As storytelling has jumped to the top of the nonprofit communications priority list, many of the clients we work with feel both invigorated and overwhelmed by the challenge of telling their organization’s stories.
Just like good stories, good quotes are made of ideas so memorable and succinct that they are easily passed along. Here are five to give you just a taste of some of the many themes we’ll be exploring in depth in my three-part webinar series, “Storytelling for Change Makers.”
1) “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” -- Maya Angelou
When told well, stories have the power to convey emotion that sticks. When sorting through the wilderness of content you want to share, start with the emotionally compelling elements and let those be the building blocks of your story. This approach not only makes for better stories but can make the editing process a whole lot easier.
2) “Facts don’t have the power to change someone’s story. Your goal is to introduce a new story that will let your facts in.” -- Annette Simmons
Research shows that when people have a story in their heads about your organization or the populations you serve, even information dispelling those stories can’t persuade them otherwise. Once we know our audiences and the stories they have in their heads, we can help shift those narratives with new stories that allow new information to be received.
3) “If I look at the mass I will never act; if I look at one I will.” -- Mother Theresa
Many of us in the nonprofit world are creating such impact that we want to share everyone’s story. But as humans, we are hard-wired to connect to individual people, not groups.
Instead of including your executive director, board chair, project manager, client, and a volunteer in a piece you’re working on, I recommend you go in-depth with one or two of those individuals so your audience can get to know them better. As you give your audiences a chance to care about these people, they begin to care about your work.
4) “Perfection is attained not where there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away.” -- Antoine de Saint Exupery
We often think we need to add more to our stories to make them better. Good storytelling, however, is a process of stripping away. The more we can whittle a story down to its essence, the greater the impact. Shorter stories are also more likely to be read/viewed and shared among audiences with ever-dwindling attention spans.
5) “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” -- Brene Brown
As we search for great stories to move our donors, the one we most often overlook is our own. While most of us don’t like revealing our personal stories and motivations for doing the work we do, it is these stories that can most powerfully connect with donors. Regardless of whether you’re telling your own or someone else’s story, remember that it’s the vulnerable aspects of these stories that make them relatable and allow for deeper connection.
I look forward to diving deep into these and many more topics in the upcoming webinar series with Foundation Center, “Storytelling for Change Makers”, on May 7, 14, and 21, each from 2:00 to 3:30 pm ET. In this three-part series, I will distill principles, best practices, and common mistakes from my 17 years as a storyteller. Although each webinar can stand alone, I highly encourage you to sign up for all three as they will build on each other and leave you well-equipped to tell stories that “feel,” stories your audiences won’t soon forget!
CARA JONES, founder of Storytellers for Good, is a multiple Emmy Award-winning reporter, producer, and speaker with vast experience in using video to tell compelling, inspiring human-interest stories.