad. In it, she gets an earful for her lackluster performance in a rough-and-tumble football game. The message? Nobody is at their best when they’re hungry. They made the point by telling a story and Snickers didn’t need to sell the product. They had a well-timed and placed personality to share the story that ‘Snickers really satisfies.’ These commercials we all love simply want to tell an emotional story and then connect that back to your feelings of their product. It’s the same way for nonprofits! What stories can you share about your organization that allows someone to feel like they can be a part of making change?


If you are not using stories that capture the audiences’ heart and emotions, then your message will be left without a voice. The character of your story becomes the hero for your organization and the story progresses through their efforts to pursue that goal. (Everybody loves a hero, right?) If you are unsure of how to begin, talk to those that lead different programs within your organization to come up with a strategy. Ask questions like, who is coming to our organization and who do we help? Who are our supporters and what would be the best way to share our story with them?

Some of the best stories are told by the hero themselves. When the hero tells their story it demonstrates raw emotion and shows how your organization can make an impactful difference. Most people will forget details, but something they won’t forget are the goose bumps they get from the emotion the story brings out.


The best stories are the ones that stick, so make your story enticing. After 4-10 seconds your readers/listeners will tune out if you haven’t grabbed their attention. So keep your stories compelling, short and memorable. Not all stories are written, so for visual storytelling, such as viral videos, the length should be 1-2 minutes long.

There should be a beginning, middle and end when storytelling, you never want to leave the audience confused about what the ultimate goal is. And remember to make the story about the person and connecting it back to your mission.